Looking for a Word of the Year? Try Resilience

Some of us are just over the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions. We’re sick of judging ourselves, setting ourselves up to fail, or living in a cloud of negativity. 2020 was a rough year and you know what? We don’t need that! This year, instead of making another resolution to lose that mythical ten pounds, we’re picking a word of the year to live by. That word? Resilience. Whether you’re reading this on New Year’s or not, whether you’ve had a terrible year or not, being more resilient is something we should all strive for. We shouldn’t try to erase anything bad from our pasts, but instead learn to live with what we’ve experienced and grow beyond it. 

What Does Resilience Really Mean?

resilient spelled out on scrabble blocks
Being resilient means that everything will be okay as long as you learn to work through tough times.

Resilience can be summed up simply as the capacity to recover from difficult events. But that little definition doesn’t quite get to the heart of the word. Should you be expected to bounce back quickly and completely, like you’re jumping on a trampoline? Does it mean that you should just get over something, shed it like a snake sheds its skin, and never look back? No! Not only is that unrealistic, but it is not healthy, or productive. 

Being resilient does not mean that you never experience stress, or emotional turmoil or pain. It also doesn’t necessarily have to mean you are “tough.” Rather, it has more to do with working through suffering: addressing it head on, finding ways to work through it, and coming out the other side with strengthened coping strategies. 

Why Is Resilience Important? 

According to Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being and creator of Mayo Clinic Resilient Mind in Rochester, Minnesota, resilience is “the core strength you use to lift your life.” All of us are bound to face some sort of adversity at some time, whether it’s illness, family problems, financial instability, loss of a loved one, bullying, or a shared national tragedy, so we all need the ability to cope and move forward. Developing strategies for resilience is important because, once you have those strategies in place, you will be ready to face your next challenge and overcome any setbacks that you may experience. 

In addition, people who aren’t resilient are more likely to feel overwhelmed by challenges both big and small. They are more likely to feel helpless in trying situations, and could even turn to unhealthy coping strategies like self-medication, avoidance, and isolation. Confronting negative experiences and working through them as they come is the best path forward – but can you build your resilience, like you would a muscle in your body?

How Can You Become More Resilient?

silhouette of a head with the words reset your minf anf the brain part filled with many words.
Develop self awareness in order to help reset your mind in order to learn how to deal with situations.

The good news is that resilience is not a fixed trait, or something that you need to be born with. More good news? Resilience in the face of adversity seems fairly common, which would suggest that people are pretty good at strengthening their coping strategies. For instance, one study reported that even though 50 to 60% of the U.S. population has been exposed to some sort of traumatic event, only 5 to 10% of those people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

You can build resilience, especially if you think of it as a process, and you follow certain steps to strengthen it. Think of the following steps as you live with this word of the year in mind, and try to:

  • Develop self-awareness – The first step in building better strategies for adapting to and coping with stress is to actually take a good, hard look at how you react to stress. If you know that you isolate, or that you take your feelings out on those you love, recognize that and see how you can try to change those patterns.
  • Remain focused In practical terms, you can keep yourself focused on regulating your emotions with stress-reduction techniques like breathing exercises or mindfulness practices. But remember also to stay focused on how you can control the outcome of events in your life, as opposed to feeling like external forces are completely in control.
  • Find coping mechanisms – There is so much you can do to help you deal with any challenges that are thrown at you. Try journaling, exercising, socializing, spending time outdoors, pursuing a creative passion…the possibilities are endless. These types of activities aren’t meant to be a simple distraction; rather, they are a way to be more present, tap into the enjoyable side of life, and even work through the emotions that are coming at you.everything will be okay written on a poster with a rainbow on the bottom that is taped to a window
  • Be more optimistic If you can find ways to be more present and enjoy life, then you’ll also be able to face your problems with more optimism. And when you’re feeling more optimistic about a situation you’re faced with, you’re more likely to feel in control of that situation. Build your optimism by focusing on what you can do in any given situation, and try to find any problem-solving steps that you can take.
  • Strengthen connections – There’s never any shame in relying on friends and family when you need them!
  • Tap into your strengths – Know your weaknesses when it comes to dealing with stress, but also know your strengths! Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your talents and use them when you’re faced with difficulties. You’ll feel more and confident and capable, and therefore, more ready to face adversity.

