Depression Buster - Resilience!
Resilience is defined as “An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” by the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Life is full of change and hardships that, inevitably, occur in all of our lives. As long as we are living and breathing there will be obstacles and hardships along the way. Those who lack emotional resilience find themselves with more experiences of depression and anxiety.
While none of us are exempt from hardship, some people get stuck in depression after hardship while others actually seem to become stronger than they were previously. Why do some people seem to bounce back and find joy in their lives while others seem to become paralyzed? One key difference is emotional resilience.
While it’s not possible to live a life that is trouble free, it is possible to learn and develop the skill of resilience. Authors of “The Resilience Factor”, Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte, said that “…resilience is the key to success at work and satisfaction in life….it is the basic ingredient to happiness and success”. Because of this, learning resilience is time and energy well spent. While some people are genetically hardwired to naturally be more resilient, everyone can benefit from increasing their resilience capacity.
One key to becoming more resilient is to avoid engaging in self-pity.
The concept of a ‘pity party’ implies that there are, indeed, some pay offs to self pity. In an odd way, it can temporarily feel good! Self pity can provide a person with a ‘license’ to avoid taking action. If I tell myself that I’m powerless to impact change in my life then I’m free to avoid the discomfort of change! I can instead be passive, feel sorry for myself, and not have to make effort or challenge myself to move out of my comfort zone.
Self pity can be an excuse to avoid responsibility. But, a price tag for not taking responsibility is that we give up our power. The victim role comes at the cost of loss of self empowerment.
Self pity can also be a means to gain attention - to gain sympathy from others. Love and attention are basic human needs. However, using self pity to get these needs met often has the opposite effect. Eventually, others grow weary of being around the person who feels sorry for themselves and that person likely find themselves alone more often than not. Additionally, engaging in self pity only feeds depression and anxiety as we drown in helplessness.
What can we do about self pity?
After becoming aware of this negative thought pattern, one of the first things you can do is to change your self talk! Instead of ‘poor me’ thoughts, try telling yourself that “you can handle this”. Remind yourself that these are strong feelings and that you can tolerate strong feelings!
Shift your focus - find something to be grateful for! Create a gratitude list of ‘thank you’s’ for what is good in your life. Perhaps it is a roof over your head, or simply the ability to breathe. Whatever it is, find something! Gratitude is a powerful anecdote to self pity and depression.
Choose a behavior that is incongruent with depression and self pity. Instead of sitting around ruminating on your woes, get active. Physical movement and exercise are powerful in changing up the way you feel. If you are limited in your ability to move physically then creatively find what you can do to interrupt the negative thinking pattern. Maybe you can listen to music, sing a song, read an encouraging book, or call a friend.
Look for ways to give to others. Research volunteer opportunities, take your neighbor some homemade banana bread, or send someone a card.
Whatever you do - refuse to indulge in self pity! Know that as you resist that negative thought pattern you are building your emotional resilience. You are making yourself stronger and increasing your capacity for joy!
Avoiding self pity is one of the skills you can actively work on as you increase your resilience. Make it a goal to increase your emotional strength and improve your self esteem and quality of life as you do!
If you would like the opportunity to explore letting go of self pity as well other ways to improve your resilience, call Kay today! Resilience Coaching groups will be offered soon!