About Last Night: Build your resilience to help when you feel like giving up 16-9-18

September 17, 2018

Q: We’re thinking about starting a family. My partner worries, can’t cope when things don’t go to plan, and overreacts to minor situations. I’m not sure how we are going to go with the stress of a baby.

A: New parenthood is challenging for the most confident couple, and can expose fatal flaws in a relationship. In preparation you both need to build resilience. Some think this means being tough, or hard, and have little patience with sensitive, emotional reactions.

The dictionary offers two definitions of resilience: 1. the power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity; and 2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

So, being resilient involves becoming more like memory foam than like a rock.

Bad things, many of them unfair, happen to even the wealthiest people. Some emerge from dreadful circumstances, and go on to have full, rich lives. Others cannot cope with the smallest setback, or frustration. However, anyone can learn to build resilience if they are willing to work at it. In her article “Building Resilience” (psychcentral.com), British psychologist and counsellor Jane Collingwood explains how. She says that the secret lies in how you think about problems.

“It’s a way of behaving and thinking that anyone can learn. Essentially, it involves an openness to finding your way through a situation and the determination not to see yourself as a victim … try to manage your emotions by reacting to setbacks with grace, humour, strength and optimism.”

When a problem arises, take some time to think it through, and find the best solution, then make yourself take one step towards solving it.

Turn to others for support. “Simply describing the situation to someone else can help by putting your feelings into words and making it a logical sequence. You may even come up with new solutions as you are describing it.”

Try to keep things in perspective. Remind yourself of all that is good in your life. Take a break to do something fun. Try to see the funny side of things. Imagine yourself, having pulled through with grace and courage, telling this as an anecdote one day. Then, when it is over, look back on what you learned, and what good has come of it.

“This ability to look back on tough times and see how you survived, rather than focusing on how you suffered, is a crucial factor in developing resilience.”

Even close relationships can fail when confronted with a major trauma such as a house fire, or the death of a child. We need to build resilience in the good times.

“Resilient relationships not only survive struggle and adversity, they grow stronger.”

To achieve this, keep the channels of emotional communication open so that it feels natural to share feelings under pressure.

“Look for solutions rather than complaining, or blaming. Find a positive step to take even if you feel like giving up. Don’t let a bad response crush you, just keep on trying while listening to your judgment.”

Take responsibility for your emotional reactions, Collingwood says. “Shouting or being aggressive because you’re feeling stressed won’t improve the situation. Resilient relationships are those in which both partners make an effort to stay calm under pressure.”

Take an approach to life whereby you seek out new experiences and keep a wide group of friends. Withdrawing, and isolating yourself will not protect you, but it will make you less able to deal with problems.

Practise expressing love and appreciation in actions, as well as words. When times get tough a kind act can make all the difference.

“Success and happiness largely are determined by how we choose to respond to events,” Collingwood says. “Life is a hard teacher; it sends the test first and the lesson afterward. So whenever possible, learn from other people’s mistakes and observe the ways they overcome them. Having developed the skills of resilience you will be able to transform hardship into challenge and opportunity, and be an inspiration to others.”

Email: abtlastnight@gmail.com

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