When a young adult struggles with an addiction, an eating disorder, or a mental health issue such as severe anxiety, depression or a suicide attempt, most parents’ first concern is getting their son or daughter well. But after he or she has made progress in treatment, the next biggest worry is often: Is it going to last?
For many young adults, the key to whether they will be able to enjoy lasting recovery or whether they will continually relapse into old behavior is how resilient they can be in the face of life’s ongoing challenges. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is one of the most challenging times of life.
“Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from misfortune,” says Dana Bender, director of Core Competence Services at Yellowbrick. “It’s not a skill inherent in most people, but one that can be taught and practiced. Young adults most often learn resilience from parents, teachers, or other role models and from their own experience coping with difficulties and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.”
Many of today’s young people are less equipped to deal with setbacks than in the past, expecting quick solutions to problems and feeling increasingly paralyzed by the pressure to succeed.
“There’s a whole trend of perfectionism that doesn’t allow for people to make mistakes or fail at things they try to accomplish” Bender says, adding that pressure often leads people to turn to alcohol, drugs, food or other destructive behaviors to avoid experiencing the negative feelings that arise when something doesn’t go their way.
To have long-lasting recovery, young adults need to learn how to cope with disappointments without resorting to substances or other negative behaviors to try and feel better. That’s why Yellowbrick puts a strong emphasis on teaching young adults the skills needed to help them build their resiliency.
At Yellowbrick, Bender says therapists work with young adults to help them realize that “failure” is an important part of the process of moving forward, and to help them break down tasks into smaller steps to build self-esteem and demonstrate effective methods for reaching their goals.
Bender says when young adults realize they have the power to improve their lives, they can become empowered and feel hopeful and optimistic that their current circumstances won’t last forever.
Here are five tools that young adults can use to build resiliency:
- Make Self-Care a Priority
In order to apply yourself fully to facing challenges, Bender says it’s important that young adults focus on self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. “You can’t be resilient if you are drained, haven’t eaten, or haven’t slept,” Bender says. Cognitive functioning is also impaired when self-care is not attended to properly. Physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological wellness are key factors in building resiliency.
- Go After What You Want
Often times, Bender young adults feel overwhelmed or unmotivated to finish school or get a job because they are trying to please their parents rather than themselves, but when they take time to reflect on their own dreams, they are able to be more resilient. “If you really want something, your resiliency may increase, allowing you to keep trying. If you don’t truly want something for yourself, you won’t try as hard, and may give up sooner when faced with obstacles to overcome,” she says.
- Break Down Your Goals Into Smaller Steps
Bender says it is important for young adults to realize that success doesn’t come overnight; it’s all about progressing step by step. Bender says parents can help, too, not only by being encouraging, but also by actively helping their sons or daughters figure out the steps they need to take to achieve their goals. Parents can demonstrate this by successfully taking steps towards their own goals or by taking the steps together with their son or daughter.
- Remember That Mistakes are Part of Learning
Bender says many young adults expect to be able to reach their goals without having to practice or experience setbacks. Building resilience is about teaching them that you can learn from your mistakes and learn from your failures. “Focus on the strengths you are building along the way,” Bender says.
- Be Part of a Community
Isolation can lead to feeling stuck, unmotivated, and depressed — which can all lead to relapse. To prevent that, Bender says it’s essential that young adults strengthen their social networks and find supportive people whom they can share their feelings with as they take risks and face challenges. Bender suggests young adults seek support in 12-step programs, group therapy settings, extra-curricular activities or other groups in their community.
If you or someone you know is a young adult suffering from mental health problems, contact Yellowbrick today.