Fostering Resilience in Hard Times

Since the start of what some are calling “The Great Recession,” many of us have had to deal with the loss of financial resources and job security, and the struggling economy has made it difficult to hope for a brighter future. Many have had to curb spending, taken second jobs, or even put off retirement. How does one deal internally with the added anxiety and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. In short, how do we foster resilience in today’s world.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” Studies have shown that resilience isn’t a trait that an individual is born with, but involves thoughts, behaviors and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. There are some key ways to foster resilience within ourselves.

Nurture and Reconnect with Caring and Supportive Relationships.

The first and most important factor is having caring and supportive family, friends and acquaintances. Trusting relationships that create love, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster ones personal resilience. In the everyday grind of daily work and family life, we sometimes forget to maintain connections with friends, family and loved ones. One can identify supportive relationships and reestablish connections through reaching out, planning a reunion, or even taking the time for a long overdue phone call.

Identify and take part in activities that promote mental and physical health.

Proactively establishing a daily regimen of activities that nurture spiritual and mental health prepares us when stressors or traumas arise unexpectedly. Daily exercise and good nutrition can bolster both mental and physical health. Taking time for activities that are enjoyable and relaxing can help us de-stress. Of course limit activities that involve quick fixes, such as that extra helping of food or mind altering substances. They can drain our resources and lead to health or addiction problems when relied on regularly as a coping strategy.

Become solution oriented.

Studies have shown that resilient people have good problem solving skills, and they react to crisis with action rather then immobility. It’s not that they don’t feel emotional pain or stress over difficult circumstances, however, they focus on solutions rather then circumstance outside their control. This is sometimes easier said then done, so breaking down possible courses of action into small achievable steps can foster feelings of self reliance and esteem.

Try to see the big picture.

Sometimes it’s easy to become mired down and excessively focused on the event or stressor. Resilient persons tend to have a long term perspective and to see things in a broader context. Try to perceive things within the scope of our lifetimes. Often looking back to times when we’ve overcome events that at the time seemed insurmountable can help us do so.

Accept and express your emotions or grief.

Strong emotions and sadness can consume us when we keep them to ourselves, or worse deny that they exist at all. They tend to lose there power to immobilize us when we allow ourselves to accept them, and especially when we express them to others. Reaching out to a supportive friend or loved one and verbalizing feelings can be cathartic and help one move forward. Accurately identifying and expressing emotions can help us manage them more effectively.

Identify and strengthen a sense of spirituality.

People who have survived insurmountable odds often have one thing in common. They tend to have strong spiritual beliefs and see themselves as part of a larger purpose. A sense of spirituality can be fostered in many ways depending on a person’s belief system and values. It can mean consistently and actively practicing your religion, volunteering, feeling a part of or spending time in nature, or simply being an active part of the community. So identifying whatever nurtures our own spirituality and moving toward that can provide strength in times of adversity.

Reach out in times of need.

As stated in factor one, persons who demonstrate resilience are connected to others, and have strong social support networks. They recognize that self reliance is important, yet also readily reach out to others in times of difficulty. Recognizing and accepting that we can’t go it alone can be our strength, rather then a weakness. This can be reaching out to a friend or loved one, joining a community or self help group, or if need be seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to complete everyday activities or function as a result of traumatic or stressful life experiences.

Often we marvel at that person who seems to bounce back readily with a positive spirit in the face of hardship, loss, or adversity. In reality, we all have the potential to build on our own inner resources and foster the resilience within ourselves. Certainly the state of the world and the economy are overwhelming, however, incorporating the above factors into our life can help us stay healthy until the better times that are sure to come.