Resiliency: Bouncing Back
All individuals, regardless of who they are, the challenges they encounter or where they come from, have the human capacity and personal power to face, overcome, grow and bounce back from adversity, stress, or trauma. This is known as resilience.
One 15-year-old high school student referred to resilience as "bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and more smarts."
There are many factors that contribute to being resilient. These resilience factors will help you draw from your personal strengths to better prepare for, live through and learn from adversity.
Trusting others and yourself is the foundation of being resilient. When you trust others, you let go of the need to control what other people do and say and instead focus on yourself. When you trust yourself, you feel better about you are and confident in the decisions you make.
Establishing your own identity based on what you value is vital to living through adversity. A sense of identity helps you know the limits of what you can and can’t handle and affirms your right and need to be your own advocate.
Having a sense of independence is empowering because you do not seek the approval or advice from others. You are comfortable in asking people for support but don’t expect them to solve your problems. Independence lets you take action based on your own needs, not the needs of others.
- Relationship/Support Systems
Relationships can become more important when we are faced with difficult times. Relationships that are based on trust, respect and appreciation are vital to being resilient. Solid relationships can decrease the feeling that you have to face life’s challenges on your own.
- Initiative and Problem Solving Skills
It is important to be able to recognize what your needs are and the steps needed to get them met. Moving into action and problem solving is vital in being resilient because it gets you unstuck. Being able to problem solve helps you learn to master the skills necessary to solve problems and also makes you more likely to share your thoughts and feelings with others, talk with others, use support systems (friends, family, professors, etc.), reach out for help and develop good social skills.
Having A Plan
If you are dealing with a difficult task or situation, develop a plan that will help you prepare, live through and learn from the situation.
Here are some questions to ask yourself or to write out in a journal:
When preparing for a difficult task or situation, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I think is going to be the outcome of this difficult task/situation?
- Who will be affected by this problem and how?
- What are the obstacles that I need to overcome to deal with this problem?
- Who should know about the task or situation?
- Who can provide assistance?
- What inner strengths do I have that I can rely on?
- What skills do I and others need to use to get through this task/situation?
When living through a difficult task or situation, ask yourself these questions:
- How am I feeling today?
- How are the people involved handling the situation?
- What new actions need to be planned or taken?
- What resilience factors will you draw on as you live through the problem? Fill in the blanks: I have... I can... I am....
When learning from a difficult task or situation, ask yourself these questions:
- What did you learn about yourself?
- What did you learn about your friends?
- What did you learn about support services?
Each time we live through adversity, we learn something new about ourselves and are more prepared for the next challenge we face. Building resilience never stops. We all become more resilient as we are challenged and faced with the need to draw on our ability to trust, build relationships, affirm our identity and independence and take initiative to problem solve. Remember, being resilient doesn’t protect you from pain and suffering, but it can trigger responses that help you face, overcome and be transformed from adversity.
Something to Think About
Often life’s meaning is made clear by a particular event, and from that event emerges a personal mission statement or plan. What is your personal mission statement?
Resilience is about drawing upon your personal strengths to transform difficult or challenging events into learning experiences.
What are some tips that can help you learn to be resilient? As you use these tips, keep in mind that each person's journey along the road to resilience will be different - what works for you may not work for others.
- Get support
During difficult times it is important to connect with friends, talk with your parents or even speak with a counselor. Don't be afraid to tell your story, express your opinion and share your emotions.
- Be Kind to Yourself
When something bad happens in your life, the stress of whatever you're going through may heighten daily stresses. (Your emotions might already be all over the map because of other things going on in your life at the same time.) Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to do what is best for your well-being.
- Create A Stress-Free Zone
Make your dorm room or apartment a "stress-free zone" that reflects who you are and what you value. Your home should be a space that makes you feel comfortable and is a safe haven from stress and anxiety.
- Stick To The Program
During a time of major stress, try to stick to your usual routine. You may be doing all kinds of new things, but don't forget the routines that give you comfort, whether it’s going to the gym, or having a nightly phone call with a friend.
- Take Care of Yourself
Be sure to take care of yourself - physically, mentally and spiritually. Try to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night, get your body moving with exercise, limit your use of alcohol, and eat balanced meals. You can also learn some relaxation techniques, whether it's thinking of a particular song in times of stress, mediation or just taking deep breaths to calm down.
- Take Control
During stress you can move towards your goals one small step at a time. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and going to class may be all you can handle, but even accomplishing that can help. Challenging times make us feel out of control - grab some of that control back by taking decisive action.
- Express Yourself
Stressful times can bring up a lot of conflicting emotions, but sometimes, it's just too hard to talk to someone about what you're feeling. If talking isn't working, do something else to express your emotions, such as writing or creating art.
- Help Somebody
Nothing gets your mind off your own problems like solving someone else's. Try volunteering in your community, on campus or help a friend.
- Put Things In Perspective
Remember that everything changes and difficult times in our lives do end. If you're worried about whether you've got what it takes to get through this, think back on a time when you faced up to your fears. How did that feel? Reflect on the things in your life that are always constant, that you can rely on, even in times of difficulty. Don’t forget to reflect on all the positive people, things and times in your life.
- Turn It Off
Try to limit the amount of television you watch. Sometimes the focus on the sensational aspects of our culture, as portrayed on TV, can just add to the difficult feelings you are facing and may increase your sense of loneliness. TV often adds to stress and contributes no new knowledge.
You can learn resilience. But just because you learn resilience doesn't mean you won't feel stressed or anxious. You might have times when you aren't happy - and that's OK. Resilience is a journey, and each person will take his or her own time along the way.
You may benefit from some of the resilience tips above, while some of your friends may benefit from others. The skills of resilience you learn during really bad times will be useful even after the bad times end, and they are good skills to have every day. Resilience can help you be one of those people who has "bounce."
Adapted from: American Psychological Association, last accessed October 20, 2007 http://apahelpcenter.org/featuredtopics/feature.php?ch=2&id=40
- Resiliency In Action
- Reflections on Resilience
- Other articles on Resilience
- The Road to Resilience
- Resilience Net
- The Resiliency Center
- American Psychological Association: Building Resiliency in Young Adults
Source: Tapping Your Inner Strength, How to Find the Resilience to Deal with Anything, by Edith Henderson Grotberg, Ph.D.