“Into each life, some rain must fall.” American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow first brought us this expression way back in 1842 as part of his poem “The Rainy Day.” Longfellow almost certainly did not write that poem as an explainer on resilience, but he kind of did that. The poem is a bit gloomy but ends by describing that the darkness won’t last forever. And such is life.
Even before the global pandemic started in 2020 and forced all of us to find strength we never knew we had, we all experienced challenging times and adversity. Some rain must fall, right? It’s often in the form of loss—of a friend, a loved one, a family member. Or it could be something as simple as your partner or spouse landing a dream job in another state, forcing you to move and start new. These examples and many others are challenging. We have new hurdles to clear daily, some we never knew existed. It can be hard! Really hard. But as you persevere, you adapt and grow, and in so doing you become more resilient.
And yes, you can become more resilient. Psychologists tell us that some factors that contribute to resilience have a genetic basis, but we can also learn the skills that will help us bounce back better when times are tough.
Just being a Vitality member helps because if you practice healthy habits like getting enough sleep, being active, and eating healthily, you are helping reduce your own stress levels. Managing stress in turn helps you be more resilient because your body can focus on the trauma and adversity, and not how to cope with stress.
Another quality that makes us more resilient is our social support, which is a fancy way of describing our personal relationships. The connections we have to the people in our lives can be a big source of support, even when we don’t ask for that support directly. Our friends and family can see we are hurting and will choose to do things to support us during those times. But more support doesn’t always require more people—you can have only a few personal relationships, but if those are deep and connected relationships, then you can experience a deep well of support from them.
Let’s end with another well-known expression: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” When we experience hardship, we don’t have to pretend it’s okay. It’s hard, so it’s definitely not all okay. But by accepting the emotions you experience with loss or adversity you can experience personal growth that makes you stronger.
With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Jonathan Dugas spends his days thinking about how we can help more people be more active. With four Ironman finishes and 13 marathons and counting, he’ll see you out on the road.