Train Your Brain to Build Resilience

emotional wellbeing relational wellbeing soul care Dec 30, 2020
emotional wellbeing

How quickly do you bounce back from adversity? Your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties reflects your resilience. Some of us may be quite good at it, but others of us likely struggle. The good news is that you can train your brain to build resilience. 

Resilience is a muscle. The more work you put into building it the stronger it becomes. The less you use it the more it languishes. 

Thanks to neuroplasticity, the term for the brain's ability to change, we can learn resilience. Often this change is forged in the fire of life by bouncing back when things get tough. But it's also molded during every day life by learning to think and act differently to the people and situations we encounter. 

Here's what that might look like.

  • You drop a sock from your laundry pile and you pick it up. 
  • You forget your laptop at home and flip a u-turn to retrieve it. 
  • You begin prepping for dinner and discover a missing ingredient, so you drive to the store or order take-out.
  • You head out the door to meet a friend when you get a call from her saying she needs to cancel.

These seemingly insignificant adaptations you make to an inconvenience, mistake, or change of plans builds your resilience. The way you handle and adapt to these small things reflects your preparation for the bigger challenges in life.

I think it's fair to say that during this past year, all of us struggled at one time or another to bounce back from yet another cancellation, closure, or change of plans. The year that should have been one big roaring 20's party came to an abrupt halt shortly after it began. Our resilience was tested. 

How'd you do? 

If your answer is "not so great" it's okay.

Before you get too critical of yourself, pause and remember... you made it! You have been more resilient than you think.You are on the threshold of a new year. You adapted, adjusted, and flexed with the twists and turns. 

You may be weary and crawling across the finish line, but you made it through nine of the longest months of our collective lives. 

While the end of this crazy season may finally be in sight, it's not yet over, and opportunities for building resilience are abundant. 

Here are 3 ways to train your brain to build resilience. 

  1. Change your mindset. Resilience begins in your mind. Your expectations about how life is "supposed" to go or what you do or don't deserve sets the stage for your ability to recover quickly when things don't go as planned. For greater resilience, expect the unexpected. Know that obstacles will knock you down from time to time. Sadness will come your way. You won't always get what you think you deserve. Be realistic about life, because it can be hard sometimes. Simply acknowledging this and expecting challenges helps train your brain to build resilience.
  2. Loosen your grip. Control what only you can control. While this might sound cliche, there are very few things in life over which you have 100% control. Outside of that inner ring are a few things you have some control over, but the largest ring is reserved for those things over which you have zero control. A helpful exercise might be drawing three concentric circles and identifying which parts of your life fall into each category. Remember, the inner ring is the smallest and represents how little control you have over the things that happen in your life. Recognizing this helps you loosen your grip and trains your brain to build resilience.   
  3. Recruit your team. You weren't made to white-knuckle your way through life on your own. You were made for relationship, first with God, then with others. While God should be your number one recruit, sometimes you need Jesus with skin on, too. Investing in meaningful and supportive relationships demonstrates God's deep love for you and the reminder that He is present even when He may feel distant. If you're struggling with resilience, do a quick scan of the people in your life and, if needed, be intentional about building a stronger team. If you already have a great team, thank them and lean into them to train your brain to build resilience when it's most needed. 

During this week's podcast episode, my co-host Annie and I talk about resilience in chaos.

It was a great opportunity to reflect back on the year and see how our confidence and connections were deepened despite the challenges. 

The road ahead is unknown.

Waiting for life to unfold is sometimes the hardest part. But it's also the time to prepare, plan, and pray so that you are ready for whatever comes. 

May the new year unfold with fresh opportunities for renewal and resilience. 

 

Listen in to this week's podcast ==> Resilience in the Chaos

 

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