According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.” Let’s face it; we will never be able to completely shelter ourselves or our loved ones from the inevitability of failures, tragedy and setbacks that will occur at some point in our lives.
But how we overcome difficult, tragic and challenging situations or events is what defines our character. This is why building resiliency is important for people of all ages. Yes, all ages! It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 95 years old, you can start making changes in your daily life that will help you and your family become mentally stronger and more resilient.
Communicate – Expressing your emotions and feelings is not only a great way to overcome difficult periods of time, but it also helps to prevent unnecessary conflict and stress. Recognize the people in your life you feel comfortable opening up to so you know who to reach out to when going through hard times or when you need to ask for help. Communication is the key to building and strengthening all relationships. If you have children, it is very important to model effective ways to share both positive and negative feelings. Use “I” statements like, “I feel angry when …” or “I feel happy because…” This modeling of communication teaches children how to express themselves and communicate effectively.
Establish Routines and Consistency – When the world around us starts to feel chaotic, sitting down to a family dinner in the evening can be a satisfying and grounding experience. Although it may seem we are busier each passing year, it is important to have activities that are a constant either daily, weekly, or yearly. Routines, such as bedtimes, meal times, play times, and traditions, help families are successful every day, even when adversity and stress are present.
Be Realistically Optimistic – How many times in your life has someone told you, “things could always be worse”? Probably too many. Why not flip the script and start believing that “I can make things better”? Optimistic beliefs are the springboard of resiliency. Believing in your strengths and abilities is a key component to bouncing back from a loss or major disappointment. Remember, Dr. Seuss’ first book was initially rejected by 27 different publishers. Professionals help people identify their strengths and build on them to address issues in their lives.
Focus on What You Control – Think about an iceberg. We can see the tip above the water but we know there is a much larger mass of ice beneath the surface. This mirrors the ratio of things we have direct control over in our everyday lives vs, what we cannot control. We can’t control the majority of things that happen in our world such as politics, the weather and other people’s actions (the submerged part), but we do control our own thoughts and actions (the top). When bad things happen, such as a death in the family or a car accident, we must remember that going back in time to change these events is not an option. We can only control how we act from this moment forward. Keep in mind this includes the actions and behaviors we model for our children and other loved ones on a daily basis.
Be a Problem Solver – Develop a plan to resolve potential problems that may occur. What if you lost your job, your car broke down or you got into a serious fight with a loved one? Have you ever thought about what you would do in these difficult situations? Having a backup plan provides the confidence to handle these types of problems if or when they occur. Problem solving is an especially important skill for children to develop. Practice scenarios like how to deal with a bully or how to talk to a teacher when they don’t understand something at school.
No one is born with complete resiliency. We must work to develop our minds and bodies to bounce back from low points. Building a strong and resilient foundation within ourselves and our children is an essential step to leading the lives we want to live, not a life dictated by substance abuse, violence, or other unhealthy options of dealing with adversity.
Article provided by Brad Allen, Prevention Specialist at Cortland Prevention Resources
To learn more about how to be more resilient and substance free please contact Cortland Prevention Resources at 756-8970 or visit us online. Cortland Prevention Resources is a division of Family Counseling Services.