The self-help mantra “Never get too angry, too lonely, too tired, or too hungry” is really good advice for living a healthy balanced life.  People who have experienced a mood disorder learn quickly how true this is.  If your balance is off in one of these areas, it is important to take active steps to gain control of your health and wellbeing.

For some of us regaining balance seems to happen more naturally because we have adopted positive change strategies into our everyday life.  Others struggle more with changes but can learn new ways to cope with the “curve ball” that is sure to come our way.

Resilience is the ability to respond to life with a sense of control and tolerate surprises or unexpected life events. Resilience goes beyond the capacity just to deal with life’s problems – it is the ability to embrace and fully enjoy life with all its ups and downs. We only really know how resilient we are when life throws us that “curve ball” – like coping with a bout of depression.

These are common qualities that resilient people share:

  • Takes charge and make changes when life makes them unhappy.
  • Seeks ways to be independent.
  • Learns from their experiences – good and bad.
  • Sees new situations as a challenge rather than something to be feared or avoided.
  • Finds opportunity in a crisis and focus on solving problems.
  • Able to find meaning and purpose in the problems they face.
  • Seeks out people who support them and provide them with a good example of how to cope.
  • Laughs at themselves and find humor in their situation.
  • Has the moral courage to do the right thing even if it makes them unpopular.

Does the above list describe you?  You could you make positive changes in your life to become more resilient by adding some items in your daily life from the following list:

  • Have strong family, friendships and community supports.  Research shows us time and time again that people with a well-developed social network have better physical and emotional health and improved quality of life.
  • Exercise and challenge your mind.  Play chess, bridge or do crossword puzzles.  Consider taking an adult education class.
  • Be physically active.  According to the Masters Program newsletter at Valley Mental Health, recent research has found that moderate exercise and active weight lifting has a remarkable ability to assist in the treatment of depression in older adults.
  • Express your feelings.  The ability to express your feelings has a direct and positive effect on mental health.  Also, talking about your concerns helps you organize your thinking and clarify your thoughts.
  • Seek out positive people and positive experiences.  Get out of the rut of daily life by trying new things and meeting new people.  Listen actively to what others have to say and ask questions.
  • Laugh out loud and laugh a lot.  Norman Cousins wrote a book about the healing power of laughter when he was faced with cancer.  Since then research has shown that there is powerful healing in laughter.  The effects of laughter on our brain help us to look at life in new and creative ways.  I have lost track of the number of copies of Erma Bombeck’s book “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, Why am I Always Getting the Pits” I have purchased for friends and family who are experiencing difficult times just to help them laugh a little.

The good news, according to the Mood Disorders of Canada website, is our capacity for resilience grows from managing stressful events.  Seniors have a lifetime of experience of managing stress situations to draw upon as needed.

Review your own positive experiences of managing change and use those strategies when faced with new obstacles or difficult events.  If this has been difficult for you in the past, think about new strategies now and use the new ideas when faced with your next stressful time.  You have the ability to change your reactions to stress, cope with that “curve ball” and build resilience. Get started by using the lists above to develop a new behavior in your life that will help when you face your next stressful event.