I’m sensitive. I’ve always been sensitive. And I’m not necessarily talking about the good kind because I’ve done a lot of work to accept and embrace my emotional tenderness. Rather, the kind where I want to cry when I spill my coffee, or I feel like a complete and utter failure when I lose my train of thought in a professional conversation. The type of things that happen to all of us inevitably every day—the spilled coffee, traffic, your dog having an accident in the house—have thrown many of my days into the gutter. I didn’t realize until recently that my days weren’t destined to suck—I was very much letting the little things take hold of me and throw off my whole day. What I didn’t know is that by embracing everyday resilience, I could take back control, making more of my moments OK and more of my days joyful.
Many people think of resilience as the ability to bounce back from major adversity: the loss of a job, the death of a family member, or difficult life transitions. While all of those things require resilience, it isn’t just for those types of situations; it’s for the everyday—and it informs how you navigate any stressor you encounter. These little things that “go wrong” are often unavoidable, so how can we learn to deal with them and not let them ruin our day?
I’ve always felt like I have and could get through tough times. I knew I could be resilient when my life demanded it, but I wasn’t using the everyday resilience I called on in tough times in my daily life. I’m not saying that I don’t let things bother me anymore, but I now know that I have a choice in how I respond to what happens in my day, from stubbing my toe to forgetting about an important meeting. In other words, everyday resilience is the life hack I didn’t know I needed and has taught me how to manage daily stressors so that I can start living the life of my dreams. Read on for ways to boost your everyday resilience and what happened when I started embracing everyday resilience.
What is everyday resilience?
“Everyday resilience is the capacity to adapt to the ups and downs of daily life through self-regulation and exercising coping skills,” said Miranda Anderson, a positive psychology practitioner, coach, and host of the Practically Happy podcast. It’s not a matter of whether you were born with it or not. These are skills that can be learned and practiced so that each day can feel a bit easier. She shared that this type of resilience invites a level of ease and peace into life, regardless of what is happening beyond our control.
Of course, in defining what everyday resilience is, it’s also helpful to know what it isn’t, especially since the concept of resilience has been misused. Some people use “resilience” as an excuse for making things unpleasant and difficult for others. Also, people in power often use “resilience” against disadvantaged communities and people, belittling their experiences and placing a huge pressure on those individuals to be “strong” and put up with unfair and unjust circumstances. In these cases, resilience is glorified and tells us that we shouldn’t feel real and valid emotions. If the word rubs you the wrong way, change it to something that resonates with you and allows you to reduce stress and take back the joy in your days.
“Embracing resilience doesn’t mean that I have to strip away the sensitivity that makes me me. It means becoming aware of these unhelpful thoughts that lead to anxiety and take away the opportunity to live as my best self.”
How to boost your everyday resilience
Below are some of the methods I’m using to improve my everyday resilience so that I can better manage my daily stressors. The good news is you’ve already tackled the first step: learning about it.
Get the basics down
“Some of my favorite ways to build everyday resilience are simple activities,” Anderson said. “First, the basics: Getting enough sleep, regular movement, and good nutrition are all great ways to support your body in protecting your mental and emotional health.” Simply put, if you’re tired or hangry, those little things are going to feel a lot bigger.
“Practicing mindfulness by taking 5-10 minutes to simply breathe without technology or other distractions can calm your nervous system and build emotional flexibility,” Anderson said. Mindfulness brings you to a place of calm where everything doesn’t immediately feel like an attack on your body. It grants you the ability to breathe before reacting and the space to reconsider unhelpful thought patterns before they take hold.
Lean on relationships
“Another favorite way to build everyday resilience is to strengthen existing friendships and relationships,” Anderson said. “Simply calling a friend or trusted family member can boost your mood, lend a fresh perspective, and help you better navigate everyday difficulties.” Talking to loved ones doesn’t just feel good; it reminds you of how much you are loved and cared for and what is truly important in life.
