On Resilience

Reflections of a former cancer patient.

We hear a lot lately about stress and its effect on the body. But stress management discussions actually lead us to a larger question, which is: how can we as individuals become more resilient?

What do we mean by resilience? We know that some people, no matter what ill winds blow their way, manage to cope and recover quickly. Others see themselves as victims, feeling helpless and powerless in the face of adversity.

You may have seen this quote:

Whether a pebble 
becomes a stepping-stone 
or a stumbling block 
on what you do with it 

You will have more power over how adverse events will affect you, and you can optimize your chances for a positive outcome, if you try some of the following:

 Individual skills

  • Cultivate a positive outlook. You can practice thought awareness; for example, do you notice that you often feel like a victim, or that you find you have things you can do to cope? You can transform unproductive into positive thinking, focusing on what is within your control to change. What can you try that might help?
  • Develop a toolbox of coping skills to reduce stress such as meditation, yoga or Tai Ji. (If you are reading this you are probably already trying acupuncture, chiropractic or massage!) Take one minute breathing breaks. Try some kind of dance or other movement to music. Experiment with painting or drawing, writing, or making music. Is there something you have always wanted to try?
  • Practice self-care: get high-quality, sufficient sleep, eat healthy food and get adequate exercise.
  • Control your environment. Surround yourself with helpful pictures, music, and other sources of comfort or support. What can you change in your environment to help you reach your goals?
  • Simplify. What can you delegate or get rid of? What is the one most important thing you need to do? Would it help to turn off the TV, access to social media, the Internet and the phone, at least some of the time?
  • Practice problem-solving skills.  Learn to identify obstacles and figure out ways around them.
  • Build competence and confidence in your strengths and abilities by setting doable goals and meeting them successfully.
  • Cultivate an ability to assess a situation. You can learn to have a more balanced perspective. Learn how to reduce distorted perception due to strong emotions. Learn how to manage strong feelings and impulses.
  • Develop and encourage mindfulness. Direct your awareness to what you are doing now, at this moment.
  • Identify support services. What people, Internet resources or books can help? Get help when you need it! Go to reputable doctors, and reputable websites!

On a family level

Learn to communicate well.

Develop strong, supportive, nurturing relationships. Who is in your support network?

Be flexible and adaptable. Change is a part of living:

(This is a quote from a Yom Kippur service)

Nothing ever stays the same 
What we were and what we are 
Give way to what we will become 
And this is no choice 
Except for what we choose to become 
The question is not will you change 
But how you will change 

On a community level

Find groups where you have a sense of belonging: a support group, a choir, a religious group. What else might work: a craft group? a workshop?

Find groups where you feel a sense of connectedness.

Join a group where you sense your collective efforts can make a difference.

Reach out to help others.

May your experiences be stepping-stones
May your path be filled with light

Penny Brill
February 2013

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