Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress, and ultimately bouncing back from difficult life experiences. For teenagers working hard to maintain their sobriety, this is especially true, as resilience can help teens in recovery with their overall mental health.
“Resilience in youth can be fostered by enhancing positive protective internal and external factors in the lives of young people that help prepare them to cope with adverse life experiences,” said Dr. Chelsea Neumann, Medical Director of Paradigm Malibu. “These factors include building self-esteem and self-efficacy by enhancing the youth’s strengths, enhancing a cultural connection within their family of origin, building a social support network, and engaging youth in pro-social activities at home, school and in their communities.”
According to the American Psychological Association, a combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.
Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
- Skills in communication and problem solving.
- The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
Tips for Building Resilience
The following tips, provided by the American Psychological Association, offer more specific ways to build resilience, which involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in people of all ages.
1. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
3. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly, even if it seems like a small accomplishment, that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself: “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
4. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.
5. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
6. Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
7. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope. Ultimately, the key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.