Resiliency means getting beyond asking 'Why Me?'

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— We've all heard that when life hands us lemons, we're supposed to make lemonade. But why is it that some people seem to be able to whip up a batch of lemonade so effortlessly, while many don't know how to begin?

Resiliency may be a key factor in individual responses to stressful situations. Resiliency is the ability to recover from hard times. Although some people seem to be innately better at coping than others are, resiliency is not a skill established at birth. It's something that can be enhanced or eroded with life experiences.

The Harvard Health Watch newsletter identifies two basic reactions to the events of life. Some people become depressed or immobilized by a lack of promotion at work, the thought of having to move, or unavoidable losses such as a child going off to college or the death of a parent. Others remain undaunted despite suffering terrible financial losses, catastrophic illness or deaths of loved ones. The key differentiating factor in these contradictory responses is resiliency.

Because resiliency is so important to success and even survival, psychologists have been researching methods of enhancing this quality. During the past decade, researchers have discovered certain traits that contribute to our resiliency and can even strengthen our resistance to disease.

Studies show that people who are resilient share many of the following characteristics: authenticity, willingness to accept responsibility, acceptance of change, responsiveness to environment, faith in themselves, ability to take risks and having a sense of purpose.

Finding a sense of purpose and taking action can be a wonderfully healing tactic. A survivor of domestic abuse may choose to volunteer at a shelter. A fired employee may see job loss as an opportunity to go back to school or try a new career that better reflects his or her interests.

When a close friend or family member dies, choosing a meaningful memorial is often a very important part of the grieving and recovery process. Many non-profit organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the Polly Klaas Foundation, have been founded by determined family members in memory of lost loved ones. Less dramatic examples of resiliency include planting a tree, joining a support group or contributing to a community project.

Moving on from lemons to lemonade isn't always easy, but it is achievable. Resiliency is a learned habit that can change one's response to life's difficult moments.

Nancy Young will be sharing more information about resiliency at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Yampa Valley Medical Center's conference room 3 during a free "Taking Care of Me" presentation.


Nancy Young is a therapist and organizational consultant in Steamboat Springs.

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