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18 Ways on How to Build Resilience for Abuse Survivors

You might’ve been so affected by your abusive childhood that resilience may seem non-existent. Although being raised by abusive parents might make resilience harder to build, you are still resilient whether you believe it or not. And like with everyone else, you can learn how to build resilience and improve upon it.

Maybe you’re more sensitive than others. Maybe you’re easily hurt, stressed, or frustrated by what might seem to be the tiniest reasons. Or maybe you’re still haunted by things you can’t seem to move on from.

All of that is normal. This is what trauma does to a lot of people. Some might come out less affected than others. But if you experienced childhood abuse, you’re bound to be affected one way or another.

You might not think so and some of your behaviours or feelings might make you feel otherwise, but you ARE resilient.

You’re here right now, reading this post. You’ve made it this far despite your past. You’re taking action to heal and to learn how to build resilience. So thank you for being here. And thank you for trying to take care of yourself. I hope this post can be helpful for you.

What is Resilience?

The APA defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant source of stress. They also claim that as much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.

It’s important to note that being resilient doesn’t mean the individual won’t or doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. In fact, being resilient likely involves a decent amount of emotional distress. But it’s because of resilience that the person can overcome and bounce back from that distress.

Some people seem to have a natural ability to cope well with adversity. Whereas others are more easily negatively affected by it. Nonetheless, resilience can be learned and can be improved.

Why is Resilience Important?

Resilience is what gives people the strength to cope with stress and challenges. Building and improving your resilience will help you be better able to handle adversity and adapt to changes.

Resilience is a key element to healing from childhood abuse and trauma.

To go back to what I said before, you ARE resilient. Resilience is exactly what got you to where you are today, whether you find it an accomplishment or not.

Maybe you’re not as resilient as you’d like to be, and that’s okay. The thing is, there are varying levels of it. Just because you struggle with certain things doesn’t mean you’re not resilient. It’s about how resilient you want to be and how building upon it would further improve your current life.

Once again, resilience is something you can improve and build upon. And actually, your past experiences and accomplishments will help you with that.

Can You Build Resilience?

From all I’ve said so far, the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”

Some believe resilience is a personality trait or inherent quality. That may be true to an extent. As in, some people might be naturally more resilient than others.

However, certain factors might make some people more resilient in general like loving parents who try to foster it in their children. Whereas, certain factors might make some people less resilient, like say, being raised by abusive parents.

So resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. Because, once again, you can build and improve your existing level of resilience.

The APA said building resilience is like building muscle. It takes time and purpose. So although resilience is something you can build, it does require effort, time, consistency, and practice.

18 Ways on How to Build Resilience

1. Embrace change

The first step to building resilience is to be able to embrace change.

Nothing ever stays the same.

Embracing change means being flexible. And flexibility is an essential part of resilience. Being flexible helps you be more adaptable, which means you’re better equipped to respond to difficult situations.

Being able to embrace change is difficult, especially when certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of that change. But change is inevitable.

Life will throw challenges, hardships, and obstacles at you. Most of the time, you’re able to overcome them because hey, you’ve made it this far already.

As hard as it may be, instead of resisting change, try to accept it. Besides, there are positive changes, too. Try to recall a time where something changed for the better.

When you start accepting change, you can start confronting hardships with determination and confidence rather than negativity and dread.

2. Focus on what you can control rather than what you can’t

Many of us coming from childhood abuse tend to worry about things out of our control. It can end up taking over our minds and lives.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things in life that are out of our control. And a lot of the time, there’s nothing we can do about it. Focusing on that will only cause more anxiety and stress.

How you think plays a significant part in how you feel. It also plays a huge part in how resilient you are when faced with challenges.

Once you’re able to stop focusing on what you can’t control and start focusing on what you can, you’ll feel better and feel more in control of yourself and your life.

3. Keep things in perspective

When you’re going through something rough, it can be all you can focus on at the moment. It can cloud your mind and overtake your life.

But try to give yourself perspective. Try to see whatever’s happening to you now compared to the bigger picture of life.

How does the situation you’re currently so preoccupied with play a part in your overall life? Will it continue to preoccupy your mind? Or will it fade over time until you can barely remember it?