Learning to be more resilient doesn’t mean “toughening up” or just “getting over” the challenges that you’re faced with in life. It means building up the skills you need to face adversity and continue to grow in the face of it. We’ve all faced tough times – sometimes together, as in the past year! – and we all need to know how to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and use our experiences to get stronger. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” We’ll drink to that this year!

Help Your Kids Manage Stress In School

Stress has no age limit, including for children. Kids get stressed out while growing up, especially throughout the school year. You can learn to spot the signs of stress, and help your kids cope with the stress in a positive manner. If not, kids will begin to slack in school, their behavior may get worse, they can become introverted, moody, and may even seek negative influences as coping mechanisms. Noticing these signs is the first step to tackling the issue, followed by some tips to problem solve and manage it.

Unusual behavior in a kid is a sign of stress.
If your kid is irrationally frustrated or acting out, this may be a sign of stress.

Spot the Signs of Stress

There are a lot of different signs of stress in kids. Irregular behavior from your kids is the main sign that something is wrong. Signs to look for:

  • No eye contact
  • Uncooperative
  • More meltdowns than normal
  • Clingy towards you or towards a comfort item such as a teddy bear or blanket
  • Lethargic
  • Aggressive
  • Can not focus on tasks
  • Introverted or does not want to play with others
  • Resisting to go to school

You know your own kid better than anyone, so if they start to act unlike themselves, that should be a sure sign that there is something wrong, or they are dealing with stress.

Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is extremely important for growing kids, especially when they are in school learning. If you do not get enough sleep, your brain cannot grasp the information you learn the next day as well as it would when rested. Lack of sleep will also alter a kids mood, becoming more irritable and uncooperative.

Make Time To Play

All work and no play, makes a dull and sad kid. Riding bikes, throwing a ball around, and just being a kid is important. This helps to have some fun without the added stress of winning a sport, or doing it right.

To help relieve stress, allow time for your kids to play.
It is important to make some time for kids to be kids and play. It helps relieve stress.

Teach Coping Mechanisms

Kids will often mimic how their parents deal with stress. At times we are guilty of coming home and lashing out or taking out our stress from work on our kids. It is important to take a step back and talk with your children about why you are upset, but put a positive spin on it and teach them to look at things in a different perspective. Teach your kids different ways to relax. Deep breathing exercises can help, or my favorite- write a daily affirmation, because when you think positive, you remain positive.

Limit Technology

As much as kids love to watch TV or be on their tablets, these activities can just increase stress. Try to do more activities as a family or with friends. Something as simple as having a meal together where you can talk and listen is important. Talking about what’s going on can relieve a great amount of stress on it’s own.

Do Not Overschedule

One of the biggest things to stress a kid out is overscheduling and spreading them thin. Kids not only have to pay attention for 7 hours throughout the day in school, but then they have to go to extracurricular activities, then come home to do homework, and then go to bed. It can become too much for a kid. It can become extra hectic when you have multiple kids and are constantly running around. Take the time to allow them to rest at times, and that there is some downtime in their schedule.

Positive coping strategies will help your kids become confident and accomplish anything.
Teaching your kid to cope with stress in a positive manner, will build confidence to accomplish anything.

Set Achievable Goals

I myself am guilty of this. I set these high expectations for my kids, which in turn puts a lot of pressure on them. The pressure to achieve these unattainable goals will just cause stress and depression when they do not reach it. Learn to set small realistic goals for your kid, and when they achieve it, praise them, and they will gain more confidence and excel academically.

If you do not teach your kids how to deal with stress, they will begin to self-medicate in an unhealthy manner with food, drugs, and alcohol.  Life can get hectic with work, school, and after school activities, so at times we can miss the signs. Take some time everyday to talk with your kids, learn what’s going on and build a strong relationship. That way, you can see patterns of stress, reach out, and help destress them.