Living is stressful
Simply being awake and caring about things in life means that we will encounter stress. Finding time to relax and unwind or spend an evening with friends sometimes feels impossible – even sleeping and eating are often sacrificed for the things we feel we “have to do.” There are times when you may feel like life is wearing you down. Yet somehow, most of the time, we endure, persevere, and sometimes even thrive in the face of these pressures. This is due to resilience.
What is resilience?
Some may think of resilience as being calm or stoic when confronted with a challenge, but in reality, being resilient doesn’t mean that distress isn’t experienced. In fact, we may experience significant distress, but the distress is managed and overcome. Resilience is the process of adapting to adversity. It comes from Latin for “to rebound.” By definition, resilience can’t exist or be demonstrated without adversity – we can’t “bounce back” unless we get knocked over.
Where does resilience come from?
People tend to focus on emotional coping strategies (activities that reduce the experience of distress such as talking to a supportive person, engaging in self-care, mindfulness, relaxation methods, etc.). These strategies are beneficial and can enable us to moderate our stress response so that we are able to view problems more realistically. When we are calmer, we are
more able to come up with useful and creative solutions to problems. However, it is important to recognize that the strain usually isn’t resolved when the emotional coping technique ends, and will only “go away” when we engage in a solution-focused strategy (doing something directly related to the source of the stress).
The good news is that we can practice and strengthen resilience – it is not a have or have not situation. Martin Seligman’s (2012) PERMA Theory outlines 5 factors involved in mental health and resilience: Positive Emotion; Engagement in activities that contribute to growth; strong, supportive Relationships; feeling that one’s life has Meaning and purpose; and cultivating a sense of Accomplishment. In upcoming posts, I will offer ideas on how you can build resilience in each of these five areas.
A helpful metaphor
It might be helpful to consider life as being like a rafting trip: you might encounter rapids, you might run aground, and you might need to paddle hard at times when the river isn’t flowing well. It helps if you have people with you. It helps if you have an idea of where you’re going and how to get there. It helps if you have experience navigating unpredictable waters. And it helps if you have a well-maintained raft and paddles you know how to use. You might need to take a rest on the shore from time to time, but to get to the end, you’ll need to get back in the water.
Resilience: Part One – What and Where Does Resilience Come From?
By Jason Bauche
Jason is a Registered Psychologist with over 15 years of experience counselling adults and adolescents with a variety of concerns. Areas of specialization include anxiety, AD/HD, identity development, relationship issues, depression and self-esteem. In addition to counselling services, Jason conducts assessments with learners of all ages. He makes a unique contribution to the Centre through his skill in career assessments.
Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Atria.