Hope For Tomorrow Counseling

Resilience and How to Have it: a Survive and Thrive Guide for 2020 and Beyond

Brian M.Clemmons, M.Ed, LPC

“The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.” 

This quote is attributed to Ernest Hemmingway in his book “A Farewell to Arms”. How fitting this quote is to our current times!

Resilience has been defined as bouncing back and thriving under challenging conditions (US Army). IBM calls resilience the ability to rapidly adapt and respond and to anticipate and adjust to the current (business) environment. Perhaps it is also a set of skills, attitudes, behaviors and coping mechanisms that allow individuals to bounce back and adapt when faced with stress, challenges or adversity as Arti Sarma, PhD. states in his paper “Resilience”.

How does Resilience work?

It seems to be a combination of HOW the following INTERACT with ONE ANOTHER: 

Risks- Where and when we were born and to whom, where we grew up and have lived, what we have experienced in our lives.

Risks are experiences and attributes impacting our lives that we have no control over. Examples would be our genetics, where we spent our early childhood, and events such as 9/11.

Protective Factors- Personal Power (belief in abilities and who we are), Sense of Purpose ( why we’re here), Self Esteem (how we see our self), and a Positive Future View (optimism about how things will be going forward).

Protective factors include personal attributes and dynamics which we are endowed with through the choices we make and the  relationships we cultivate.

Assets- Family Support, Positive family communication, Positive relationships with peers, a caring community/neighborhood/environment, faith involvement, a caring work/school climate, realistic and positive community/family expectations.

Assets are the things that we work to obtain and maintain. They may vary in amount over time depending on how we maintain them.

Resilience is….

  • Developed over time
  • Cultivated (much like a garden or a collection of precious things)
  • Attitudes and Skills that can be learned
  • Practiced and strengthened
  • A Universal human capacity to thrive in spite of setbacks.

Resilience is Not….

  • A birthright
  • Available for sale anywhere
  • Being immune from or protected from pain
  • Loss of negative feelings
  • A quick fix
  • Unique to any special group of people

How to “Do” Resilience:

Self talk and Thoughts- Catch It… Challenge It… Change It! 

Self examine negative or unhelpful thoughts and challenge their accuracy to produce a more helpful and more accurate statement.

Examples of Helpful and Positive Self Talk:

  • “Today is not forever.”
  • “This is hard but I can make it!”
  • “Maybe I can’t but God can.” 
  • “I’m learning and growing.”
  • “I’ll feel great when this is over.”
  • “I’ve succeeded in the past and I will find a way to succeed now.” 
  • “I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to do my best.”

Keys to a Resilient Attitude:

Commitment- Establish an unwavering dedication to the path you’ve chosen, engage in what is important to you and seek to become more involved.

Control- Focus only on what is in your control; the things you can influence or change. Have faith in your ability to impact your circumstances.

Challenge- View hard times as opportunities to learn, stretch and grow yourself. Adopt an attitude of being a lifelong learner. If you haven’t mastered something, tell yourself “Not yet” and remember there is still time. At age 90 Michelangelo said “Ancaro imparo”- I am still learning.

How to build Resilience Muscles…..

  1. Stay realistic and logical in your expectations of self, others and the world.
  2. Communicate directly and adapt your communication style to the situation.
  3. Problem solve when challenged instead of going into a “woe is me” mode.
  4. Seek internal validation- “I did well and I know I did”.
  5. Take care of your physical and emotional health.
  6. Know when and how to say “No”. Practice if necessary!
  7. Celebrate all you accomplish- whether big or small.
  8. Accept compliments and credit for your work; say “Thank you”.
  9. Believe in yourself and what you can do; honestly, accurately, and authentically.
  10. Practice healthy interdependence on others.
  11. Know when and how to ask for help and/or say “I don’t know”. 

It is the belief of this writer that we are not judged by what happens to us, rather by how we respond to it. Perhaps 2020 has left you feeling that your “resilience tank” is low (or empty?).

Talk to someone. Do it online, on video chat, over the phone or through social distancing. Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to create a plan. Talk to a faith leader. Get in with a Mental Health therapist. And remember, in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh: 

“ You are braver than you believe, stronger than you think, and more loved than you know”.  

*A resilience group for adults will be held at the Brookneal Family Resource Center at 302 Rush Street Brookneal VA from 4-530 beginning October 22. Contact Brian at bclemmons@patrickhenry.org to register and for more information. There is no cost for this group. 

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