Lessons We Learn…. About Resilience

I’m feeling very grateful today.  Following the passing of hurricane Sandy through our region I find myself in awe of the power of the forces of Mother Nature.  And while I sit in my warm house with light and refrigeration, the option of putting something in the oven or boiling pasta on the stove for dinner and no water leaking into my basement, I am thankful.

But watching the news stories coming in over the past several days makes my heart hurt for all those whose lives have been lost or devastated by the events of this unfathomable freak of nature.

Not only do we have a New Jersey coast decimated by wind and water but we also have folks in the mountains of West Virginia dealing with the impact of a winter pounding of 2-3 feet of very early, very heavy snow.

Lives were changed by Sandy and the scope of it all makes the minor inconveniences that I experienced during that time seem insignificant.

I marvel over and over again at the resilience of the human spirit.  The ability that people demonstrate repeatedly of being able to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and move on with life.

I’ve learned never to underestimate the potential and power of the human spirit.”

So it made me start thinking today, just what it is about a person that makes them resilient?  Some people clearly are and others, not so much.  When confronted with a difficult or crisis circumstance, the coping skills of people facing the situation can be dramatically different.

In an article that I came across on About.com, Kendra Cherry list several characteristics that she identifies as common among resilient people.  She starts by indicating that resilient people are self-aware and that they understand that set-backs are a part of life.  Being aware of feelings and one’s own emotional reactions to things, and understanding what causes them and why, allows a person to maintain control of their situation.  Additionally, accepting situations that can’t be avoided allows us to remain flexible and open to possibilities and to adapt to changing circumstances.

Resilient people are also problem solvers; those that can look at the circumstances and identify possible solutions to the problems.  They look for ways to reframe things and make positive changes to improve the situation.  Frequently these are the people who stay calm and objective while in the middle of the crisis!

Another characteristic that is common is that a resilient person sees themselves not as a victim, but as a survivor!  Victims allow things to control them while survivors take control!

And being resilient also means knowing when to ask for help.  Resilient people usually have strong social connections; they have a support network that can bolster them up when they need it and they are not afraid to ask for that support.

If you are alive, then life is going to throw you curve balls now and again; hopefully not on the magnitude of a hurricane Sandy, a 9/11, or a movie theater ambush.  But if we work to cultivate the characteristics of resilience, then just maybe we will find a way to get through those challenges that we encounter.  And the resilience that we nurture in ourselves may bolster others in a time of crisis.

And while we are working to cultivate our own resilience, let those of us who influence the lives of children, as parents, grandparents, teachers, etcetera, nurture those characteristics in children.  Encourage them to be aware.  Don’t protect them from all disappointments or set-backs; let them encounter it, wrestle with it and help them work through it.  Teach them how to be survivors rather than victims.  Help them learn how to work through and solve a problem without stepping in to fix it for them.  And help them know when to ask for help and allow them the opportunity to ask.  If they can’t learn how to do these things during the challenges of childhood, how can we expect them to know how to do them when they face things later in life?

I feel fortunate to have the characteristics of resilience.  I usually am able to bounce rather than shatter when something hits.  Sometimes it takes me awhile to tap into that place, but once I can clear some of the initial emotional response and settle down, I start working on how to get through it.

For all of those affected by hurricane Sandy, I wish for you resilience.  I will watch and marvel and cheer as you pick yourselves up, brush off the sand and find a way to rebuild your life.  I wish you helping hands along the way and understanding from those of us that can never know what your circumstance is really like.

The human spirit, it’s an amazing and powerful thing……

On the journey with you…….Kathy

(Quote:  Age 82- The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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2 responses to “Lessons We Learn…. About Resilience

  1. You write SO WELL! When is that book going to be published? I want an autographed copy!!

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