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Good mental health: Resilience

Resilience is the skill and the capacity to be robust when facing enormous stress and change.

It is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your ability to adapt well when faced with life’s setbacks, challenges, or traumatic events with more lasting impact.

Stressful life changes, such as the sudden loss of sight, the death of a loved one, an unexpected health diagnosis, the end of a relationship, work or financial stressors, affect everyone differently; you may react to these events with strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty, and sometimes be left with a heightened sense of emotional and physical vulnerability. Yet we usually find a way to cope and even grow from these difficult life experiences that change our lives.

Being resilient doesn’t mean that you will not struggle, experience difficulty or emotional distress when things don’t work out as planned or protect you from pain when faced with adversity. Resilience enables you to feel pain and sadness (and anger, anxiety, and guilt) and to move through these emotions so that you can continue to find enjoyment in life and better handle stress.

People commonly demonstrate resilience. You already have personal experience of your level of resiliency in being flexible and adaptive during this current coronavirus situation. This shows that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.

Ways to build your resilience

Developing resilience is an ongoing process that takes time and practice, but it is a skill that can be learned. Here are some ways to strengthen resilience that may help:

Take care of yourself

Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Do the things that will help you stay calm and centred, for example, deep breathing, prayer, yoga, meditation, or a daily mindfulness practice so it is there for you to draw on when you need it the most.

Build a strong support network of trusted friends and family who are aware of your sight loss struggles, are able to listen and support you and offer encouragement and reassurance; join a peer support group to share your experiences with others with sight loss. Such support can help you keep things in perspective, feel less alone, and get you through the tough times.

Learn from your experience

Think of how you have coped with difficulties in the past. Acknowledge your strengths, the resources you have used in the past and can use in the present.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

Accept that change is a natural part of life, whilst acknowledging the reality, or significance, of your changed circumstances. This can help you focus your time and energy on the things that you can change and accept the things that you have no control over and can’t change.

Develop realistic goals

Do something decisive that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery

You can often learn something about yourself and may find you have grown in some respect as a result of your struggle with coming to terms with your sight loss.

Maintain a hopeful outlook; take time to notice the good things in your life. The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for becoming more resilient.

Additional help

Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience. If you feel you are unable to function effectively in your day-to-day life as a result of traumatic or other stressful life experiences, or your levels of distress have increased significantly you may need professional help, especially if you get so low you have thoughts of harming yourself. Your GP can refer you for counselling which may help with understanding and managing the causes of your stress.

RNIB is currently offering a free Mental Wellbeing Check-in over the phone with BACP-registered counsellors with sight loss experience, to give emotional support during these difficult times.

Find out more about our Mental Wellbeing Check-ins and how to register.