“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
The experience of stress and reactions to it are a part of human evolutionary history. Having a greater tendency to focus on negative emotions over positive ones has helped increase the likelihood of survival in regard to escaping dangers; thus most of us have inherited a tendency to attend more strongly to real and perceived threats as compared to focusing on positive emotions (Heartmath 2006). Stress serves to alert us through negative emotions such as anger, fear, or anxiety that disharmony and imbalance is being experienced (Rybak and Decker-Fitts 2009). Because of this commonly inborn tendency to focus on negative emotions over positive ones, most of us tend to dwell on the negative, on problems and we experience more stress and recover slower from stressful event in our life.
However, have you noticed some people seem to have the power not only to recover rather quickly after something knocks them down but also cultivate an improved level of functioning compared to prior to the stressful event? The ability to adapt to difficult or challenging life experiences and come back stronger without being over whelmed by changes, challenges, and pressure is known as resiliency.
Why is resilience an important ability in today’s world? Life is always changing and nothing in life is permanent. We are constantly under some level of stressor, significant life stress or traumatic events. Resilience is an ability that makes it possible for us to set a positive, productive and fulfilling direction in your personal life, in your marriage, and in your family. Resilience helps us to cope with the changes, the challenges, and the pressure. According to research by Karen-leigh Edward, Australian professor of mental health nursing, resilient behaviors provide protection from the experience of depression, and resilience can increase the risk of not being depressed. There are studies that suggest that resilient mindset works as protector against anxiety.
In his work, a psychologist Buckwalter mentions three core psychological attributes at the heart of resilience: strength, meaning/purpose, and pleasure. “If your personal life is characterized by these traits, you have the core components needed to build resilience.” According to the psychologist, these core attributes must be experienced on both an emotional and cognitive level. “With strength, we know we can survive. With meaning/purpose, we know there is a reason for us to live another day. With pleasure, we know that we have been given the ability to enjoy life deeply.”
Weathering the stressful storm and bouncing back from adversity lead people to developing strength, meaning/purpose and pleasure that they didn’t know were possible. The good news is that resiliency is something you can learn and keep boosting.
In this article, Dr. Al Siebert’s “five levels of resiliency is used to explore some factors behinds resiliency development and enhancement. According to Dr. Siebert who is the author and a director of The resiliency Center, “Everyone is born with the potential to develop these abilities”.
The five levels of resiliency are:
1. Maintaining Your Emotional Stability, Health, and Well-Being
2. Focus Outward: Good Problem Solving Skills
3. Focus Inward: Strong Inner “Selfs”
4. Well-Developed Resiliency Skills
5. The Talent for Serendipity
The first level is essential to sustaining your health and your energy. This is the first layer of the foundation of resiliency. Sustaining your health and your energy means you need to take good care of yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally. Exercise, keep healthy diet, have good restful sleep, meditate, do more activities that truly engage you, acknowledge the good in your daily life , count your blessings , focus on here and now and what you need to do to move forward (Don’t live in the past), invest time and energy in healing a relationship in need of strengthening, etc.
The second level focuses outward on the challenges that must be handled: problem-focused coping skills
Learn how to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
1. Define the problem; Analyzing the factors or causes contributing to the unwanted situation
2. Be creative and identify multiple solutions.
3. Evaluate and select the best solutions.
4. Implement solutions
5. Assess the effectiveness of your interventions
The third level focuses inward on the roots of resiliency — developing strong self-esteem, self-confidence, and a positive self-concept.
This is where we have a deeper understanding of ourselves. We understand and accept who you are and pay close attention to a positive view of ourselves and our strengths and abilities. This will help you ward off fears. Better coping and dealing with fears will help you boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Dr. Siebert says that your mind and habits will create either barriers or bridges to a better future. Self-esteem, self-confidence, and a positive self-concept directly impact the way we act every day.
The fourth level covers the attributes and skills found in highly resilient people.
The following are some of the attributes and skills found in highly resilient people.
The highly resilient people:
hold a positive view of themselves and their abilities; have the capacity to make workable plans and stick to them, are a good communicator; have good social supports (Having contact with others who can be trusted, either family, friend or therapist, with whom they can share most difficult thoughts was important in recovery); view themselves as survivor not a victim, manage emotions effectively; believe they can influence events and outcomes so do not blame outside forces for everything; can forgive; accept that change, challenge and pressure are a part of living; is optimistic (expect good things happening in their future); is altruistic as helping others is one way to handle extreme stress; have the ability to find humor in stressful situations (learning from the past while keeping ability to laugh at themselves instead of ruminating the negative they experienced in the past); have an ability to leave their comfort zone when needed; can delay urges for immediate gratification; have ability to utilize counter factual thinking (This is an ability to deal more effectively with hardships by imagining how things could have been worse.); are able to find meaning in adversity; have a sense of purpose and meaning in their life.
The fifth level describes what is possible at the highest level of resiliency. It is the talent for serendipity — the ability to convert misfortune into good fortune.
When we become highly resilient, we grow through adversity and can convert a disruptive event into a desirable or unexpected positive development. This development could take several forms: improved relations with others, identification of new possibilities for one’s life, increased personal strength, spiritual change, and enhanced appreciation of life.
A licensed mental health professional or online counselor can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living as a result of traumatic or other stressful experience.
Sam was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English
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