Basically, will what you’re currently putting so much time and energy on be worth it in the end?

Of course, there are life-changing events. In cases like this, do what you can to address it, if it’s something you can address. Then, give yourself time to process it so you can eventually move forward.

4. Minimize catastrophic thinking

Catastrophizing is assuming or imagining that the worst possible outcome would happen.

If you feel overwhelmed by something that happened, remind yourself that what happened doesn’t determine your future. Try not to blow situations out of proportion or see them as insurmountable problems.

It may be hard, but try looking beyond the present. Try to see how future circumstances may be better. Doing this can help you feel better.

Try to practice adopting a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. Identify areas of irrational thinking or self-talk and work on them.

5. Don’t dwell on negative thinking

Of course, this is much easier said than done. However, try to remember that your thoughts are simply thoughts. Just because you think them doesn’t make it a reality.

Negative thinking keeps you anxious and worried. It makes you fear and dread all the possible negative outcomes that could arise. While preparing for the worst can be beneficial, dwelling on it is not.

The only thing you can do is take action to prepare for it as much as you can. But if you’ve already done all you could or it’s out of your control, then try to let it be and accept it.

To get out of that headspace, do something to distract yourself. This will hopefully give your mind a break from all the negative thinking.

6. Take action and be proactive

Waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the suffering. Instead, try to work on resolving the issue immediately if possible.

While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you might still be able to take the needed steps to at least improve the situation and make it less stressful.

If the problem seems too big to tackle, see if you can break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Obviously, problems are inevitable. But being proactive can help prevent a potential problem from occurring or getting out of hand. And taking action can resolve the problem sooner or at least keep it from getting worse.

And look at you now, reading this, learning how to build resilience. This is you being proactive and taking action. Keep it up!

7. Remain hopeful

Remaining hopeful keeps you moving forward in a positive direction. Even in the most difficult times, there are good things. There are things to look forward to, even if you don’t think there are. Many studies show that being optimistic may result in lower stress and better outcomes.

Not everything would be in your favour. That’s life. But some things would be.

It’s very hard to remain hopeful when things are going wrong. However, remaining hopeful doesn’t mean ignoring or denying the bad things. Doing so actually causes more harm than good.

Remaining hopeful means acknowledging that bad things are temporary. It means acknowledging that good things can and do happen.

8. Practice gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a way to remain hopeful. It also keeps you from taking what you have for granted. Being able to find gratitude in bad experiences is a huge sign of resilience.

When things are tough, it could be hard to notice what you have going for you. But noticing these good things could help you feel better, thus being able to overcome the obstacles in your way.

There will also be a time when you can look back at what happened and be grateful for what it has taught you.

Maybe it can remind you that you’ve overcome a challenge before, so you can do it again. Maybe it taught you something about yourself. Perhaps it’s the reason you’re where you are today. Maybe it brought forth blessings that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

9. Establish a support network

Strong social support provides many benefits which help you build resilience and overcome life’s challenges. A social support network can provide support, reassurance, and strength.

Having reliable, caring, and trusted people in your time of need makes a world of difference. They can validate your feelings and experiences, provide advice, and give perspective and insight into your situation.

While talking to someone might not necessarily make your troubles go away, it does allow you to get support. You can share your feelings and experiences, explore possible solutions to your problems, and feel reassured that you have someone who can be there for you. Related: How to Build and Maintain a Social Support Network

10. Ask for and accept help

The pain of certain difficult events might cause some people to isolate themselves. But being able to reach out and accept help and support from others is a big factor in building resilience.

It’s okay to ask for help. It does not mean you’re weak. On the other hand, being able to be vulnerable, reach out for support, and accept help is a strong sign of strength.

You might be used to keeping things to yourself. You might have trouble opening up and trusting people. Or maybe you feel like asking for help is selfish or a burden.

But remember, you don’t have to go through everything alone. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

11. Deal with emotions healthily

During times of stress, it may be tempting to mask your pain with unhealthy coping methods like taking substances or engaging in risky or reckless behaviour. Not only does that prolong the distress you feel, but it also creates more problems.

