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On Friday, February 12, the Ledger Dispatch started a series on Resilient Amador. We hope to educate our family of readers on ACEs, learning what it means to be Trauma-Informed, challenges of COVID, Resilience, local resources, and how you can get involved in Resilient Amador. The articles are all online and available for free as a public service. Today we take a look at Resilience, as the next part of our journey.

What Is Resilience? Your Guide to Facing Life’s Challenges, Adversities, and Crises

What is resilience, why is it so important, and how do you know if you’re resilient enough?

Resilience is typically defined as the capacity to recover from difficult life events.

“It’s your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns,” says Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being, creator of the Resilient Option program, and former professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Resilience is not a trampoline, where you’re down one moment and up the next. It’s more like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you, and you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. But eventually you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come.

What Is Resilience Theory?

People face all kinds of adversity in life. There are personal crises, such as illness, loss of a loved one, abuse, bullying, job loss, and financial instability. There is the shared reality of tragic events in the news, such as terrorist attacks, mass shootings, natural disasters, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. People have to learn to cope with and work through very challenging life experiences.

Resilience theory refers to the ideas surrounding how people are affected by and adapt to things like adversity, change, loss, and risk.

Being resilient does not mean that people don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Some people equate resilience with mental toughness, but demonstrating resilience includes working through emotional pain and suffering.

Resilience isn’t a fixed trait. Flexibility, adaptability, and perseverance can help people tap into their resilience by changing certain thoughts and behaviors. Research shows that students who believe that both intellectual abilities and social attributes can be developed show a lower stress response to adversity and improved performance.

Dr. Sood, who is a member of the Everyday Health Wellness Advisory Board, believes that resilience can be defined in terms of five principles:

• Gratitude

• Compassion

• Acceptance

• Meaning

• Forgiveness

Top Factors of Resilience

Developing resilience is both complex and personal. It involves a combination of inner strengths and outer resources, and there isn’t a universal formula for becoming more resilient. All people are different: While one person might develop symptoms of depression or anxiety following a traumatic event, another person might not report any symptoms at all.

A combination of factors contributes to building resilience, and there isn’t a simple to-do list to work through adversity. In one longitudinal study, protective factors for adolescents at risk for depression, such as family cohesion, positive self-appraisals, and good interpersonal relations, were associated with resilient outcomes in young adulthood.

While individuals process trauma and adversity in different ways, there are certain protective factors that help build resilience by improving coping skills and adaptability. These factors include:

• Social Support Research published in 2015 in the journal Ecology and Society showed that social systems that provide support in times of crisis or trauma support resilience in the individual. (3) Social support can include immediate or extended family, community, friends, and organizations.

• Realistic Planning The ability to make and carry out realistic plans helps individuals play to their strengths and focus on achievable goals.

• Self-Esteem A positive sense of self and confidence in one’s strengths can stave off feelings of helplessness when confronted with adversity.

• Coping Skills Coping and problem-solving skills help empower a person who has to work through adversity and overcome hardship.

• Communication Skills Being able to communicate clearly and effectively helps people seek support, mobilize resources, and take action.

• Emotional Regulation The capacity to manage potentially overwhelming emotions (or seek assistance to work through them) helps people maintain focus when overcoming a challenge.

Research on resilience theory shows that it is imperative to manage an individual’s immediate environment and promote protective factors while addressing demands and stressors that the individual faces. (4) In other words, resilience isn’t something people tap into only during overwhelming moments of adversity. It builds as people encounter all kinds of stressors on a daily basis, and protective factors can be nurtured.

Why Is Resilience Important?

Resilience is what gives people the emotional strength to cope with trauma, adversity, and hardship. Resilient people utilize their resources, strengths, and skills to overcome challenges and work through setbacks.

People who lack resilience are more likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless, and rely on unhealthy coping strategies (such as avoidance, isolation, and self-medication). One study showed that patients who had attempted suicide had significantly lower resilience scale scores than patients who had never attempted suicide.

Resilient people do experience stress, setbacks, and difficult emotions, but they tap into their strengths and seek help from support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. Resilience empowers them to accept and adapt to a situation and move forward.

Resilience is “the core strength you use to lift the load of life,” says Sood.

What Are the 7 Cs of Resilience?

Pediatrician Ken Ginsburg, MD, who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, developed the 7 Cs model of resilience to help kids and teens build the skills to be happier and more resilient.

The 7 Cs model is centered around two key points:

• Young people live up or down to the expectations that are set for them and need adults who love them unconditionally and hold them to high expectations.

• How we model resilience for young people is far more important than what we say about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics summarizes the 7 Cs as follows:

• Competence: This is the ability to know how to handle situations effectively. To build competence, individuals develop a set of skills to help them trust their judgments and make responsible choices.

