According to Webster to be resilient is to: "able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens."
Psychologists broaden that definition to include acceptance as a large part of resiliency. In an article in psychology today one of the components of a resilient person is this:
"Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper".
Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.
Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.
The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience."
"They practice acceptance. Pain is painful, stress is stressful, and healing takes time. When we're in it, we want the pain to go away. When we're outside it, we want to take away the pain of those who we see suffering. Yet resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it’s better to come to terms with the truth of the pain than to ignore it, repress it, or deny it. Acceptance is not about giving up and letting the stress take over, it's about leaning in to experience the full range of emotions and trusting that we will bounce back."
The full article can be read here.
The ability to look forward with hope, but to be accepting of what is right now seems to be a recurrent theme. Even in the darkest moments a resilient person feels there is a small glimmer of light in the future.
My Mother who also lives with chronic pain has a slow smile that comes, when she almost at the end of her rope - she quietly says "this too shall pass." I admit I say that often to myself hearing her sweet voice in my head, as I do.
The reason I wanted to talk about this today is from all the reading I'm doing, it has become clear to me that some of us are more resilient than others - but resiliency can be a learned behaviour.
On days when you feel like giving up, not getting out of bed or cancelling an event or social engagement because of fatigue or pain, reach within and see if you can find that inner resilience.
When you are a pain warrior, there comes a point along the way where it is just easier to disengage, to stay home, and to just stop. That is where the danger of depression and you isolation creeps in. Once you say no often enough, the invitations stop coming and you become impotent to more forward. This not to be confused with a bad day or a bad period of time like pre or post surgery. I'm talking about settling. There is grace in acceptance that your life has changed and that in itself can help you move forward. Be careful though, that you are not accepting too little of yourself. Goals, moving forward, and a glimmer of hope for the future, is what keeps us engaging people.
Think about your own resiliency, think about others. Is there someone you know who you admire or secretly envy because of their resiliency? I think about Christopher Reeves and Michael J Fox, and admire what they have done. Believe me it doesn't have to be a movie star. Tomorrow I will tell you a story of a 16 year old girl whose resiliency I have always admired, and I think you will too. Stay tuned!