In the year or two before the pandemic, a new word started popping up in my writing about addiction, mental health and wellness: resilience. All of a sudden, the word seemed to be everywhere, from my reporting on childhood traumas to my discussions about what can help people succeed in recovery.
The more I learned about resilience, the more interested I became. When the pandemic hit, and continued to drag on and on, it seemed that resiliency was more important than ever.
At this point, most of us have heard the buzzword, but we might not really understand what resilience means. Here are 4 things that you should know about resilience, according to the team at Sunshine Coast Health Centre in British Columbia.
- What Resilience Is
Oftentimes, words get tossed around without people really taking the time to think about or understand their true meaning. So it’s important to start by defining our terms. Resilience is defined as the ability to recover shape and size after being compressed. With time, a second meaning has emerged: the ability to recover from, or adjust to, misfortune or change.
From a psychological perspective, the American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.”
Just like a physical item that is put under stress, the mind can get bent out of shape by stress or worry. But, like a putty that returns to its original shape, the mind also has the ability to rebound and recover from stressors and trauma that it encounters.
- Resilience Is Protective
As we go through life, we encounter all sorts of adverse experiences that may cause mental and emotional pain or suffering. These can include adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) like divorced parents or abuse. But adversity doesn’t stop during childhood: as adults we experience deaths, the loss of dreams, financial strain and other causes of stress.
Resilience can help protect us from the impact of these negative events. Resilience doesn’t mean that you won’t experience circumstances that cause you pain or suffering — it just means that you’ll be able to deal with them better than someone who has less resilience. For example, resilient people are living through the same pandemic as people who are less resilient, but the changes and adjustments that we all have to make have a lesser toll on people who are resilient.
- Everyone Has The Potential For Resilience
Mental health professionals believe that everyone has the potential for resilience. However, there’s no doubt that people have different levels of resilience. That’s why some people are able to recover from even the worst tragedies, like the death of a child, while others struggle to regain a level of normalcy after these events.
In general, people are resilient. However, you can take steps to foster resilience in your life, even as an adult.
- Resilience Is A Learned Skill
It’s important to recognize that resilience can be developed. Many people have learned that firsthand this year, as they’ve had to build more resilience than they ever expected to need.
The following can help develop resilience:
- Building connections: Connections are important to recovering from adversity. This can be a personal connection, like the relationship with a loved one, or a societal connection, like being in touch with organizations that can help support you during adversity.
- Focusing on wellness: Taking time to indulge in self-care including exercise and mindfulness can ensure that you’re in a healthy state and able to “bounce back” from life challenges.
- Finding meaning: People who are connected with their personal definition of a meaningful life often have the self-determination and drive to be resilient.
- Accepting change: Simply accepting that change and adversity are part of life can make them easier to cope with.
Since resilience takes effort, it’s not surprising that sometimes we get tired of being resilient. This is common a year into the pandemic, with vaccines still months away for many people. In moments where you struggle to feel resilient, look at the progress that you’ve already made. The last year has presented an enormous amount of challenges. Just surviving that, let alone doing it sober and with a desire to continue improving yourself, is an accomplishment worth celebrating.