• Confidence: Dr. Ginsburg says that true self-confidence is rooted in competence. Individuals gain confidence by demonstrating competence in real-life situations.

• Connection: Close ties to family, friends, and community provide a sense of security and belonging.

• Character: Individuals need a fundamental sense of right and wrong to make responsible choices, contribute to society, and experience self-worth.

• Contribution: Ginsburg says that having a sense of purpose is a powerful motivator. Contributing to one’s community reinforces positive reciprocal relationships.

• Coping: When people learn to cope with 

stress effectively, they are better prepared to handle adversity and setbacks.

• Control: Developing an understanding of internal control helps individuals act as problem-solvers instead of victims of circumstance. When individuals learn that they can control the outcomes of their decisions, they are more likely to view themselves as capable and confident. (6)

The 7 Cs of resilience illustrate the interplay between personal strengths and outside resources, regardless of age.

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How do I know if I’m resilient?

A survey conducted by Everyday Health, in partnership with The Ohio State University, found that 83 percent of Americans believe they have high levels and emotional and mental resilience. In reality, only 57 percent scored as resilient. Take the Everyday Health Assessment to find out your resilience score, and learn what skills you should develop to become more resilient.

What are examples of resilience?

There is emotional resilience, in which a person can tap into realistic optimism, even when dealing with a crisis. Physical resilience refers to the body’s ability to adapt to challenges and recover quickly. Community resilience refers to the ability of groups of people to respond to and recover from adverse situations, such as natural disasters, acts of violence, or economic hardship.

Editors note: Source: everydayhealth.com/wellness/resilience/

What resilience isn’t

Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.

Here are strategies trauma psychologists have found particularly helpful to turn struggle into strength:

1. Mindfulness

At the resilience boot camp in Philadelphia, soldiers start each day with mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises. Because the most common PTSD treatments—medication and psychotherapy—only work for about half the survivors, the army is experimenting with alternative methods, and meditation has proven to be one of the most promising. Harvard neurobiologist Sara Lazar has shown that “meditation can literally change your brain.” It can actually shrink the amygdala, the “fear center” in our brain that might be enlarged after a trauma and trigger flashbacks of anxiety and panic.

2 . Vulnerability

Post-traumatic growth is not the opposite of post-traumatic stress. Rather, the stress is the engine that fuels the growth. Before we can overcome suffering, we need to go through it. Covering up a raw wound with a smiley face Band-Aid does not lessen the pain. Neither does suffering in silence, which only increases the risk of PTSD. Instead, growth arises from acknowledging the wounds and allowing vulnerability. A significant part of the training consists of teaching survivors to communicate openly, admit fears, and reach out to seek help.

3. Self-compassion

Shame, self-blame, and guilt are all too common in the aftermath of trauma. Practices of self-compassion and loving kindness under the gentle guidance of an experienced, trauma-informed instructor can allow survivors to reconnect with parts of themselves that have been wounded, at their own pace.

4. Finding meaning

“After trauma, it’s important to acknowledge mental suffering will happen,” Tedeschi instructs. “At a certain point, and in tandem with continuing distress, a crucial foundation of post-traumatic growth is making meaning out of and reflecting about one’s trauma.” As Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl realized, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’” 

5. Gratitude

One of the single most effective practices for resilience is keeping a journal of gratitude. The army calls it “Hunt the Good Stuff,” but the exercise is the same: noticing three good things every day and reflecting on them. According to studies at the University of California, Davis, grateful people not only report that they are more satisfied, optimistic, and content with their lives, but they also have fewer medical symptoms, more energy, and even sleep better. In addition, cultivating gratitude improves our mood, and makes us more social and willing to help others.

6. A holistic approach

Dr. Karen Reivich, the co-director of the Penn Resiliency Project, and her team teach 14 core skills, such as goal setting, energy management, problem solving, and assertive communication. “When people have mastered and used these skills in their lives, they are more robust in the face of stress, they can cope more effectively with problems, and they have tools to be able to maintain strong relationships. So, the goal is to enhance the overall well-being and resilience,” Reivich explains.

7. A team effort

“Nobody ever does it alone,” civil rights icon Maya Angelou recognized, years after being raped at the age of 8. Resilience is always a team effort. Moving forward after a crisis depends not only on the individual’s resources and their genetic makeup or upbringing, but also on their connections to the people around them and the quality of support. The best kind of support encourages survivors to focus on their strength but doesn’t gloss over their wounds. Nothing is as powerful as knowing we are not alone.

Getting Help

Resilient Amador strives to create a more resilient Amador by educating individuals, communities, and organizations about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma and resilience; and by providing training and resources for making policy and practice changes that are needed to create healing in our citizenry, organizations, and systems. To learn more or get involved, contact Amador Child Abuse Prevention Council at (209) 223-5921, email: info@amadorcapc.org or visit their website at amadorcapc.org.