Bouncing Back: Developing Your Resilience after Age 50

We all know people who somehow seem to cope better with change than others.

Some appear to handle all demanding situations with the same self confidence, emerging on the other side of change with an even better circumstance than before. Others give the impression of being quite calm as they tackle one particular change, while freezing up or falling apart when facing other types of changes.

Let’s look at a change most of us have had some experience with: Changing Jobs.

Changing Jobs: Termination vs Choice

Have you noticed that it takes longer for someone who has been fired from a job to cope and move forward with their life, than someone who determines on their own they are unhappy with their current job and then takes action to find a new one?

Over 50 employee needs to be resilient

It’s more difficult to be resilient when a pink slip come as a shock to you.

The terminated employee has to deal with the surprise, shock, grief, and anger about a change he or she didn’t see coming. They must completely re-build their life, while also researching job options, applying for available positions, and paying the bills – knowing that regular income will stop in the not too distant future.

They may have to wrestle privately with difficult truths about themselves, their skills and/or their relationships with others, as they struggle to come to terms with why they were fired. They might have to consider the stress of relocation in order to take a new job, loss of equity in their home if they sell too quickly, or other not-so-nice specific outcomes that must be weighed, pro and con.

For this individual, change is imposed upon him or her, forcing a reaction geared more toward survival than what they’d most like or prefer.

On the other hand, the employee engaged in choosing a new job on their own time, at their own speed, still has to adapt to many changes but usually perceives those changes as positive and for one’s own good. They begin researching job options, alternative employers and perhaps different cities they find attractive. They invest considerable energy rejuvenating their network, and start actively seeking out new opportunities. The typical timeframe for a voluntary change of job is 6-18 months.

resilient employee over age 50 networking to find new jobThe employee choosing to change jobs receives support from their friends and co-workers until their last day of work, often enjoying celebratory lunches and get-togethers for everyone to say goodbye and exchange contact information. The individual who loses their job suddenly may be required to leave their employer’s work site the very day they receive notice, before they can even speak to their co-workers or exchange home phone numbers.

Anticipating change, having sufficient time to plan how you will cope, and building support for yourself, are key steps in bouncing back from difficult situations.

These are all aspects of an important muscle to build during your over age 50 life: Resilience.

What is Resilience?

The different experiences of these two individuals changing jobs, point to a skill or characteristic that will affect or perhaps even determine how quickly or easily they move forward in the next stage of their lives.

Resilience is the ability to anticipate and adapt successfully to change (sometimes before it even happens), and to bounce back from unexpected or negative events that may derail you, perhaps emerging even stronger and better than before.

Learning this skill or developing a more resilient attitude or mindset further (if you already feel grounded in it), will help you cope with challenges and possibilities during your ‘Retirement’ years.

Anticipating changes – getting ready for them BEFORE they happen – is your best chance of coping well because it allows you time to think about how to respond and what to do if the undesired event actually occurs.

Levels of Resilience

How resilient you are in coping with stressful situations depends on many different factors:

• how you were brought up and saw problems handled
• your basic self esteem
• how flexible or versatile your skills, interests and personality allow you to be
• your health (optimal or not?)
• how strong your support system is – or is not
• your ability to observe and make sense of the world around you

How routines affect your resilience

Routines are an important and helpful part of our days, letting us relax at various times into patterns we know are safe and functional.

Believe it or not, habits account for about 40% of our daily routines, allowing our brains to stop fully functioning in our minute-to-minute life decisions, a fundamental point in Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business.”

Consider this. If we spend 40% of our days pretty much unconscious, prompted by cues and routines around us rather than actually thinking, it’s not surprising that we miss seeing some of the cues in our relationships or work environments that something has changed, or is not quite right anymore.

And then we are surprised or shocked by what happens – especially if not to our liking.

How to Increase Your Resilience

Living so much of our life on autopilot can spell disaster for us, making the loss of our job or loss of a valued relationship a complete surprise, instead of a situation we may have been able to anticipate or take action to prevent if we saw any early warning signs.

Taking time on a regular basis to give yourself a bit of distance from your routines may provide the time and distance you need to look at your life and environment with 100% of your brain, instead of the 60% attention level we usually give to our daily life.

Can you make time daily for

• meditation
• exercise
• time alone
• unplugging from obligations
• disconnecting from electronic devices or
• getting away for an actual holiday, weekend or longer vacation?

These self care strategies are all ways to keep your antenna strong and sharp, so that you catch the cues and signs in your life that could alert you change is afoot.

Even having money in the bank to provide a financial cushion in a crisis serves to increase your resilience by reducing the immediate stress and pressures you will feel to take action quickly, allowing you some time to adjust to the changes required and adapt in the best ways possible.

Time for reflection as you learn and consider making changes in your life is important too.

In fact, taking some quiet time away from your routines, distractions and other people around you, just to read this article and answer some of the questions below, may allow you to better consider the changes you might need or want to make in your life.

Increase resilience by making more time for yourself

Increase your resilience by taking some quiet time away from your routines.

How Resilient Are You?

Our years after age 50 are filled with some of life’s most difficult and challenging events, prompting changes in ourselves and our lives that are hard to imagine ahead of time.

Our ability to bounce back from unexpected events is influenced by our willingness to anticipate changes that are likely to occur, which helps us get ready for them BEFORE they happen.

Taking time to anticipate change, to think about how to respond and what to do if an undesired event actually occurs is a self-care strategy that will help everyone in your life.

For example:

• If you were injured and couldn’t work for 3-6 months…what would your life be like?
• If you lost your job tomorrow…what would you do?
• If your partner is currently working but suddenly could no longer work at all…would your income and budget still provide for both of you and your lifestyle?
• What kind of support systems do you have in your life to cushion you through tough times? Are they different from the support you had in your life at a younger age?

What safety nets can you put into place so when difficult changes do take place, you can be more resilient?

Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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  1. I must be pretty resilient, as I’ve gone through most of your examples. I believe it really is a mindset, and just knowing that your situation doesn’t define you, so you can either sit in a muddle and do nothing, or get back up in the saddle and move forward. I’ve been knocked off my horse more times than I can remember, and I’m still here, kicking and moving forward at 62!

  2. Speaking of resilience….. had I been deficient when in my early 50’s, (I was ‘pink slipped’ along with 3800 other employees by a major utility) I would have died on the vine so to speak. Although not flush with assets, I did buckle up and look at my options given my education and experience. Perseverance became a key yet challenged my resilience when my initial efforts for new employment failed. Failure and finding that things did not work like I thought they should, became discouraging. STILL, I knew I could not give up! I had to wrestle with many of the questions you raise. Developing resilience, especially after age 50 is a resource perhaps more valuable today than almost 20 years ago. Feed your resource well; pay attention to what is going on.

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