Resilience Is A Muscle. Here’s How To Flex It.

Six ways to strengthen your resilience.

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Resilience is nature, but it’s also nurture. Not everybody is born with the tools to face adversity and overcome it. Luckily, however, we all have the opportunity to learn. Rachel Gersten, a licensed therapist and a runner who lives in New York, says we have four types of resilience: physical, emotional, social, and mental. Some types we innately possess, but those that we don’t, we can develop.

“They’re all interchangeable, essentially,” Gersten says. “I don’t know anybody who’s gone through a really difficult emotional struggle, for example, and not let it tap into other categories. It’s physically challenging to feel depressed.”

Resilience is a muscle, mental health experts say. And building it takes time and training—just like improving running performance. It’s based on four components, according to the American Psychological Association: connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning.

Six Methods to Start Building Resilience

The American Psychological Association gives the following advice for building resilience. Remember it takes time and focus, whether you’re going through trauma or recovering from a disappointment.

Build connections.

People who prioritize their relationships with those who are trustworthy, empathetic, and compassionate can get through hard situations more easily than those who are more isolated. Choose people who validate your feelings and accept their help and support. A good place to start for runners? Local running groups, crews, and clubs. Some of your most fulfilling friendships can be born on the run.

Foster wellness.

When tough times hit, even runners can let our healthy habits slide. Resilience is physical as much as emotional, so paying attention to nutrition, sleep, hydration, and logging your miles will help your body adapt to stress and alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. If running isn’t cutting it, meditation and mindfulness might help.

Seek help.

It bears repeating: You’re not alone, even in times that feel grim. If you’re stuck, a licensed mental health professional can help, as well as community support groups. Seek out the kind of support that you’re comfortable with—to get the most out of it, you need to feel at ease.

Embrace healthy thoughts.

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. What happened today or this year isn’t an indicator of what the future will bring. You can’t change a stressful event, but you can control how you respond to it. Look back on other times you’ve overcome adversity—you’ve done this before and you can do it again.

Set goals.

After a year with so few in-person races, we might be a bit rusty at goal-setting. Breaking down big goals into bite-size pieces help you feel accomplished, like you’re moving forward. Ask yourself what one thing you can do each day to move in the right direction, whether you’re targeting a personal record or you’re up for a promotion at work.

Find purpose.

Looking outside ourselves can bring perspective to our personal problems. Volunteering for a cause you care about can also give you a sense of purpose and foster self-worth, plus connect you with more people.

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