Friday, May 7, 2010

Resilience - your ability to bounce back

Originally uploaded by munzee

At what point does a person cave in to obstacles?  How far  (and how long) can you go, bouncing back time after time from setbacks?   Many, if not most, of us have had some negative impact from the financial roller coaster of the past couple of years.  Some of us have experienced other sorts of setbacks - health incidents, relationship problems, damage from acts of nature, etc.  Nobody, regardless of economic class, age, race, gender or other demographic label, is immune.

Some people seem to have the ability to overcome setbacks relatively quickly and get on with their lives, while for others the setbacks become the defining moments from which they never seem to recover.  What is the difference between these two types of people?  The first group has developed the skill of resilience.

A person who is resilient hasn't avoided problems - they have recovered from them.  If you are a resilient person, the American Psychological Association says you possess:
  • The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Skills in communication and problem solving
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses

The APA says that multiple studies prove that rewarding relationships inside and outside the family play a huge role in aiding resilience.  The connections can hold a person up.  In addition, resilience is not a "you have it or you don't" proposition - it can be developed.

On its APA help center site the association has posted a list of ten ways to build resilience:

10 Ways to Build Resilience
  1. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly -- even if it seems like a small accomplishment -- that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
  5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
  8. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
  10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience. 
Your setback is only your defining moment if you allow it to be so.  You have the potential instead to turn it into a discovery of an incredible store of inner resources.  And the seeds for your resilience have been there all of the time.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Congratulations on a good overview of resilience and ways it can be hightened.

Your comment, "A person who is resilient hasn't avoided problems -they have recovered from them." is accurate. Yet there is more. People become stronger "in the broken places." As they face and deal with adversity they toughen, begin to accept life absurdities and develop better coping strategies. Just ask some of the most resilient people on the planet--Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey or Stephen Lewis.

Patricia Morgan, author of From Woe to WOW: How Resilient Women Succeed at Work