Be aware of your thinking style
I come from a long line of exclaimers (read: people in my family love to yell, say, when they drop something or the computer crashes), which has contributed to my own reactionary style. “How we analyze events depends on thinking styles that we have learned over our lifetime and that operate reflexively, in knee-jerk fashion, when things don’t go our way,” shared Karen Reivich, Ph.D., and Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., in their book The Resilience Factor. It takes a conscious effort to unlearn a thinking style that makes everything into a disaster. Whether it’s your friends or your family who tend to overreact when something goes awry, it will take time and effort on your part to change your learned thoughts and reactions.
Challenge unhelpful thoughts
“Nonresilient thinking styles can lead us to cling to inaccurate beliefs about the world and to inappropriate problem-solving strategies that burn through emotional energy and valuable resilience resources,” Reivich and Shatté shared. Inaccurate beliefs are any of those self-sabotaging thoughts you have in reaction to a problem: I’m worthless. I’m dumb. I’m unloveable. I’m a failure. By becoming aware of these thought patterns, knowing the triggers, and consistently reminding yourself of all of the reasons they are false, you’ll be able to confront challenges without it feeling like a strike to your ego. Embracing resilience doesn’t mean that I have to strip away the sensitivity that makes me me. It means becoming aware of these unhelpful thoughts that lead to anxiety and take away the opportunity to live as my best self.
Try to keep an optimistic mindset
Optimism isn’t blind positivity; it’s the ability to believe things will be OK, see challenges more clearly, and more effectively find solutions. Optimism builds your supply of resilience resources and leaves you better suited to face any type of stressor. I’ve found that practicing positivity puts me in a better place overall, helps me embrace gratitude, and serves as armor against those common challenges that used to (and sometimes still) ruin my day.
“Every day could be a real disaster, but it also has the potential to be genuinely great.”
What happened when I started embracing everyday resilience
I realized I have a choice when it comes to how my day goes.
Every day could be a real disaster, but it also has the potential to be genuinely great. To quote Margaret Bonnano, “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.” I used to rely too much on fate to dictate how my day went, which usually meant waiting for something to go wrong and holding onto that belief until I went to bed. Everyday resilience has taught me that although I can’t always control what happens in the day, I can control my response to whatever comes my way. Whether it’s a rude driver who cuts me off or having a disagreement with my BFF, challenging my knee-jerk reaction has the potential to drastically change my day for the better. And just knowing that I have this power gives me even more incentive to embrace everyday resilience.
I stopped taking minor things too seriously.
When I embraced everyday resilience, I started to have a clearer, better perspective. What does it matter that I spilled my juice when I can get outdoors and take in the sunshine and when I remember how much my loved ones care for me? Perspective is everything, but it’s not always easy to have. Taking a step back from the challenge you’re facing, and looking at the bigger picture, and appreciating the present moment changes how you see difficulties.
I move on from mishaps more easily.
In the past, whenever negative things would happen in my day, I used to see them as a sign from the universe that I and my life sucked. Yeah, it does suck to hit traffic on the way to work or see a photo of yourself that makes you question your body image, but it doesn’t mean the whole day has to be ruined because of it. When I realized that I was only robbing myself of good days by focusing on the negative, I felt more responsible for how I was reacting to those little things. Changing my mindset from pessimism to optimism doesn’t mean that I ignore the challenges, it means that I can take them in stride, more effectively find a solution, and act on the solution. The more I show myself that I can navigate inconveniences and mishaps, the more I’m confident that I’ll be able to handle whatever life throws at me and that I can achieve my dreams.
My relationships are better.
Constantly being on edge waiting for the other shoe to drop would create tension in my relationships. An upsetting little comment from a friend or my S.O. used to leave my stomach in knots for days. Now, instead of falling into the trap of thinking they don’t love me anymore or that I’m not good enough, I can better see the situation for what it is. I can acknowledge that all people make mistakes, tell them how they made me feel, clarify any misunderstandings, and move on.