By Executive Director Rosangela Berbert, Samaritan
Resilience is a word we have started to hear more often in everyday conversation. That’s good, because every person has to build resilience skills to navigate life. But what exactly is resilience, and how do we learn to be resilient?
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, or tragedy. It means “bouncing back” from life’s difficulties—and we all experience them! Family relationships, financial distress, health crises, workplace dysfunction and even good things like a wedding, graduation, or a new job disrupt our well-being and require us to call on our resiliency. Without well-honed resiliency, we can respond poorly to life stressors and develop unhealthy relationships, addictions, or depression and anxiety that only increase our problems. Keep in mind, “bouncing back” doesn’t mean you always return to the same place you were before your adverse experience. It may mean that you gain confidence and insight beyond what you had before.
Distress Comes First
Being resilient does not mean a person has no difficulty or sadness in life. In fact, the path to resilience is likely to involve significant emotional distress, not a lack of it. Think of it this way: when someone is courageous in battle, he or she still experiences fear, yet reacts in a brave manner in the face of that fear. In the same way, resilience is having courage in the face of significant emotional distress. It involves learned behaviors, thoughts, and actions to help you react to life’s struggles in a way that will grow your self-confidence and wisdom. And being able to engage your spiritual beliefs or faith in this process can be a great added resource.
Practice Your Skills
People commonly demonstrate resilience; it is an ordinary human ability, not an unattainable super power. You can learn from and adapt to adversity in healthy ways. Throughout your life, work to develop specific skills and relationships so you can turn to them in times of stress and tap into your resilient nature:
- Nurture caring and supportive family and non-family relationships
- Befriend healthy role models who offer encouragement and reassurance
- Develop or expand the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
- Affirm a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Make realistic plans and take steps to complete them
- Practice spiritual disciplines that give you a sense of inner peace and connection with something that is greater than yourself
- Adopt a belief system that allows you to make meaning out of stressful circumstances
Choose Your Balance
The key to healthy resilient behavior is maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with trauma and upset. This is an intentional act of engaging with the emotions and changes you must acknowledge in order to move forward, but also consciously choosing to disengage or back away when you have to deal with the demands of daily living or recharge your mind and body. For example:
- Let yourself experience strong emotions, and realize when you need to avoid them to continue functioning.
- Take action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and step back to disengage, rest, and reenergize yourself.
- Spend time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and nurture yourself with mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, and good nutrition.
- Rely on others to listen and help you, and rely on yourself to discover your inner strength.
- Seek the sacred within yourself and with others to find a personal sense of belonging and purpose.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we have made much progress over the last several years to normalize mental health care. The success of our work in breaking the stigma of mental illness presents Samaritan with the exciting challenge to properly welcome and meet the needs of our ever-growing and changing clientele. More than ever, we are called to be nimble and innovative to meet the mental health needs of our communities. We are increasing our staff, reevaluating our space, and expanding our capacity to offer the services that will make our communities mentally healthier. As we approach a half century of successful service to the community, Samaritan remains flexible, balanced—and resilient!
Blog by Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC
Rosangela (pronounced hoe-SAN-gel-ah) Berbert is the executive director of Samaritan. She is a licensed professional counselor. She has been on staff at Samaritan since 2005.