Someone has named 2015 as “The Year of Resiliency”. (Now there is a job I want, naming years, or days, or months. How cool would that be? 2016 – Year of the Dope. )
Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. I like to think of it as “bouncebackability” a kind of psychological jack-in-the-box. Someone may shove you into a tiny space and slam down the lid on you but as soon as the lid is released, up you pop. Because of the huge increase in the number of people who have been diagnosed with PTSD, (military, first responders, people who have been involved in or witnessed horrific traumatic events) ideas about the causes of PTSD are now including brain hormones. An article from the magazine Nature (issue 7419) says:
The most talked-about biological marker of resilience is neuropeptide Y (NPY), a hormone released in the brain during stress. Unlike the stress hormones that put the body on high alert in response to trauma, NPY acts at receptors in several parts of the brain — including the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and brainstem — to help shut off the alarm. “In resiliency, these brake systems are turning out to be the most relevant,” says Renu Sah, a neuroscientist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.
But what about those folks who have not witnessed trauma, who have not been assaulted or terrorized, who have not been to the very edge of hell and back – in short those folks who are terribly traumatized by the normal life passages we all face?
Fortunately, there are ways to develop resilience . Even though some people seem innately to have a greater capacity for springing back after some traumatic incident it doesn’t mean that you can’t increase your own resilience factor.
The fundamental first step is to make a critical decision – and that is to stop being a victim. It is not easy to draw the line between offering help and creating victims but there is a whole industry that would turn you into a victim by having you dwell on the traumas in your life. Think of psychologists and counsellors as prime examples. As soon as there is a death in any institution, counsellors are rushed in, as if death is something so overwhelming that people are unable to cope with it without the help of so-called trained professionals.
The whole idea of having to consult a grief counsellor ignores the reality that the vast majority of people have sufficient strength to deal with the normal occurrence of life stages. It is pernicious, however because the actions are so well intentioned.
And it is frequently much easier to play the role of victim rather than being resilient because of the attention given to the victim. People feel sorry for you, they listen to you, they commiserate with you, and very often, they go and fight your battles. Ah, sympathy is sweet indeed.
Playing the role of victim comes with a belief that someone else is to blame for your pain, and an expectation that someone else will fix the problem.
Sometimes it is easier to be a victim; talking about how other people make you do what you do removes the obligation to change. And sympathy can soothe; talk of resilience can make some feel that no one is really appreciating exactly how much they have suffered.
Make connections. All of us are going to face various challenges in life – some expected (the death of someone suffering from a terminal illness, for example); some entirely unexpected. It helps to have someone in our life who will listen to us, AND help us to move forward. However, gong over and over the negative feelings, and only reliving the pain in NOT helpful. It merely strengthens feelings of depression and sadness.
Stop seeing something negative as a catastrophic event. We cannot change stressful events that occur in our life but we CAN change how we think about them and respond to them.
Stop thinking that bad things shouldn’t happen to you. Stop thinking that life isn’t fair. Stop believing that your life is ruined because you didn’t get what you want. Focus on what you are able to do to change things so they will be better next time.
Develop the habit of doing one positive thing a day that demonstrates your competence or something that you can be proud of. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to be something that you can look at and know that you have done something for which you can be proud.
While no one wants tragedies and traumatic events to occur in our lives, consider that facing these events and reacting in a mindful, positive way can make you a stronger, more empathic person Nurture a positive view of yourself.
Monitor your self-talk. Do you say things like “I can’t stand this”, “Why does this have to happen to me?”, “My life will never be the same!” (which all in all might not be a bad thing), and replace this victim talk with phrases such as “I will get through this”, “Next time I will do it better”, or “Chalk this up to one more lesson learned!”.
Keep a balanced perspective. Even if the event is very painful it won’t last forever (although in our mind we frequently think that the terrible situation will never change, that we will feel this awful forever). Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
Work at being optimistic (although the tendency toward optimism or pessimism may be partly genetic and may be more difficult for some). Try visualizing what you do want, rather than worrying about what you are afraid of.
Take care of yourself, and do NOT let yourself become housebound. Take part in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly.
Do you want to know how resilient you might be? Check out this site http://www.resiliencescale.com/
Happy bouncing back!
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