This excerpt was taken from one of my books, Blooming Again: Weathering Personal Storms and Growing Resilient Families, which shows that at some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. The important thing is not ‘if’ and ‘when’ we experience life’s challenges, but how we cope with them. Our ability to ‘bounce back’ or recover after experiencing a crisis, adversity or trauma demonstrates or resilience.
Those who lack resilience often become so overwhelmed by challenges that they are unable to function socially, at work, and/or even within their own family. They may also dwell on problems and begin using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with hardship, and as an escape. These coping mechanisms may include self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, or gambling. These individuals are usually slower to recover from setbacks and may actually experience more psychological distress as a result.
There are times when our lives feel out of control and everything seems to be going wrong. These are real circumstances that upset us and cause us emotional pain. The distress can often become debilitating. Some of us cope more effectively than others. This is typically based on protective factors such as family support, health, social environment, and resources. Also, our perspective frequently makes a tremendous difference. If we recognise that the difficult period will pass, we will be better able to visualise improve times ahead.
Regardless of the pain and anguish we may experience at one point or another in our lives, we do persevere through difficult times. In fact, with support, we often emerge stronger by persevering through trauma or adversity. Those who grow are better able to put things in perspective and, in so doing, reveal that they very much value life. They gain a deeper appreciation for what is really important, especially family, and consequently, they become better at prioritising.
We are constantly learning and growing from our experiences – both good and bad. Healing comes from our ability to make holistic health a lifestyle. Holistic health is a way of life and focuses on how to strengthen our body, mind and spirit. Fitness, positive thinking and maintaining a loving spirit are the keys to building resilience. It can’t be a temporary fix to a traumatic event or a major problem. It is an ongoing life choice to continue to move toward fulfilment and joy.
We need to remember that we can’t change the past nor completely control the future. Often, we spend too much valuable time regretting the past and/worrying about the future instead of living in the present moment, or mindfulness, is also an incredibly powerful means of building resilience. When we face stressful or traumatic situations involving our health, family, work, finances, church or community, it may feel overwhelming. When we focus all of our attention on the problem, it will likely exacerbate the situation and illuminate the problem. Letting go and concentrating on the present is a process. We are better able to focus on the ‘here and now’ when our overall lifestyle focuses on physical health, mental fitness, and spiritual strength.
Here is a resiliency quiz that you could try out:
- Do you say: ‘I will get through this’ or ‘I will never make it’?
- Do you think: ‘This too shall pass’ or ‘This will never end’?
- Do you, ‘face the fear’ or ‘avoid the situation’?
- Do you engage in ‘healthy outlets’ or do you ‘self-medicate’?
- Are you ‘optimistic’ about the future or ‘pessimistic’ as to where you are headed?
- Can you ‘adjust to change’ or do you ‘dread changes’ in your life?
- Do you have ‘self-confidence‘ or are you usually ‘uncertain’ about yourself?
- Do you ‘have perseverance’ or do you ‘give up easily’?
- Do you have ‘spiritual strength and faith in God’ or do you believe ‘there is no higher power or something greater’?
- Do you have ‘strong social connections’ or are you basically a ‘loner’?
If you respond ‘yes’ to the first part of each question more frequently than the second portion of the question, you are considered to have many of the characteristics of a resilient person. However, if you have more ‘yes’ responses to the second portion of each question, you need to learn to ‘bloom again’!
None of us is always positive in our thinking and secure in our approach to life’s difficulties. Resilience is an ongoing process of growth and empowerment. Please don’t be self-critical if you aren’t where you want to be. Being resilient does not eliminate our stress, nor does it erase life’s difficulties. Instead, it gives us the strength to face problems head-on, overcome adversity and move on with our lives. Keep working at it because the more we practise, the better we become.
Darlene Powell Garlington is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified school psychologist and media psychologist.