We live in a stressful world. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are faced with little challenges and stresses that we’re not always equipped to handle. We rush to work. We experience bad drivers. We have intimidating bosses. We have friendships and relationships that we struggle to manage. We have past traumas that are frequently affecting our lives now.
Entire books have been written about the causes of anxiety, and we are not going to address them all here. But there are tens of thousands of men and women on Long Island and millions of people in New York State right now that find themselves living with ongoing anxiety that is consistently fueled further by these daily life experiences, and it’s getting worse.
There are many reasons why the number of people living with anxiety is increasing, a number that may be increasing even further as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But one thing we know for certain is that anxiety is treatable. With the right tool and techniques, it is possible for those living with anxiety to manage the condition and live their lives in happier and more emotionally
What is Resilience and Resilience Training?
One of our focuses here is on “resilience.” Resilience is the psychological ability to withstand and overcome emotional or cognitive challenges with relative ease, and without allowing those events to fundamentally alter your ability to move forward in life.
Some people are able to bounce back easily from even the most challenging of setbacks. They have a psychological ability to process and manage challenges in ways that help them overcome them faster, and with less future emotional distress. It doesn’t mean that they’re uncaring, or immune to the challenges. But they have developed a psychological resilience that puts them on their path forward.
Many other people do not have this ability. It is not a flaw or a defect. Rather, resilience has many similarities to muscles. Some people exercise theirs in ways that make it easier for them to respond to the weight and burden of the challenges they face, and others have not. In order for people to become more resilient, they need to train in it and learn the skills they need to become more resilient in the future.
Resilience is protective. It helps prevent damage to your emotional state. People that learn anxiety resistance are not only better able to manage anxiety, but also to not allow life stresses to trigger anxiety setbacks.
Its benefits can also be cyclical. Imagine these two scenarios:
- Someone without resilience experiences an event that causes them immense psychological distress. They are anxious and drained from the experience. Unable to cope, they decide to turn down a social function they were invited to attend, hurting their friendships and missing out on the enjoyment they would have while there.
- Someone with resilience experiences the same event but is able to withstand it. Feeling fine, they attend the social event and have a great time, creating memories and enhancing their social experiences. That social bonding also helps them with their resilience, as social support increases psychological grit.
This means that resilience can also beget more resilience in ways that help people with many of the challenges that they could potentially face in the future while also improving their life in the present.
The Process for Anxiety Resilience Training
Like any “exercise” program, training in anxiety resilience requires a multifaceted approach that addresses many of the factors that affect resilience:
You don’t have to change who you are. But you do have to recognize where there are areas that could use improvement, and find ways to address those areas.
Psychological resilience is not something that uses a single approach, because the issues that contribute to this missing resilience can differ in many ways.
Specifically, when we’re talking about anxiety, we’ll need to look at the factors in your life that are working well and the ones that aren’t. Here’s an example of how we might approach resilience training for anxiety, but keep in mind that your specific plan may be different depending on the factors that are contributing to your challenges:
- Purpose Discovery – Developing a clear sense of purpose is extremely important for guiding your behaviors and pushing forward. Most people have not discovered their purpose(s), and the mundane demands of life have led to situations where the value of their existence is questioned any time they experience hardships. Finding that purpose is important.
- Genuine Self Esteem Development – Pride in yourself, the way you live your life, and who you are is also a critical component of resilience. It is something that people struggle to fake, so it must be genuine. There are many psychological interventions that can help someone build their self-esteem and gain more confidence in their own health and wellness, involving discovering your inner core, assuming a proactive stance for living, and identifying and prioritizing the parts of your self that deserve to increase genuine pride.
- Practice and Strengthen Coping Skills – Like a muscle, we have to work on our ability to cope effectively. We may not be able to, or want to, create large emotional setbacks. But we can work on and master coping strategies and learn how to deploy those strategies in situations both large and small.
- Change the Past – Our pasts will always play a role in our present. But we can address how those pasts effect us and how we learn from them. We can reframe some of the negative experiences of the past to identify how they’ve actually benefitted us, and we can figure out how to use past experiences in ways that elevate us.
- Crafting a Physical Health Narrative – One area that all psychologists will recommend is a true prioritizing of your physical health, from exercise to diet to sleep. While many of us imagine a world where we’re physically fit and healthier, most of us struggle to actually commit to those changes. But they are immensely valuable for psychological resilience, helping you at a chemical level. Sleep, for example, is directly related to our ability to cope with anxiety. Addressing the roadblocks that prevent us from taking better care of ourselves is an important and very effective part of treatment.
This only scratches the surface of the many different techniques that a person with anxiety can learn to increase and improve psychological grit. But what is most important is understanding that approaching this requires a holistic approach. There is no one methodology. Instead, the goal is to look at your entire life and use who you are and where you are to determine what approaches make the most sense.
Integrating Life Changes for Psychological Resilience
Resilience training can be completed by an experienced psychologist. We developed a program for resilience training here at Long Island Psychology, to support those that are looking for aways to improve psychological resilience and “grit.”
But there are also strategies that someone can work on themselves. Physical fitness, sleep, and dietary changes can start the process of developing resilience. Building strong social bonds can help as well. While our psychologists may work with you to help you find purpose, these are also exploratory experiences that you can try on your own.
Working with a psychologist can allow you to integrate psychotherapeutic techniques into your training and help guide your thoughts so that you’re better able to understand yourself. But you can get the process started in advance by making these small changes to your lifestyle. Little changes can add up to a bigger difference.
Resilience for Anxiety
In the context of anxiety, resilience alone doesn’t “cure” anxiousness. Rather, resilience is an approach that is designed to make it easier for you to respond to anxiety when combined with an anxiety specific treatment. For example, a person that addresses their anxiety through CBT will often learn valuable skills that help them avoid anxiety in the future.
However, without resilience, that person may also be prone to setbacks. That is because being overwhelmed or overstressed is not necessarily going to be addressed by the anxiety treatment In addition, if the person faces a significant change, loss, or issue that could affect their mental health, they need resilience to help prevent them from falling back into old patterns.
Resilience for anxiety can also be viewed as preventative. People that are prone to anxiety but not necessarily suffering from a diagnosable anxiety disorder can work on their resilience to make sure they are better equipped to handle any other challenges they may face, ideally preventing them from developing an anxiety disorder in the future.
Contact Long Island Psychology
If you are interested in learning more about resilience, and how it can help you with anxiety, stress, depression, and life satisfaction, contact Long Island Psychology today. We are licensed to provide therapy and counseling in all of New York State.