Resiliency: Transformation Through Life’s Challenges

by Christian Bonilla, MA, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist


What is resilience?

I think we can all agree that life is amazing when everything is running smoothly.  However, life does not always work that way.  It is simply too unpredictable.  I became quite familiar with this fact thirteen years ago, at the age of fifteen.  The result of a diving accident at a lake left me paralyzed from the chest down.  Life as I knew it would never be the same.  Gone was my ability to play instruments and run for my high school’s cross country and track and field team.  My dreams were shattered, my independence was taken from me, and friendships were lost.  The list goes on.  Despite this misfortune and the ensuing setbacks, life continued, and I got back up on my feet, so to speak.  

Considering all that is transpiring throughout the country and in the world, you may be experiencing or have experienced something similar.  You may find yourself recovering from a particularly difficult situation.  You might be asking yourself how you can acquire resilience, the ability to come back from times of adversity and hardship.  This post will provide several tips for building resilience and promoting growth during troubling times.  



How do I build resilience?

Getting through life’s challenges and avoiding being overwhelmed by our circumstances can be exhausting and may not be easy.  The following are suggestions on how to manage difficult experiences, regain control, and ultimately build resilience.



Self-care and healthy coping skills are vital to one’s well-being.  Take some time to take care of your needs and nourish yourself, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.



Share your story with people you trust and are comfortable with.  In doing so, you get the opportunity to have a voice and to connect with others, while possibly helping them with their own struggles as well.  



Take advantage of your support systems.  Reach out to a loved one, contact a leader at your church, get together with a group of friends via technology.  Or, if you can’t get together physically with others(in a healthy manner of course), seek and be willing to receive help from others in different ways.



Facing problems and fears can be daunting and stressful to think about. That being said, choosing to accept and overcome challenges can be much less anxiety-provoking in the long run.  Consider speaking with your doctor or a therapist to address ongoing anxiety you may be experiencing. 



Psychotherapy can be another tool for exploring and managing difficult situations.  Find a therapist that is the right fit for you and embark on the journey together.  You do not have to fight this battle alone.  


Everyone processes things differently.  For this reason, please do not feel discouraged if some of these suggestions do not work for you.  My hope is that this short list will provide some assistance and foster growth.



Resilience can lead to personal growth

As I mentioned above, life can be erratic and may not unfold to our liking.  Fortunately, the process of building resilience can open many opportunities for transformation.  However, sometimes we may overlook these moments, whether intentionally or not.  Perhaps you are pressured to achieve success, your situation may feel too painful or overwhelming, or you have never entertained the thought of growing from your setbacks.  Whatever the case may be, it is important to recognize that setbacks can positively affect your identity and your ability to bounce back from adversity.

Although my life drastically changed when I became a quadriplegic, a lot of good came out of these experiences.  For instance, these setbacks facilitated personal growth; I became more patient, determined, empathetic, and mature.  In addition, facing my setbacks allowed me to become more acquainted with myself; I grasped a better understanding of my limits, strengths, goals, needs, and who I wanted to become.  In essence, growing resilient through my own challenging journey shaped my personality, outlook and appreciation of life and others, and my ability to connect with God and people on a deeper level.  I share my story not to shame or demoralize those who struggle with resilience and growth but to raise awareness and to encourage those who are reading this.

Think about a time when you encountered a setback.  What helped you to grow and move forward from this difficult experience?  I invite you to share your story below in the comment section.