How to Develop Resilience in the Face of Adversity: Five Tips According to Science

When you take a look at the state of things in the world right now, you quickly realize that it takes great strength to stand and live a meaningful life.

In fact data shows that, both as individuals and nations, we are so stressed today than at any other period in history.

Just to give you an idea, according to a compilation of data by disturbmenot:

  • Between 75 – 90 percent of doctor visits in the US is in some way related to stress.
  • 49 percent of young adults (aged 18 – 24) experience high levels of stress.
  • 60 percent of adults resort to drinking as a way to escape stressful life events.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped matters:

According to recent research published by the American Psychological Association (APA), the coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased our stress levels.

The study, based on a survey of 3,013 adults in the United States, found that people are now reporting the most significant increase in stress levels for the very first time since the APA started conducting its stress research in 2007.

According to the study:

  • While the average reported stress level in 2019 was 4.9, it has gone up to 5.9 on a 10-point scale due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Stress levels are particularly higher for parents with children: with the average stress level of parents with children under the age of 18 being 6.7.
  • 46 percent of parents report having a high stress level (ranging between 8 – 10 on a 10-point scale).

So when we look at what is happening and the available data on our increasingly stressed state, it becomes clear that we need to develop resilience now more than ever.

So what does science say about developing resilience? Here are some ideas:

1. Develop an Exercise Routine: Studies upon studies have established that regular exercise not only helps control our stress levels, but they can also help develop resilience.

According to a 2014 study published in the journal frontiers in Psychology, regular exercise has been found to help with developing emotional resilience to acute stress in adults.

Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience takes things a step further: the study found that regular exercise actually reorganizes the brain in a way that helps develop more resilience towards stressors. When exposed to a stressor, there is a spike in the activity of neurons in the brain which shuts off excitement in the ventral hippocampus and regulates anxiety.

Of course, the current reality makes it clear that it can be a bit difficult to have an active exercise life due to COVID-19 restrictions: gyms have been shut down, movement restricted, and there is a limit to sports and exercise activities that you can do as a result. Notwithstanding, there are a lot of exercises you can do to keep your brain and body active from the comfort of your home and as a result further build your resilience. You only have to be creative.

2. Develop a Meditation Habit: Take a moment to think about it: the power in being still, in being conscious about yourself, about your environment, about your soul… just for a few moments, not being concerned about anything else.

We rarely do this, but research has shown that it can be very powerful for developing resilience. According to science, one of the most effective ways to build resilience is by meditating: in a highly-controlled study, in which researchers monitored the brain activity of participants with MRI scans, they found that the effect of meditation on developing resilience isn’t only immediate but sustained.

If you are yet to start, it might be a good idea to work on developing a meditation habit. If it’s just for five minutes a day, every day, it can go a long way to make a lot of difference.

3. Take Care of Yourself

We’ve all heard the expression, “little foxes spoil the vine.”

This is just as true when it comes to developing resilience. You don’t need to visit the best psychic websites to know this, but the little things you tend to ignore, such as the food you eat, how many hours of sleep you get, and the activities you take to de-stress will go a long way towards affecting your resilience levels.

Several studies have linked having abundant sleep with being more resilient. Several studies have linked eating good food with being resilient. The same goes for taking time off every once in a while to de-stress after a stressful day, or week, or month or year.

Now, more than ever, pay great attention to yourself: take care of your body, eat good, nutritious food, and ensure you have adequate and regular sleep to further enhance your resilience.

4. Pay Careful Attention to Your Social Circle

According to Jim Rohn, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

While to some Rohn is simply being a motivational speaker, science has shown that Rohn is right: your social circle — of friends, family, and people you listen to — play a major role in influencing your ability to stand in the face of adversity.

In fact, a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that an individual’s social environment is pivotal to the individual’s ability to develop resilience.

So, if your social network is full of naysayers and people who only always see the negative around you, your stress levels will be higher and you’ll have low resilience.

5. Practice Positivity: Practicing positivity is one seemingly simple, but very powerful, thing you can do to further enhance your ability to be resilient. The state of the world right now is very confusing: there is the pandemic, and fears of more pandemics, and the killings, and the abuse, and the division, and the hate.

It seems as if there is not much to be positive about in the midst of all these, but it is important to realize that you’ll only be able to give what you’re taking in. If you spend all day on news sites, and on social media, consuming negative news, it becomes difficult to see the positivity around you, and your stress levels will increase.

According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, one of the key things resilient individuals use to bounce back when dealing with adversity is focusing on positive emotions.

So, yes, a lot of things are wrong in, and with, the world right now. But take a minute and ask yourself: what is that positive thing going on around you? No matter how seemingly small it is, train yourself to dwell on it.


Segun Onibalusi is an entrepreneur and contributor to The Huffington
Post, Adweek, The Next Web, and other major publications. You can follow
him on Twitter: @iamsegun_oni


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