We all have stress coming at us from the outside, from our jobs, finances, the world and current events, relationships, and so much more. But some people seem to handle it so much better than others. Why?
Research shows that inner resilience is one of the big factors that people who handle stress well have in common. Resilience is basically a person’s ability to adapt to and bounce back from stressful situations. And if you can adapt and bounce back, you can be happier, calmer, and healthier.
So how can we build resilience in ourselves? Start with this really simple practice. It actually comes from one of the phases of EMDR therapy, during which the therapist helps the client build mental resources and resilience.
First, think back to a situation where you experienced resilience. Maybe it was a big achievement, a difficult situation you got through well, something you overcame, or a proud moment.
Once you’ve got your situation, think about how it felt. Notice what you feel in your body as you think about it now.
Next, come up with a statement that summarizes your belief about yourself in that situation. Maybe it’s something as simple as “I am resilient,” “I am capable,” or “I can overcome.” Or it could be more specific. Whatever the statement is for you, make sure that you feel confident about yourself when you say it.
Now we want to bring in bilateral stimulation. This is the neuroscience concept of stimulating one side of your body, and therefore brain, and then the other side back and forth. This helps to integrate into your brain what you’re focusing on. It’s much simpler than it might sound. You can do bilateral stimulation for yourself in a couple easy ways. One is to hug your arms across your body so that your hands are on the opposite shoulders. Then just tap back and forth on your shoulders. Another is to tap on your legs back and forth.
Focus on your resilience statement and how good that situation felt while tapping on yourself. Tap for about 30 seconds at a gentle pace, one tap a second or so. When you finish, take a deep breath and notice how you’re feeling. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
Notice how you’re feeling overall after 3 or 4 sets of tapping. Do you notice a little more relaxation? Or confidence? Or strength? Just notice it one more time and soak up those good feelings.
When you experience stress in your daily life, practice mindfully bringing up these resilient feelings. With the tapping bilateral stimulation, you’re actually building positive neural networks in your brain that will help you experience the feeling of resilience when you need it.
I hope this gives you one simple way to start building your own resilience. This is an exercise that I often use with clients in therapy, particularly with EMDR. If you recognize that you have gone through stress or traumatic experiences that need more support than this practice, you might greatly benefit from working with a therapist one on one.