What comes to mind when you hear the word resilience? When I originally asked this question in one of my psychology courses, one of my students mentioned a Bobo doll. It keeps getting knocked down, but it gets back up again. I love the visual image this definition of resilience provides. How about yourself; “What does resilience mean for you?”
According to the Oxford English dictionary (2017), resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” In psychological terms, resilience “is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands (American Psychological Association, 2022).” A key word I would like to point out in both definitions is “difficult.”
At some point in life we will all face difficult and challenging situations; therefore, it becomes essential to learn how to be more resilient. Building resilience equips us with the skills we need to better manage the stress and adversities encountered in life. It ensures one’s ability to “bounce back up.”
Note that I am not advocating that we should avoid stress at all costs or that stress should be eliminated, but it is imperative to learn how to better manage it. Southwick and Charney (2018) said it best, “If we can learn to harness stress, it can serve as a catalyst for developing greater strength, and even greater wisdom” (p. 25). The question then becomes, how can stress be managed better?
One way stress is managed better is by developing resilience. There are different factors that contribute to this development. These resilience factors include, but are not limited to the following (Southwick & Charney, 2018):
Within these factors there are various strategies one can practice. For example, individuals can work on cognitive reappraisal by practicing gratitude and/or humor, both of which fall under the cognitive and emotional flexibility factor. These actions have shown to help increase one’s level of resilience (Southwick & Charney, 2018). Staying physically active is yet another great way to build resilience. Keep in mind that the best exercise is the one you do, so find what works for you and stick to that. Lastly, resist the urge to cut-off social relationships when life gets hectic, but instead lean into and reach out to your social network.
Note, this building of resilience to manage stress not only applies to clients, but is equally beneficial for therapists. As a therapist, one must be aware and alert to potential burnout, and work towards building resilience. This building of resilience can be accomplished by being intentional and proactive when it comes to self-care, or prioritizing your own needs. That means honor the importance of self-care and make sure there is time and room for it in your life. Therapists can be proactive when it comes to their self-care by creating a plan of action. This plan of action will look different for each therapist because we are all individuals with varying and different needs. What works for one therapist may not work for another. For example, I enjoy reading and have made it part of my action plan to read at least one book a month. With that said I leave room for margin and allow flexibility, so if I don’t get to read 12 books at the end of the year I am perfectly okay with it. Keeping in mind the goal is not to read 12 books, but to make time to do something I enjoy doing
Therefore, I encourage you to spend some time in self-reflection to see what your needs are. For example, are your needs physical (sleep, food, exercise)? Are they more social (relationships, social support)? Or are your needs emotional (emotional flexibility, gratitude) in nature? Once you identify those needs, you can start coming up with your individualized plan of action. Look at the factors listed in this article, and connect your plan to the factors that resonate best with you.
Jaeda Dewalt put it best in her quote, “When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” Therefore, I leave you with this challenge: This year may we learn and practice how to embrace the human experience fully.
A great recipe by Dr. Leslie Korn to help relax and calm our nervous system.
Recipe: Repose Broth to Calm the Nervous System
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1-2 hours
Yields 2 quarts broth
2 qts. water
2 large potatoes, chopped or sliced to approx. Half-inch slices
1-2 c. carrots, and ends and carrot greens, shredded or sliced
1-2 c. celery and ends chopped or shredded, leaves and all
Handful of beet tops, turnip tops, parsley, onion, or whatever you have from the garden or left over from cooking and salads during the week.
2 cloves crushed garlic
Fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp. mineral-rich sea salt (supports adrenal function)
1 tsp. miso (optional at the end)
Place all ingredients (except fresh herbs, cayenne, sea salt, and miso) in a large stainless steel, enamel, glass, or earthenware pot. Cover and cook slowly for about 1 hour. After the vegetables are finished cooking, add fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of cayenne pepper along with sea salt. Strain the broth off, squeezing the liquid off the vegetables, then add a teaspoon of miso after the broth is finished cooking.
Serve warm or as a cool drink.