Seven Ways Teens Can Build Resiliency
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resilience as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
We all face change on a regular basis. Every fall, new school years start for students, coworkers move in and out of jobs around us, and our routines change with the seasons. Some changes are harder to manage: failing a test, a move to a new home, the loss of a friendship, the death of someone we love.
Resiliency is a learned behavior, and one we can improve by working on our skills for handling unwelcome changes. It can take some time and patience, but these skills can be learned. The following seven tips for building resiliency are a great place to start improving your skills for handling change:
1. Don't Believe that a Crisis is Insurmountable: How we approach something negative has a lot to do with how well we can recover from it. Being able to take a step back from a crisis and assess what you need to do to improve your situation is an important step to taking control of negative change. When something bad happens, make yourself a list of things your can do to positively respond such as seek help from a trusted friend or relative, discuss the matter with other people involved, or make alternate arrangements to deal with the crisis. Think about the future and what you can realistically do to be in a better place in a few days or weeks. Fail an exam? Talk to your teacher to see where you made mistakes. If you feel as if you don't understand anything that was on the exam, think about ways you can change this. Ask a friend to tutor you, look up online tutorials, buy an book that explains the subject. Realize that you are not the first person to fail an exam and that one failed exam doesn't derail you from your path.
2. Embrace the Changes: This can be difficult to do and isn't always appropriate, but often times the best way to deal with negative changes is to simply accept them. You don't have to happy about the changes, or believe that what has happened was for the best. But simply acknowledging that change happens and it is out of our control can be very liberating. Some changes are more easily accepted. Going back to our example of failing an exam, realize that many people who have made important contributions to our world have faced failure. Sometimes, like Thomas Edison, multiple times. Failure can be a great resource for reframing our thinking, which can lead to new discoveries about ourselves and our world.
3. Believe in Your Own Abilities to be Resilient: The first person we need to convince of our resiliency is usually ourselves. If someone tells you that you can't build resiliency, let go of that advice and substitute your own positive thoughts. Because resiliency is a learned behavior, you absolutely can change how you cope with stressful situations. But the first step is to believe in yourself. Resiliency starts with a positive attitude that things can get better if you put some work into addressing problems.
4. Nurture Yourself: In addition to being optimistic, resilient people know when to step back and say "I need some time to deal with this crisis." There is no shame in taking a break from ongoing trauma, stress, or negative change. Just like a rechargeable battery needs time to absorb more energy, you need time to process difficult experiences. It's okay to take a step back and say that you need some "me" time, and it's okay to seek help for dealing with traumatic situations.
5. Develop Your Support Network: One of the best ways to deal with negative changes is to be able to express how you feel to someone you trust. Even though "talking about it" doesn't change the situation, it does change you. Being able to release thoughts of fear or anxiety about a negative change can help make that change seem less threatening. Also, sharing how you feel invites others to offer different perspectives, which can help you reframe a problem into something more manageable. It's also important just to connect with people and feel loved. Did you know that hugging someone you trust for ten seconds makes your brain release the hormone Oxytocin? This is a stress reducing hormone that helps us navigate socially stressful situations.
6. Learn to Be a Problem Solver: Life is filled with problems, but it is also filled with solutions. Research suggests that people who seek solutions are better able to cope with negative change. Sometimes, just the act of doing something enables us to feel better. So how does someone improve their problem solving skills? It's all in the strategy of a problem. Logic models can help you develop skill in how to think through a problem. A logic model can be as simple as writing down a problem and then circling it, then making lines like spokes coming from the circle to brainstorm different ways you might be able to improve things. You can write down anything, no matter how silly or useless. Eventually, you will start to think of positive, helpful things.
7. Set Goals for Positive Responses: One way to build resiliency is to set new goals that reflect where you are now. These goals may be to find a solution to your problem, or they may be goals that address the changes you can't control. Didn't get into that dream school? Set a new goal to get into another school you'd enjoy going to. Lost someone you love? Set goals to honor their memory and live in a way that would make them proud of you. Been rejected by a boyfriend or girlfriend you loved? Set goals to be more independent, discover more about yourself, and look for someone who can appreciate you just the way you are.
The most important thing to remember when building resiliency is that it isn't a straight line. You may have good days and bad days. But each day is a chance to start fresh and build new skills, learn more about yourself and the world, and empower yourself to live life beautifully on your best terms.