Developing Resilience

Lately, it seems that everywhere I look is a book or article about resilience. I thought it might be the new buzz word but it’s been around too long for that. Over the years I have learned that when something keeps hitting me in the face I eventually get the hint and take a look at it. This time I’ll let you look with me at what keeps us bouncing back when we’re knocked down physically, psychologically or emotionally.  What goes into developing resiliency?

We’ve probably all noticed how two people, identical twins even, who have shared everything with each other react in a completely different manner to stress and to life. Why does one overcome the obstacles and thrive while the other is destroyed by it? Resilience is key.

What is resilience?

Resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and catastrophe. It also includes the ability to bounce back to homeostasis after a disruption. The focus in research also shifted from “protective factors” toward protective “processes”; trying to understand how different factors are involved. Wikipedia

So we ask the questions:

  • What makes a person more resilient?
  • Can I develop resilience?

Frederic Flach, M.D.. the resilience “guru” lists the attributes of resilience in his book Resilience: Discovering a New Strength at Times of Stress.

Inner Strengths

  • A strong, supple sense of self esteem
  • A high level of personal discipline and a sense of responsibility
  • Recognition and development of one’s special gifts and talents
  • Creativity: open-mindedness, receptivity to new ideas, willingness to dream
  • A wide range of interests
  • A keen sense of humor
  • High tolerance for distress, but not too high
  • Focus and a commitment to life
  • Faith, a philosophical and spiritual framework within which personal experiences can be interpreted and understood with meaning and hope, even at life’s seemingly most hopeless moments

Interpersonal Strengths

  • Independence of thought and action, without being unduly reluctant to rely on others.
  • The ability to give and take in human interactions
  • well-established network of family and friends, including one or more who serve as confidants
  • The willingness to and skill at letting go of resentments and forgiving others as well as oneself
  • Proficiency in setting limits
  • Healthy self-interest
  • Freedom from one’s own selfishness and protection against the selfishness of others
  • Generosity
  • Well able to give and receive love
  • Study the list

Take a good, self-assessing look at the list. Most of the items on it can be developed or strengthened. They are not new, either. These are things that you have been reading about here ad nauseum and that are in the preponderance of self-help literature: self-esteem, knowing and developing strengths and talents, a sense of humor, love, etc. Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten on each item and then list them according to the strongest ending with the weakest. Where do you need to focus?

Develop a plan. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to develop these attributes to the point that you can handle most stress efficiently and effectively without breaking a sweat?

And a reminder. Don’t forget your physical health. It isn’t on the list but you and I know that when you don’t feel well, tress knocks you off your feet.  How’s your diet? Do you live on junk food and fast food or do you have a fairly balanced eating program? Do you get any fresh air and exercise? (Exercise is a great stress reducer, you know)  How’s your immune system?Do you get enough sleep?

For most of these things, you don’t need to hire an expensive counselor or coach. Work on developing awareness of your strengths and weakness and begin to work the weak places one at a time. Set aside at least thirty minutes do this kind of self-work and you will find yourself bouncing back from stress easier and faster as time goes by.

Hear what Brene Brown has to say about resilience:

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