Resilience is the capacity to positively adjust to difficult life experiences and is particularly important during midlife when we may have to adapt to major changes. Building resilience over a lifetime is very important, and there are a number of ways to bolster your resilience. Consider these insights from participants in the Resilience in Mid-Life Study*, conducted by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab.
Physical: Be active.
Adults in our study who were more resilient reported higher levels of physical activity. Walking was listed as the top activity that resilient people participate in to help cope with stress. Whether it’s taking a walk, exercising, doing yoga or playing sports, being active is associated with resilience.
“The way I dealt with my stressors were that I had to take time, a lot of time for myself by going to water aerobics and, you know, talking to the ladies there, or exercising, going for walks, you know, so I could get up and work off some of the stress. So exercise and water aerobics was the thing that helped me, and it really helped me” –Focus Group Participant, Female 60-69
Social: Stay connected to your friends and family.
The most resilient adults in our study reported higher rates of spending time or talking with friends and family. Are there friends and family you are close to and have important conversations with? Keep those connections strong. Whether it’s talking on the phone, meeting for a meal, or just hanging-out, talk to the people in your network you rely on and who support you.
“Mostly with my family and my friends, you know, we’ll discuss certain things, the ones that I’m real close to, how to handle certain things, or if they’ve been in a similar situation, what they did, and what kind of advice they may offer, things of that nature. And it’s always helpful, you know, even if it’s just support.” –Focus Group Participant, Male 50-59
Personal: Develop the inner qualities that build resilience.
Resilience can be learned and is comprised of 5 key elements: family and social networks, perseverance, coping, locus of control (belief in your ability to control the situation) and self-efficacy (a belief that you are able to manage through difficult situations). In our research, we found that the most resilient adults reported a high level of self-efficacy. They are confident that they can deal with the stressors they face in the midst of life events.
“You adapt, I guess. You find ways to adapt using your own personality, your own perseverance….But I just took, you know, every phase of my life, every, you know, year of my life, just as a stepping stone to get to something better. And that’s where I’m at now. I’ve only gone up since then…. And I will continue to go up, because that’s just how I think. I think positive…” –Focus Group Participant, Male 40-49
To learn how resilient you are, take the Resiliency Quiz.
*The Resilience in Mid-Life Study was conducted by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab. Twelve focus groups with a total of 119 participants, adults ages 40-69, were held in January 2014. Lieberman Research conducted an online survey of 1,519 adults ages 40-69 for The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab.
The survey fielded between March 28 and April 7, 2014. Included in the survey was the 25-question Resilience in Midlife (RIM) scale, developed by Linda Ryan and Marie L. Caltabiano, as reported in the article, Development of a New Resilience Scale: The Resilience in Midlife Scale (RIM Scale), Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 11, November 2009.