As we go through life, unless we are incredibly lucky, we are all going to experience setbacks and have to deal with adversity. Statistically we are going to have to deal with losing jobs, having close friends or family die, have relationships break up, experience financial difficulties and various other hardships on multiple occasions during our lifetime. It is sadly a fact of life. But there is a crucial difference between those who overcome such setbacks and those who do not. This difference is their level of resilience. Those with higher levels of resilience have a better ability to deal with the inevitable challenges of life and not only get back to where they were, but often go on to thrive. So, what can you do to become more resilient?

Acknowledge your feelings

The starting point to dealing with any change is to move towards acceptance. Research shows that our process for dealing with almost any change is similar to the process we go through when grieving. The final step in this process is acceptance, because in order to move on you must first acknowledge and accept what has happened. However, we are hardwired to first go through other stages such as denial and anger because these protect ourselves from the pain of acknowledging what has happened. But in order to get through this process, we must acknowledge and embrace our emotions.

It is OK to be upset, despondent, even depressed, or whatever else you are feeling as a result of the setback. Everyone experiences, processes, and expresses emotions in a different way. You can be devastated that your grandmother died, or you can be glad that she died as she maybe had a chronic disease and you hated seeing her suffering. You can be angry because you are going through a divorce or you can be relieved. There is no right or wrong emotion, acknowledge how you feel, do not judge yourself for feeling that way and accept what has happened.

Rationalise the event

Once you have processed how you are feeling and accepted that those feelings are valid. The second step to being able to bounce back is to look at what happened in a rational way. This is a great way to allow yourself to get closure and you can then move forward. Ultimately, everything happens for a reason. There is a logical course of events that lead to whatever happened. They may not be fair or just, but there will be a reason. By engaging the rational part of your brain instead of the emotional part, you then put yourself in the frame of mind to work out what you are going to do next. If you lost your job, this means preparing your CV, applying for jobs and so on. If you broke up with your spouse, it may mean finding a new place to live and childcare arrangements. This is critical to being able to bounce back. The reason most people fail to bounce back is because they get stuck in the emotional aspect of dealing with a setback. This leads you to getting stuck and not being able to move forward. Resilient people do not feel any less emotion or pain than others, but they also focus on what they need to do next.


Finally, it’s important to act on the next steps you identified to help you move forward. This can often be easier said than done, because it is possible to still allow for your emotions to hold you back. Setbacks often hurt our self-esteem, and this makes it harder for us to move forward with the same confidence. If you are going through a divorce, you may logically know that you need to move on, but maybe the last time you went on a date was 30 years ago. You haven’t got a clue where to begin and after your spouse left, you lack self-confidence. This is where you remember that it is also OK to ask for help. Your friends and family are there to support you and will be more than happy to help you through it. There is also an enormous amount of support groups that are a few clicks away on Google. But without acting, the problem is likely to remain as it will rarely fix itself. So, if you want to be resilient, push forward and act.

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