RESILIENCE: Practical guide.

Nahila Hernández San Juan

"I am not talking about optimism at any costs, but training the vital force that propels us where everything is possible."

For resilient people there is not a hard life, but difficult moments, since they are aware that after the storm, calm comes. According to the definition of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (RAE), RESILIENCE is the human capacity to flexibly assume borderline situations and overcome them. But in reality it goes much further, since it involves restructuring our psychological resources according to new circumstances and our needs, to be, not only capable of overcoming the adversities that we have had to live, but going one step further and using those situations to grow and develop the maximum potential.

How can we be more resilient?

Various studies have shown that certain attributes of the person form the basis of being resilient. These are as follows:

  • Consistent self-esteem. It is the foundation of the other pillars and is the fruit of the consequent effective care of the child or adolescent by a significant adult, good enough and capable of giving a sensitive response.
  • Introspection. It is the art of asking yourself and giving yourself an honest answer. It depends on the strength of the self-esteem that develops from the recognition of the other. Hence the possibility of recruiting young people by groups of addicts or criminals, in order to obtain that recognition.
  • Independence. It was defined as knowing how to set limits between oneself and the external environment; the ability to maintain emotional and physical distance without falling into isolation. It depends on the reality principle that allows one to judge a situation regardless of the subject's wishes.
  • Ability to relate. That is, the ability to establish ties and intimacy with other people, to balance your own need for affection with the attitude of offering yourself to others. Low or exaggeratedly high self-esteem produces isolation: if it is low due to shameful self-exclusion and if it is too high it can generate rejection for the arrogant attitude that it supposes.
  • Initiative. The pleasure of demanding and testing yourself in progressively more demanding tasks.
  • Humor. Encounter the comedy in your own tragedy. It allows you to save yourself negative feelings even temporarily, and to endure adverse situations.
  • Creativity. The ability to create order, beauty, and purpose out of chaos and disorder. As a result of the ability to reflect, it develops from childhood play.
  • Morality. This is understood as the consequence to extend the personal desire for well-being to all peers and the ability to commit to values. It is the basis of good treatment towards others.
  • Critical thinking skills. It is a second-degree pillar, the result of the combination of all the others and that allows us to critically analyze the causes and responsibilities of the adversity suffered, when society as a whole is facing adversity. And he proposes ways to face and change them. This comes from criticizing the concept of positive adaptation or lack of mismatches that in Anglo-Saxon literature is thought of as a trait of the subject's resilience (Melillo, 2002)

We already talked about the bases, but how are resilient people? What characterizes a resilient person?
1. They are aware of their potentials and limitations. Self-knowledge is a very powerful weapon to face adversities and challenges, and resilient people know how to use it to their advantage. These people know what their main strengths and abilities are, as well as their limitations and shortcomings. In this way, more objective goals can be set that not only take into account their needs and dreams, but also the resources available to achieve them.

2. They are creative. The person with a high capacity for resilience does not limit himself to trying to glue the broken vase, he is aware that he will never be the same again. The resilient will mosaic the broken pieces, and transform your painful experience into something beautiful or useful. From the vile, bring out the precious.
3. They trust their abilities. By being aware of their potentials and limitations, resilient people trust what they are capable of. If there is something that characterizes them, it is that they do not lose sight of their objectives and feel sure of what they can achieve. However, they also recognize the importance of teamwork and do not become self-contained, but rather know when to ask for help.
4. They take difficulties as an opportunity to learn. Throughout life we ​​face many painful situations that discourage us, but people with a high level of resilience are able to see beyond those moments and do not falter. These people take on crises as an opportunity to create change, to learn and grow. They know that those moments will not last forever and that their future will depend on how they react. When faced with adversity, they ask themselves: What can I learn from this?
5. They practice mindfulness. Even without being aware of this ancient practice, resilient people have the habit of being fully present, of living in the here and now, and of having a great capacity for acceptance. For these people the past is part of yesterday and is not a source of guilt and anxiety while the future does not stun them with its share of uncertainty and concerns. They are able to accept experiences as they are presented and try to make the most of them. They enjoy the little details and have not lost their ability to be amazed at life.
6. They view life objectively, but always through an optimistic prism. Resilient people are very objective, they know what their potentials are, the resources available to them and their goals, but that does not mean that they are not optimistic. Realizing that nothing is completely positive or negative, they strive to focus on the positives and enjoy the challenges. These people develop a realistic optimism, also called optimism, and they are convinced that no matter how dark their day may be, the next day may be better.

7. They surround themselves with people who have a positive attitude. People who practice resilience know how to cultivate their friendships, so they generally surround themselves with people who maintain a positive attitude towards life and avoid those who behave like emotional vampires. In this way, they manage to create a solid support network that can sustain them in the most difficult moments.
8. They are not trying to control situations, but their emotions. One of the main sources of tension and stress is the desire to want to control all aspects of our life. So when something gets out of hand, we feel guilty and insecure. However, people with resilience know that it is impossible to control all situations, they have learned to deal with uncertainty and feel comfortable even if they are not in control. They focus on changing their emotions, when they cannot change reality.
9. They are flexible in the face of change. Despite the fact that resilient people have a very clear self-image and know exactly what they want to achieve, they also have enough flexibility to adapt their plans and change their goals when necessary. These people are not closed to change and are always willing to value different alternatives, without obsessively clinging to their initial plans or to a single solution.
10. They are tenacious in their purposes. The fact that resilient are flexible does not mean that they give up on their goals, on the contrary, if something distinguishes them it is their perseverance and their ability to fight. The difference is that they do not fight against windmills, but take advantage of the direction of the current and flow with it. These people have an intrinsic motivation that helps them stand firm and fight for what they set out to do.
11. They face adversity with humor. One of the essential characteristics of resilient people is their sense of humor, they are able to laugh at adversity and make a joke of their misfortunes. Laughter is their best ally because it helps them stay optimistic and, above all, it allows them to focus on the positive aspects of situations.
12. They seek the help of others and social support. When resilient people go through a potentially traumatic event their first objective is to overcome it, for this they are aware of the importance of social support and do not hesitate to seek professional help when they need it.
Now, how to develop resilience?
Building capacity to build resilience is a personal project. Not all people react the same way to traumatic or stressful situations. An approach to building resilience can work for one person but not another, so different strategies can be used to promote good coping. Some of these variations often reflect cultural differences.
Culture can have an impact on how a person communicates their feelings and how they face adversity. An example of this is the different conceptions of death that exist in various cultures; While for most Western countries death is represented as the end of all good, it is seen as an extremely negative fact and is usually a taboo subject, for the East it is the step towards the regeneration and reaffirmation of ancestor´s values, that shaped their community. The key is to identify what tips can work with us and how they can be part of our own personal strategy to improve it.
Finally, resilience is not an innate quality, it is not imprinted in our genes (as far as we know), although there may be a genetic tendency that may predispose to having a "good character". Resilience is something that we can all develop throughout life. There are people who are resilient because they have had in their parents or someone close to them a model of resilience to follow, while others have found their way on their own. This tells us that we can all be resilient as long as we change some of our habits and beliefs.
In fact, resilient people are not born, they are made, which means that they have had to fight against adverse situations or have repeatedly tasted the taste of failure and have not given up. Being on the brink of the abyss, they have given their best and have developed the necessary skills to face the different challenges of life.
In my personal experience, sport implies in itself the use of techniques, strategies that end up building the structure of being resilient. I think it is a progressive, didactic, and long-term value conduit, although it is certainly not the only one. There are always many ways to get to Rome, I propose: If your life story did not lead you to develop this quality, start with the practice of some discipline that involves body-mind and soul.