The Realm of Resiliency

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord seek harmony. Through difficulty lies opportunity.”

Caregivers know what it is like to face adversity. The ability to bend without breaking, to hold steady when a gale-force of stressors threaten stability, to remain curious through confusion and energized by uncertainty–skills needed by every caregiver and found in those with the highest resiliency.

Resiliency is a skill that caregivers can cultivate by finding effective ways of dealing with stressors–the unexpected, unpredictable and uncomfortable challenges life brings to everybody at one time or another.

Some people seem to cope better than others when difficulty strikes. The resilient are the ones who bounce back early and move on quickly. Optimistic, zestful and energetic, research has shown how resilient people gain strength and energy from challenging experiences. These are the people who find positive meaning from adversity.

In its narrowest definition, resiliency can be viewed as: the successful adaptation to change with the ability to competently function through stressful experiences. For those who are the most resilient, research recognizes successful adaptation to change is the broad outcome of one very specific quality.

Is this quality the luck of a particular personality? Or is there a technique for protecting ourselves from the psychological and health risks of stress?

Research shows that resilient people are not immune to the effects of stress. They do experience reactions such as anxiety and fear. But compared to those with low resiliency, the degree of reactivity is less and the presence of positive emotion is greater in people with the highest resiliency.

Rather than resisting or bolting, resilient people face fear, lean into the unknown and traverse discord, transforming the energy of arousal–fight or flight–into strong psychological resources that promote adaptation.

The one particular trait common among the most resilient has been identified.

Resilient people harness the capacity to utilize the powerful force of positive thinking.

Positive emotion has the effect of broadening thinking and increases coping skills. A positive outlook heightens the ability to find value, purpose and meaning in challenging events, thus enhancing states of wellbeing.

Caregivers who maintain positive thoughts in the face of struggle help the mind seek positive solutions to difficult problems.

Psychological research has shown that people are not “gifted” with resiliency. Resiliency is a learned skill that is developed and strengthened with practice. A sense of humor helps, but relaxation and meditation techniques have been shown to improve positive thinking and can proactively build resiliency reserves.

Meditation and relaxation offer effective techniques to train the mind to settle into the positive. By flipping our thoughts, speech and actions positively, we not only heighten resiliency but deepen understanding and insight.

To proactively prepare for the next challenging circumstance that is certain to come, begin a practice that encompasses regular deep-relaxation or meditation techniques. And the next time adversity strikes, take the following steps toward resiliency:

  • Maintain a connection with others–find trusted listeners who will provide honest feedback.
  • Observe and name what you are experiencing in this moment.
  • Identify your own strengths–use your energy to promote positive influence.
  • Accept change as an opportunity to create something new.
  • Recognize the positive in every situation–think, speak and act from the positive position.

Thinking, speaking and acting from the positive perspective will take commitment and practice. Eventually the payoff arrives in broader awareness, strengthened self-confidence and a greater capacity to successfully traverse difficulty. For caregivers, the greatest benefit becomes the ability to find the positive and to step into the realm of the highly resilient.

By: Diana Hull PA-C, MPH