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5 Questions to Boost Resilience

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

“Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.”

~ Mary Holloway

I feel that resilience has been a big topic in this field for the last several months. 2020/2021 seem to have thrown major hurdles our way, and bouncing back from what gets thrown at us can feel challenging, maybe even impossible. Below are 5 questions that I use both personally and professionally when exploring resiliency and boosting inner strength.

1. “How would the best version of myself respond to this situation?”

This is my favorite question to ask when facing any stressor. It forces me to consider how I want to respond (versus react). For example, let’s say that I receive a negative email at work or a family member is yelling at me. I might start to feel confused, defensive, and/or angry, and I may react by saying something negative. If I force myself to ask how the best version of myself would respond, I become less attached to those emotions. I can then shift to acting in a way that is more in line with my best self.

2. “What is within my control and what is outside of my control?”

I often ask this question when working with clients on the DBT concept of radical acceptance, or acknowledging reality as it is. If I’m stressed about work, I might ruminate on conflicts with colleagues/supervisors, feel resentful about not receiving appreciation, or feel helpless about things never changing. If I stop, evaluate what is outside of my control, and accept that, I can note that it does me little good to worry about it. (For example, I cannot control my colleagues/supervisors.) I can then shift my focus to what is within my control. (I can control how I respond to my colleagues/supervisors.)

3. “Is my perspective helping me or hindering me?”

Similar to the previous work example, we may have to ask ourselves if the thoughts we are having are doing more harm than good. Negative thoughts can influence how we feel about ourselves and how we act. If I think that I have a bad job, I may feel bad about myself and act in ways I wouldn’t normally act, such as taking several sick days or being rude towards employees. If I shift my perspective to something more helpful such as, “This isn’t a bad job, it’s just a rough period due to this big project,” I accept that my stress is a normal response and I can focus on what is within my control.

4. “What would Future Me do?” / “What would Future Me recommend that I do?”

Try to envision yourself 5-10 years from now. What version of yourself do you see? You may see someone who has excelled in their career, is in the best shape of their life, is financially secure, or is simply content with life. If you’re feeling stressed about something, pretend that Future You is standing right next to you. What would they do, or what would they tell you that you need to do? If you’re stressed about losing weight, Future You may encourage you to go for one walk or to eat a healthy lunch. If you’re stressed about a temporary problem, Future You may merely reassure you that this problem won’t matter a week from now.

5. “What is this moment/experience/event meant to teach me?”

This is a powerful question and can be helpful for those who especially use their spirituality/religion as a source of strength. If a conflict comes up in a major life area, such as marriage, it can be easy to blame others or feel resentful about the problem. Taking a step back and asking ourselves how this issue might be an opportunity (instead of a problem) helps us to take on a solution-focused approach. Might this problem be an opportunity for self-growth or improving the health of the marriage? Treat it like the opportunity that it is, and take whatever lessons you can from it.

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