Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of downsizing at work, blindsided by a less than positive quarterly performance review, betrayed by an unfaithful partner, or had your proposal or bid rejected again, you may be wondering – when will this resilience thing kick in?
Or maybe you’re like me – a survivor of one of the numerous natural and man-made disasters that’s plagued our land in recent months – trying to regroup and recoup my losses related to Hurricane Irma’s impact in St. Thomas. You may be asking yourself: Am I going about this the right way?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful to have been spared the devastating trauma of experiencing the direct landfall of the hurricanes. I recognize that more than thousands of people have lost so much more than I did and I continue to pray for their relief and the rebuilding of their homes and communities. Because of the widespread experiences of these hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and even threats of volcanic eruptions, I’ve decided to resume my blogs and do a series on the topic of resilience.
I believe that before you can see yourself as resilient, you should understand what you’re working towards. In conducting workshops on resilience, many of my participants often state that resilience is the ability to bounce back from trauma and bad experiences. If you’re like most people, you may think that resilient people are born that way, and will automatically recover or jump into problem-solving mode when dealing with life’s difficult situations.
Well, the reality is that while some people seem prone to being more resilient, most people, you included, can learn to increase their resiliency. The American Psychological Association indicates that resilience involves a process of adapting well (think “thriving”) in the face of negative circumstances or tragedy. Because there’s a process at play, know that there are various factors which contribute to resiliency.
The following reflects what I believe to be some of the most critical factors:
A strong and positive belief system offers a sense of purpose to go on, helps sustain you through the hard times and provides a different perspective about what you’re going through. For me, knowing that God is in control despite how bad things look, allows me to regain and maintain an optimistic attitude and a sense of hope as I focus on restoration and rebuilding.
Effective communication and problem-solving skills involves optimistic, yet realistic appraisal skills. In other words, it’s vital to be able to accurately assess the key aspects of the problem facing you. This includes the ability to evaluate, search for and ask for what you need clearly and in a timely but well-thought out manner. Being optimistic and hopeful in problem-solving allows you to see and analyze possibilities, where others who may be prone to pessimism may only see limitations.
Positive social and familial support – Supportive and caring friendships and good family relationships are key factors in managing the wide and varying degrees of emotions which arise during times of distress. Good social support can provide you with a safe place to land, sometimes physically and emotionally, and can assist you in sorting through both your feelings and your options as you consider your next steps.
The capacity to manage strong and often negative feelings and impulses is another critical aspect of resiliency. Unexpected stressors and tragic events can bring out the worst in even the most level-headed individuals. Managing your emotions well is not about denying them but involves accurately identifying your feelings and effectively expressing them in a manner that doesn’t create even more problems for you. I’m sure you’re familiar with the person who receives bad news and then lashes out angrily at the first person who approaches them, potentially shutting down any offers of help.
Resilience involves being able to acknowledge that you’re upset, and then take the time to sit with your emotions. It’s often difficult to effectively evaluate all your options when you are distraught or “feeling your feelings”. After you’ve calmed down or regained some semblance of control over your feelings, you can then explore the why’s and how’s of what happened (if necessary), along with what’s needed to move forward. This step includes deciding who may be in the best position to help. Seeking assistance in this process is not just a viable option but one that is strongly encouraged.
Resilience tests our ability to manage stress under the most difficult of circumstances. Being strong in the face of adversity is not about handling things by yourself. Your strength, your resilience, will be evident as you ask for the help needed to move you closer to resolving, rebuilding, restoring whatever has been torn down.
Connecting the dots…..
How are your friends or loved ones managing their losses?
Are you in a position to lend a listening ear?
How are you dealing with your feelings in the face of your recent stressors?
Now may be just the time to reach out to a trusted friend, objective and supportive relative, or a professional counselor to help you explore your options.