Resilience may be defined as being competent despite exposure to stressful events. When you have resilience, you harness inner strengths and rebound from a setback or challenge, whether it’s a job loss, an illness, a disaster or the death of a loved one. In contrast, if you lack resilience, you tend to dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. Without adequate resilience, you may be more inclined to develop mental health problems.
Competence in resilience is developed over time. A baby need only cry to draw his parent to explore what he needs and then supply it for him (food, drink, new diaper, affection). But an adult needs to find means of financial support, relationship, physical ability, cognitive skill, social conscience, and environmental resources in order to get his more sophisticated developmental needs met.
The individual characteristics and environmental factors that lead to resilience in one context may not necessarily lead to resilience in another. For example, one may have excellent academic resilience (intelligent application of knowledge) but be lacking in emotional resilience (relational skills, communication ability and temperament).
Resilience means that although you encounter stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy, you keep functioning, both psychologically and physically. Resilience isn’t about “toughing it out” and ignoring your feelings. It is about experiencing anger, grief and pain, but being able to still complete daily tasks, remain generally optimistic and go on with your life. Being resilient also doesn’t mean being stoic or going it alone. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key component of being resilient.
Resilience can give you the ability to see past the problems in your life, survive challenges, find enjoyment and handle stress better. It is important to practice the skills needed to become more resilient. (See page two article Tips for Adults and Parents on Fostering Resilience) Keep in mind that becoming more resilient takes time and practice. If you don’t feel you’re making progress—or you just don’t know where to start—call PAS, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to arrange an appointment with one of our skilled counselors who can provide confidential guidance to help you improve your resilience and mental well-being at (800) 356-0845.
Tips on Fostering Resilience
- Get connected. Build strong, positive relationships with family and friends who provide support and acceptance. Volunteer, get involved in your community, or join a faith or spiritual community.
- Start laughing. Finding humor in stressful situations doesn’t mean you’re in denial. Humor is a helpful coping mechanism. If you can’t find any humor in a situation, turn to other sources for a laugh, such as a funny book or movie.
- Learn from experience. Think back on how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Build on skills and strategies that helped you through the rough times, and don’t repeat those that didn’t help.
- Remain hopeful. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Find something in each day that signals a change for the better.
- Take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings, both physically and emotionally. This includes participating in activities and hobbies you enjoy, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and eating well.
- Keep a journal. Write about your experiences, thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help you experience strong emotions you may otherwise be afraid to unleash. It also can help you see situations in a new way and help you identify patterns in your behavior and reactions.
- Accept and anticipate change. Expecting changes to occur makes it easier to tolerate them, adapt to them, and even welcome them. With practice, you can learn to be more flexible and view change with less anxiety.
- Work toward a goal. Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Even small, everyday goals are important. Having goals helps you move forward.
- Take action. Don’t just wish your problems would go away or try to ignore them. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action.Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. Restore an inner sense of peace and calm by practicing such stress-management and relaxation techniques as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, imagery, prayer or muscle relaxation.
How to Help Kids
- Promote self-esteem and autonomy. Have a positive outlook; when mistakes happen, provide guidance toward improvement; “I know you can do it” encourages; “I’m here” reminds your child that he can rely on his trusted relationship with you.
- Encourage communication. Discuss the day’s events; share observations and feelings; help your child to recognize sad, glad, sorry, happy, and mad in herself and others.
- Plan for emergencies. Create safety plans; involve him in making a family emergency preparedness kit. Being prepared helps to promote resilience in the event of an emergency.
- Model behavior that you would like your child to display. Encourage her to demonstrate empathy, caring, doing nice things for others.
- Teach problem solving skills. Use adverse events as an opportunity to demonstrate that behavior has consequences, options exist, and he is responsible for his own behavior.