When it comes to coping with life’s challenges, resiliency and flexibility have some things in common. One of the dictionary definitions of resilience is the ability of a material to return to its original shape and size after being compressed or deformed. Hard, inflexible material has little resilience. Conversely, flexible material can more easily return to its original shape.
Part of resiliency in a psychological sense is flexibility. Resilient people can “bounce back” from adversity and hardship. Rigidity, on the other hand, makes us much more vulnerable to “falling apart” instead of “bouncing back.”
According to the American Psychological Association, “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. While these adverse events … are certainly painful and difficult, they don’t have to determine the outcome of your life.” The APA suggests 1) Building your connections, 2) Fostering wellness, 3) Finding purpose, 4) Embracing healthy thoughts, and, if necessary, 5) seeking professional help as being key to building resiliency.
Nan Henderson, MSW, PhD, developed the Resiliency Quiz and a list of personal “resiliency builders.” Among these are relationships, service, humor, inner directions, and … flexibility. Henderson also provides strategies for helping ourselves, or someone else, become more resilient.
The pediatrician Ken Ginsberg, MD, developed the 7 Cs resilience model to help children and adolescents build resilience. According to Ginsberg, learning the 7 Cs can help us develop inner strength and use resources outside of ourselves. The 7 Cs are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control.
Everyday Health’s Resilience Resource Center contains a wealth of information about resilience: Q & A, theory and research, factors, tips, and links to other articles. “Resilience isn’t a fixed trait. Flexibility, adaptability, and perseverance can help people tap into their resilience by changing certain thoughts and behaviors.” … “While individuals process trauma and adversity in different ways, there are certain protective factors that help build resilience by improving coping skills and adaptability.” The factors listed are social support, realistic planning, self-esteem, coping skills, communication skills, and emotional regulation.
Practicing the coping skills and emotion regulation skills we have covered in past posts can be a part of building the resiliency to weather the storms of life and grow in the process!