What is Psychological Resilience and How Do We Achieve It?

I’ve always been physically flexible from years of dance training. Splits, touching my toes, and backbends came easily to me. Psychological resilience, on the other hand, was a much harder concept for me to grasp.

 “Psychological resilience is defined as an individual's ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or other highly adverse conditions. Adversity and stress can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, among others.”

Having grown up with a very regular, predictable, jam-packed schedule, (read: school, dance, sleep) I became accustomed to rigidity. I felt best when I had a completely full calendar of activities and thrived in the borderline hectic environment. “Relaxing” was my least favorite word, and running at 100% on the daily was the norm. I was a well-oiled machine with no disruptions to my self-focused agenda.

But when I went to college, my schedule was constantly changing. Dance didn’t occupy most of my time like it always had. It’s like I had so much more time on my hands and had nothing that was valuable enough to me to fill it. My world was flipped upside down, and in an effort to control it, I became obsessed with micromanaging my time. I began scrutinizing, criticizing, and blaming my body because I didn’t know how to get back to being the only person I’d ever been. I trained myself to believe that absolutely any deviation from perfection was self-sabotage, and if I didn’t look the same way I did when I was a teenager and dancing 30 hours a week, I wouldn’t be good enough. This destructive pattern of thinking plagued my psyche for years and proved to be detrimental to my self-esteem, physical health, and mental health. A series of actions followed the toxic thoughts, where I’d do literally anything to create a regimented, strict, hyper-controlled life. My manic, desperate need for control was unproductive and spiraled out of control. Time, therapy, healing, and self acceptance were what I needed to believe in myself again.

Years later, I’ve since learned to incorporate more flexibility into my life aka take a chill pill. I’ve realized it’s not the end of the world when things don’t go as originally planned. That it’s okay to not be crazy busy every second of my life. That self care is a real thing. That not having set plans on the weekend is actually normal. That plans can and may be changed at the last minute. That people can be unreliable and not follow through or follow up the way that you would for them. That something may fall through and something else more promising may come up. Being less rigid has made both my occupied and free time more joyful. I’d still say I’m not exactly a go-with-the-flow kind of person, but I’ve mellowed out with maturity and am proud to have rebuilt my confidence in the process.