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Resilience when things feel out of control.

Man with pensive expression looks at camera

Could it really be possible to build our resilience when things feel out of control? Resilience is a term that we hear all the time, in everyday life. But do you know what resilience actually is? Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.

As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.

However, this does not mean that someone who is resilient will not face adversity. Stress and challenges are a part of everyday life and make up an important part of the human experience. Resilience is not the absence of hardship, rather it is a response that can facilitate growth and adaption.

Resilience is not something that you are born with or something that is a part of your personality. Resilience can be developed through practice and commitment. You can build resilience when things feel out of control.

Resilience when things feel out of control.

Sometimes life can feel like it’s out of your control. Maybe it feels like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. Or maybe it feels like you’ve been down on your luck for too long and one more negative event t will push you over the edge. The beauty of the human experience is that it comes in waves of up and down. Without experiencing the negatives in life, it would be impossible to experience the joy of the good times. 

While there are so many things in life you can’t control, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a say. Control is the first building block of resilience and is defined as the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events, including your own. When we speak about control, it does not mean that having as much control over your life is an indicator of resilience.

Rather, it means understanding and accepting that while life will happen and it may feel like you do not have control over those events, you do have control over your decisions and your actions. People that have high levels of resilience still undergo the lows of life, however they are able to reframe the way they perceive these situations and can make decisions based on this.

Three options in this case you could consider

For example, let’s pretend that you have woken up and its storming outside. You have a full day of outdoor work and errands to run, but now it will be impossible to complete these due to the weather. 

  1. Choose to do none of your tasks and let anxiety run rampant

  2. Choose to do all of your tasks regardless of the consequences and experience stress as it may not be done to the best of your ability

  3. Sit down and analyse what you can do in this situation, do the tasks you can do and re-assign other tasks for days with better conditions

Decide how you want to respond and what actions you want to take.

Once you are able to recognise that you do have control over areas of your life, being able to ‘bounce back’ from difficult situations becomes much easier. As mentioned before, resilience can be developed with active commitment. Things you can do to facilitate resilience.

  1. Looking at past events where you your decisions and actions have led to favourable outcomes. What did you learn about yourself?

  2. Look at past events where your decisions and actions may not have lead o favourable outcomes. What are things you could have changed in the way you approached the situation?

  3. Analyse current difficulties you may be undergoing. Try and see it in the scheme of the bigger picture. How can you reframe what is going on? 

  4. What are the possible decisions and choices you can make? A pros and cons list may help with this

  5. Analyse events in order to see how these events are generally not random and that most things occur as a result of another person’s choices and actions. Use this to understand how your choices and actions can also generate certain events


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