As defined by the dictionary, resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” When we are faced with tragedy of any kind, resilience is our ability to cope and adapt with the situation – to “bounce back” more quickly and with less stress than someone else whose resiliency is not as developed. If you’ve experienced trauma in the past, you may be able to gauge whether you had a high level of resiliency to how you handled the situation. If you found yourself extremely distressed and coping in unhealthy ways, this doesn’t mean that you reacted wrong – it just means that you didn’t have the skills at that time to handle the situation any differently. Thankfully, resiliency is something that we can all practice more often to become better at it.
In Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney’s book titled “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges”, they studied people who went through upsetting events for 20 years – people who were Vietnam prisoners at war, people who experienced adverse medical problems, people who went through extreme trauma, and more. They found 10 traits that all of these people had that led them to resiliency:
- Optimism – balance positivity with realism, and being confident in your abilities
- Facing fears – recognizing that you can still learn from facing your fears “head on”
- Morality – having a sense of right and wrong, but also considering others
- Spirituality – either through religion or finding a sense of placement in a community
- Social support – connecting with others and helping others
- Role models – finding people who provide a great example and follow guided values
- Physical fitness – the stress of exercise helps to adapt to emotional stressors we face
- Continuous learning – continuously seeking opportunities to grow mentally
- Being “cognitively flexible” – having a number of different ways to deal with stress
- Finding meaning – having a greater purpose behind your job that is propelling you
People that went through terrible moments, such as being held captive in a prison cell without being able to see, practiced these very things in order to build their resiliency, and they made it through. No matter what you’re going through, nobody can take away the mental strength that you have. Decide today that you want to work towards building this so that you can overcome any obstacle life throws your way.
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