Easy Steps Toward Discovering Resilience in Midlife
By Sheryl Kraft
Life can get challenging, especially as we move into midlife. That's when so many more serious and pressing situations surface. We grieve losses through divorce and death. We are faced with serious illness or financial crisis. Our bodies don't respond the way they used to. Friends move away; valued friendships fall apart.
And through it all, some of us will fall apart—or feel like we will. Others persevere through the trauma. I learned, early on, that aging—although it does bring its many challenges—is an absolute privilege, and something that we can't treat as an assumption. And that message is driven deeper into my psyche with each passing year, as I see major, real-life things change all around me.
We all need resilience, especially in midlife. We need that ability to recover from difficulties. Some might think of it as a type of toughness, but I prefer to think of it as a necessity; a requisite coping mechanism to move ahead.
Resilience is a delicate balancing act; an ongoing process that takes practice and requires time and patience.
Asking yourself—and practicing—these things can help build your resilience:
1. Can I change the channel? If you're watching a television drama you don't like, it's easy enough to find a different narrative—by changing the channel. Try changing your own channel and come up with a different story. Pay attention to the things you tell yourself, and question them. Doing so can change your take on what has happened, and put it in a different—and more positive—light. Instead of seeing the situation negatively, for example, think about what it has taught you and how it may help you help other people. Seeking prospects for self-discovery can open your eyes to new ways to approach challenges.
2. Can I practice optimism? If you're not lucky enough to come about this trait naturally—and you're the half-empty rather than half-full kind of person—you can still learn to be optimistic. That's not to say you must ignore a sad situation, but instead, find a way to look upon it as more of a challenge. For example, if you lose your job, and think, "Life will never be happy again," try telling yourself that while it's unfortunate and upsetting, it may be the perfect opportunity to reassess your goals and find something new and more exciting.
3. Can I make connections? It can be tough to go it alone. Making and maintaining good relationships with friends and family members can help strengthen resilience; social support is invaluable in getting through life's challenges.
4. Can I detach? While this may seem contradictory to making connections, it doesn't mean you should disengage from personal contact. Instead, detaching yourself from a challenging situation—and not taking it personally or blaming yourself—can help bolster resilience. One of my favorite sayings (I have it hanging on my bulletin board over my desk) is this: Ask yourself the three P's: Is the situation pervasive? Personal? Permanent? There's no failure that qualifies as being totally any of these.
5. Can I practice self-care? Don't neglect your own needs, feelings and desires. Get regular exercise, but also make sure to fit in some relaxation; nurturing isn't just for others. Taking care of yourself will equip your mind and body to deal with difficult situations.
6. Can I trust myself? Building—or maintaining—confidence in yourself and trusting your instincts go a long way toward feeling mastery over your ability to solve problems. So does acting decisively on an adverse situation, which goes along with trusting yourself.
7. Can I allow myself to feel my emotions? There's no doubt that many situations will evoke strong emotions, and it's OK to let yourself feel them. But just as importantly, you must know the time to push them aside to continue to function.
More Reading for Building Resilience:
5 Simple Daily Strategies to Supercharge Your Energy
Celebrating Your Health at Every Age
How to Eat to Boost Your Brain Health