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How to Strengthen Your Resilience Capacity




The World Health Organization identifies stress as the global health epidemic of the 21stCentury. Everyone experiences stress and a little bit can be seen as positive – it can help motivate us to get things accomplished. But if we accumulate stress and do not manage it effectively or find an outlet for it – it can become chronic and have negative effects on our minds and bodies.

Individuals, families, and organizations all experience difficult times which results in stress. How we manage those challenges and changes indicates how resilient we are. Resilience refers to the ability to adapt, recover and grow stronger from adverse situations. Just think of a rubber band. In order to stay strong during trying times, we must be able to stretch ourselves and even spring forward a little! Robert Brooks of Harvard Medical School calls resilience "ordinary magic" because everyone has the capacity to be resilient but there are things that can be done to nurture or strengthen resilience.

I recently reviewed a lot of research on adversity and resilience and found several characteristics or traits that resilient people seem to possess. There were several, so I will cover a few in this article but will have to continue with more next week.

When faced with adversity, resilient people:

  • Are able to reframe the situation and view difficulties as challenges and opportunities for growth. They view crisis as an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser and they also view challenges as manageable and NOT permanent.
  • Learn from the mistakes and failures they have - but they don't see them as failures. They see them as important lessons and try to learn from them.
  • Have confidence in themselves and this belief in themselves enables them to take risks. Think about the "famous failures" you may have heard of – Thomas Edison, Stephen King, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, and Walt Disney. They all had professional and sometimes personal obstacles to overcome and had "failed" a few times before becoming successful. But they could attribute their success to self-confidence and resiliency.
  • Have initiative and assertiveness – they know they can't control the events in their lives from happening, but they can control how they perceive them and how to respond.
  • Address the reality of the situation and deal directly with the problem and what they actually have control over. They have what author Diane Coutu calls realistic positivism – they see the situation as it is while staying positive about the ability to cope and conquer.
  • Are flexible by being open to new ideas and letting go of traditional ways that no longer work. They can cope with change, are adaptive and think outside the box.
  • Are compassionate - because they know that when you are kind to others, it makes you feel good and according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion creates positive work relationships and increases cooperation and collaboration.
  • Are creative and have a sense of humor. Research shows that humor improves mood, relieves pain, improves the immune system, soothes tension and relieves stress. It also helps us have a different perspective on things and allows us to distance ourselves a bit from problems.

This is quite a list so far, but there are many more, so I will continue with this list of resiliency characteristics in the next article. Stay tuned for more!!



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