Resilience. . .
All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.
Resilience comes from the Latin word resilio – to jump back- and is increasingly used in everyday language to describe our ability to cope with and bounce back from adversity. Some people describe it as the ability to bend instead of breaking when under pressure or difficulty, or the ability to persevere and adapt when faced with challenges. The same abilities also help to make us more open to and willing to take on new opportunities. In this way being resilient is more than just survival, it includes letting go, learning and growing as well as finding healthy ways to cope.
Research shows that resilience isn’t a rare quality found in a few, extraordinary people. One expert in the subject, Dr Ann Masten, describes it as ‘ordinary magic’ noting that it comes from our normal, everyday capabilities, relationships and resources. She argues that resilience isn’t a static characteristic of an individual but comprises many factors, internal and external. And we can be naturally resilient in some situations or at sometimes in our lives and not others. Each person and each situation is different.
There is a saying that most of us have heard: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and science has shown that it does have some truth in it. Experiencing some adversity during our lives does increase our resilience by enabling us to learn ways of coping and identify and engage our support network. It also gives us a sense of mastery over past adversities, which helps us to feel we will be able to cope in the future. We have probably all experienced things as stressful initially (for example a new task at home or at work) but later find we are no longer phased by similar activities. Importantly though, for us to learn through such struggles our coping skills and resources can be taxed but not overwhelmed.
Peace and Love, Jim