Dealing with your emotions doesn’t mean suppressing, denying, or ignoring them. And it doesn’t mean you need to resort to maladaptive ways to cope. Instead, try to focus on healthy coping skills.

Being able to use healthy coping skills to deal with your emotions is a sign of resilience. Using healthy coping methods to cope with uncomfortable feelings helps you better face and overcome challenges when they arise.


12. Know your strengths

You likely know very well what your weaknesses are. So take this moment to focus on your strengths. Think about everything you’re good at – your qualities, accomplishments, and whatnot. Write it down if you’d like.

You might have a hard time coming up with things. But you know you have strengths. Everyone does. You should be the one to come up with your strengths. But if you’re struggling, perhaps you can ask a loved one for some insight.

Your weaknesses may be inconvenient during tough times. But your strengths are also there for you to balance it out. Try to recall a challenge that you overcame. What strengths and qualities did you demonstrate then that helped you overcome that challenge?

Recognizing your strengths can help you be more confident in overcoming challenges. It also reminds you to utilize them during hard times.

13. Learn from your experiences

Looking back at who or what was helpful during previous times of distress can help you respond effectively in new situations by utilizing what you’ve learned. It can also help remind you what’s not effective so you’d know to avoid it.

When you’re facing a challenge, try to recall a past situation where you were able to find the strength to overcome it. Remind yourself that you did it before so you can do it again.

This helps remind you that you are already resilient. And learning from your past experiences can help improve that existing resilience. You just need to know how to muster it up again for whatever you’re currently facing.

14. Practice self-care

According to the APA, self-care is a legitimate practice for building resilience.

When you’re stressed, worried, or anxious, you might neglect yourself. In that case, you might not be as resilient as you could be when dealing with a hard situation.

It’s crucial that you learn and continue to take care of yourself as best as you can. Anything beneficial for your health and well-being should be practiced regularly.

Taking care of your mind and body keeps you strong and better able to handle adversity when they arise.

15. Set goals

When you’re going through hard times, you might be thrown off track on where you want to be. So try to remain focused on what really matters to you. As a way to do that, you can set goals.

Your goals can be things that you can achieve on a regular basis or things you want to accomplish in life. Or they can be both. Take a moment to jot down a few goals or things that are important to you that you want to focus on.

Having goals keeps you grounded. They create resilience by giving you purpose and something to look forward to regardless of present circumstances.

However, it’s important to remember that things can happen that might make certain goals unattainable or no longer ideal. When that happens, try to work through it so you can learn to accept the change.

It’s okay if your goals change to match your current values and circumstances. Life is constantly changing and you are constantly evolving. So it makes sense for your goals to change, too.

16. Have a sense of humour

Not everything has to be taken seriously even if it is serious. Of course, it’s good to know when to be serious. But sometimes, taking things lightly or making jokes can be healthy.

Humour helps us lighten up.

During difficult situations, cracking a few jokes or laughing at yourself can be relieving and freeing. It can help us forget for a moment what’s bothering us so much. We deserve that little boost after all the stress we have to go through sometimes.

17. Believe in yourself

As cliché as it sounds, believing in yourself does help build resilience.

Try to have confidence in your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Be confident that you can respond well to crises. Believe that you can overcome obstacles even if it may not be how you want to overcome them.

The point is that you can keep moving forward regardless of what life throws at you. Once again, you’re here right now, trying to be more resilient, trying to heal. Maybe to you, that’s not good enough. Well, I’m saying it is.

18. Keep it up!

In the end, you can learn how to build resilience and improve upon it.

Continue practicing some of these strategies to become more resilient. But also acknowledge and build upon your existing strengths.

You already made it this far, which once again, shows that you are resilient. But it’s always helpful to learn more strategies so you can keep improving to keep moving forward.

Resilience may take some time to build. So don’t get discouraged if you have trouble coping or overcoming certain obstacles.

The past was rough on you. It took many years to condition you to become someone who might be easily triggered or distressed by difficulties. So it will take a bit of time to undo them and relearn what you need to. Nonetheless, it is possible. Just keep it up and you’ll eventually see results.

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