Resilience – How to Recover From a Setback, Trauma or Failure

resilience - overcoming setbacks

Resilience is the ability to return to normal or improved functioning after a problem, setback, or other difficulties.

Imagine a rubber band – the kind that used to come on the newspaper when we were kids and your parents would save in a drawer for future use.  The rubber band could be used over and over for many different purposes.

As long as the rubber band wasn’t stretched beyond its capacity or exposed to the elements it could be re-used.  If it was stretched or exposed then it would eventually lose its bounce-back. The worn-out rubber band would lose its ability to be used as it was designed.

As a simplified example – people are like a rubber band. As long as we develop resilience from physical, mental and emotional upsets we will continue to bounce back. But sometimes we ignore our emotional traumas and one crisis builds on another until we feel like the rubber band that has been stretched too far or too often and has lost its ability to bounce back.

If you are noticing that you are not bouncing back from adversity as well as you once did, it’s ok! I have good news for you.  

Here are 5 tips for improving your ability to bounce back!

1. Your brain is super complex – it is up to you what you feed it.

Sugar, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates can cause brain fog and interfere with resilience. Healthy fats can help brain function. Consider some changes in what you eat to help you build resilience. Consider switching to a Mediterranean diet and talking to your doctor about adding an Omega supplement which may help your synapses function more easily.

2. You are the boss of your mind!

I know it sometimes feels like your brain is taking off and thinking thoughts without your control, but it might be that you trained your mind to go off on its own. You can retrain your brain and choose the thoughts you think about.

If you have gotten into a pattern of negative thinking, your resilience will become depleted. Thinking negative thoughts creates a downward spiral which is like stretching a rubber band beyond its capacity.  The good news is that it’s likely you learned this behavior and you can re-learn healthier thinking. However, If you are dealing with uncontrolled thoughts you can’t stop on your own. Please seek help from a medical professional – sometimes medication is needed to help your brain function.

3. Renew your mind daily.

Start your morning with some type of inspirational thoughts. Some people like to do affirmations. Others prefer meditation or prayer where they focus on a positive thought to help guide them throughout the day. Taking a few minutes in the morning to intentionally focus on peace and calm before you get overly busy helps you develop optimism which increases resiliency.

4. Rest and hydrate!

Realize that there is a natural ebb and flow of life. Bodies, even well-fed and well-exercised bodies, get tired. They need a chance to stretch, sleep and rejuvenate. If you know your emotions are out of sorts because you are tired – try not to get into heavy conversations with yourself or anyone else until you have had a chance to rest. While you are resting your body has a chance to recover and that builds resilience.

5. Know when to ask for help!

If you are thinking maybe I should get some help with ______________(fill in the blank) then probably getting some help is a good idea! Getting an optimistic friend’s perspective can be super helpful in getting you back on a resilient path.  If you have some areas where you are emotionally stuck, getting professional help is a wonderful way to gain insights and tools to help you live resiliently. 

As Baby Boomers we have probably experienced more than one traumatic event in our lives. Ideally, the key is to not let the emotions and physical responses from a trauma build up. However, we may have been taught to just tough things out not realizing we were doing ourselves a disservice and depleting our resilience. But the good news is… even if you have experienced multiple traumas or setbacks we are never too old to work through them, develop new habits and recover our bounce. It will take some time and effort to build resilience, but you are worth it!

Alice Goldstein
A Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Coach for over 25 years, Alice has written on a wide range of topics, touching on issues that matter most to seniors. Check out her article “Tips for Successful Marriages for Couples over 70” - a popular post on Marriage.com where Alice is an “Expert” author. Learn more about Alice Goldstein