Oct. 22, 2021 -- While you may hear the words “grit” and “resilience” bandied about a lot, it turns out that both are personality traits that can be critically important in helping guide you through life, no matter your personal stressors.
And, while you can absolutely become resilient over time, your background plays a role, as it provides some of the key building blocks to bouncing back during even the worst of times.
“Some people become more resilient due to such life experience as loss, trauma, and stress,” says Julie Sochacki, JD, a clinical associate professor of English at the University of Hartford, who began teaching her first-year students about resilience when her son was diagnosed with cancer. (He’s now in remission.) “Those experiences give you opportunities to practice resilience skills. By contrast, if your life has been easy, you may never have practiced those skills.”
Besides a history of handling tough times, optimism and confidence are other traits associated with resilience.
“Resilient people tend to see the glass as half-full,” says Ken Yeager, PhD, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
When you’ve got grit, you tend to pair your sunny outlook with a willingness to take calculated risks others probably wouldn’t take.
“Resilient people don’t fear failure,” Yeager says. “And they don’t see failing on a task as a reflection of their individual ability. Instead, they learn from the failure itself.”
Five Ways to Build Resilience
The good news in all this? You’re never too old to find that inner grit.
“The ability to bounce back even when times get tough can be learned and developed,” says Natalie Bernstein, PsyD, a psychologist in Pittsburgh. “I always say that it’s never too late to become more resilient.”
Here are five ways to become more resilient:
Put things in perspective.
If you change your mindset, you can bounce back better, Bernstein says. “Gaining perspective is one of the easiest ways to do this,” she says. “So, instead of thinking you’re having a bad day, for example, perhaps you’re having a bad moment instead. To gain perspective, pay attention, pause, and practice reframing these feelings.”
Rethink stressful situations.
To become more resilient, it’s a great idea to try to see the bigger picture and consider whether you have a role in a particular situation, Bernstein says.
“It’s possible that the honk you heard from a driver was to thank you for letting him or her into your lane and not because he or she was being impatient,” she says. “Just like it’s possible your partner or boss is having a bad day and that’s why he or she snapped at you. By being clear about others’ actions -- and realizing that they likely have nothing to do with you -- you’ll cope better.”
Research has shown that gratitude has the power to change attitudes.
“By focusing upon the many things that are going right in your life, you’ll be better able to adjust to less-than-ideal situations,” Bernstein says.
Having a support system of family and/or friends that you can rely upon to have your back can be very helpful.
“Knowing you have people to stand by you in difficult times can help you feel stronger and better able to handle what life throws your way,” Bernstein says.
Acknowledge your feelings before acting on them.
Ultimately, ignoring stressful feelings won’t help you find your inner grit.
“Instead, to get on the path to becoming more resilient, make sure to validate your feelings and give yourself some time to feel disappointment and fear,” Bernstein says. “Once you’ve given yourself the space to do that, make a plan of how you want to respond or move forward. Even this small act on your part will go a long way to helping you build strength -- and grit.”