How to Bounce Back

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

It’s been one of those years to say the least. The sort where it feels like everything is against you, or where there are so many hills and valleys you feel dizzy.

How can you bounce back? By learning the fine art of resilience.

What is resilience?

Resilience means that you can manage to keep going and stay balanced even in the face of stress and change. You learn from experiences and continue on.

It doesn’t mean you don’t get upset by difficult experiences. Feeling nothing is usually maladaptive, and a sign you are repressing emotions or dissociating. Emotional upset is actually a healthy response to bad news.

Resilience sees you cope despite being upset. You navigate life, it doesn’t navigate you.

So in summary, resilience isn’t:

  • avoiding difficulty
  • putting our heads in the sand
  • pretending we are fine all the time
  • numbing ourselves out and refusing to be affected by life.

But resilience is:

  • taking life as it comes
  • getting back up when life knocks you down
  • learning from your experiences
  • taking responsibility for your life and choices
  • letting yourself feel upset but continuing on regardless.

The good and bad news

The bad news is that some people are naturally more inclined to be resilient. They are born with a set of personality traits that makes them more buoyant in a flood, so to speak.

And other people are better at bouncing back as they were taught to be resilient growing up. Their parents modelled how to do so, or encouraged them to rise above difficulty instead of over identify with it.

The good news is that resilience can, however, be learned. It’s a skill, and with the right amount of practise and persistence you can very much up your bounce back game.

And don't feel too bad if you aren't a natural at resilience. Recent research found that resiliency in the general population was previously overrated when it comes to things like unemployment and divorce.

The power of perspective

Positive psychology suggests one way to up our resilience is to shift our perspective.

Martin Seligman, seen as the father of positive psychology, created the ‘3 P’s model of resilience’. The three ‘P’s’ being the three main emotional reactions we can have in the face of stress: personalisation, pervasiveness, and permanence.

1. Personalisation.

This means we make everything our fault and load ourselves with blame. It’s hard to bounce back if we feel like a terrible person who causes bad things.

Instead, remember difficult things happen to everyone. It’s the way life is.

2. Pervasiveness.

Pervasiveness sees us let one bad thing affect our entire life through negative thinking. For example, we lose our job and decide our partner will leave us, nobody will like us anymore, and we’ll end up poor. These are actually assumptions that leave us so depressed we don’t see our way forward.

The truth is that we could just as likely attract another job that pays more and makes life better.

3. Permanence.

We let a challenging life experience make us believe everything will always be terrible. This sort of thinking stops all planning and brainstorming in its tracks. It causes resignation.

Most change is only for a season until life moves on in another direction. We need to be open to seeing that new direction.

The 'Pillars' of Resilience

There are many theories on the core components of resilience. Popular 'pillars' include:

1. Wellbeing/Self-care.

We can't bounce back if we are too tired or ill. Are you sleeping and eating well? Doing activities that make you feel good? Setting personal boundaries? Taking 'you time'?

2. Positive relationships.

Knowing we aren't alone in the world helps us keep going. Are you spending time with people who you can be yourself around? Feel supported by and can support in return?

3. Purpose.

When life feels worth it we want to continue. Have you worked at knowing what your personal values are? Are you making choices in life that match your values? Instead of going against yourself?

4. Self awareness.

We are more resilient if we know how we work and what helps us feel better. Do you invest in understanding yourself? Take time to tune in to your own needs and wants?

5. Mindfulness.

We can't change the past or future but only the present. Are you able to be in the here and now, and sit with what you feel? Or are you always blaming the past or holding yourself up to an unrealistic future?

6. Self compassion.

The fastest way to bounce back is to cut ourselves some slack. Can you stop blaming yourself and start treating yourself like a friend? Appreciate all your effort and good intentions?

7. Support.

We might go faster alone, but we go farther together. If you aren't able to navigate something, can you gather up your courage and reach out for help?

Need help with resilience? Book a therapist you like at a price you can afford and start bouncing back better.

Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, with training in person-centred counselling and coaching. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy

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