Resiliency, the capacity to withstand trauma or catastrophe, is a skill set, not a personality or disposition.  Resiliency allows people to not only get through hard times, but to grow and learn from them.  Neuroscientists are very interested in resiliency and have discovered that the human brain can train for resiliency and not allow stress or traumatic incidents to knock us down.  Resiliency is a wonderful quality, and we all know people who have it and those who do not have it.  What makes the difference?

What is resiliency?

Resiliency is the ability to go with the flow, roll with the punches.  Being resilient does not mean the resilient person is exempt from experiencing trauma, grief or stress.  The resilient person experiences anger, stress, grief and pain but keeps functioning physically and psychologically, reaching out to others for support. Research shows that the way we react to life’s small stressers are good indicators to how we will react to major upheavals in our lives.  When things go wrong, do you freak out or go with the flow? Think of resiliency as a flexible object that can retain its original shape after being stretched or bent.  That is what should, and often does, happen to humans who are experiencing life changing events.

Why be resilient?

Resiliency helps protect us from depression and anxiety and increases our ability to cope.  Resiliency also helps us fend off bullying, and repercussions from previous trauma. Resiliency helps us rebound from setbacks. Without resiliency, people dwell on their problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed and sometimes turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol.

How to build resiliency: 

The good news is that we can improve our resiliency at any time of life. Here are the major contributing factors in building resilience and  inner strength to rebound from setbacks.  Not all strategies work for everyone, choose the ones most compatible with your personality:

  • Have close relationships and connections with friends, family and others.
  • Have self-confidence, a hopeful outlook on life and a positive view of yourself.
  • Accept that change is a positive part of life.
  • Be willing to seek help and resources.
  • Take good care of yourself and your needs – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, be with people and engage in activities that bring you pleasure.
  • Set goals that keep you focused on the future.
  • Learn from experience and previous coping strategies you’ve used.
  • Be proactive – meet your problems head on, stay in control and make a plan.
  • Help others.