The Coach is In…
“Resilience is “the core strength you use to lift the load of life.” — Amit Sood, MD
“Adversity has the remarkable ability of introducing the real you to yourself.” – M.B. Dallocchio, The Desert Warrior
Let me begin by offering a working definition for resilience. It is my definition. You are welcome to use yours. I think of resilience as the ability to overcome adversity in a relatively short time.
Resilience. Is it the sound of the word that speaks of strength? Resilience. Does it represent the dawn after an especially dark time? Resilience. Is it, as Dr. Sood suggests, “the core strength you use to lift the load of life.”? Where does it come from? Why do some people exhibit it, while others, struggle?
What we know is that it begins in our childhood. Dr. Ken Ginsburg, a Pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, developed the 7 Cs of Resilience centered around two main principles:
- Young people live up or down to the expectations that are set for them and need adults who love them unconditionally and hold them to high expectations.
- How we model resilience for your people is far more important than what we say about it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics summarizes the 7 Cs as follows:
- Competence This is the ability to know how to handle situations effectively. To build competence, individuals develop a set of skills to help them trust their judgments and make responsible choices.
- Confidence Dr. Ginsburg says that true self-confidence is rooted in competence. Individuals gain confidence by demonstrating competence in real-life situations.
- Connection Close ties to family, friends, and community provide a sense of security and belonging.
- Character Individuals need a fundamental sense of right and wrong to make responsible choices, contribute to society, and experience self-worth.
- Contribution Ginsburg says that having a sense of purpose is a powerful motivator. Contributing to one’s community reinforces positive reciprocal relationships.
- Coping When people learn to cope with stress effectively, they are better prepared to handle adversity and setbacks.
- Control Developing an understanding of internal control helps individuals act as problem-solvers instead of victims of circumstance. When individuals learn that they can control the outcomes of their decisions, they are more likely to view themselves as capable and confident.
Confidence built on competence resonates with me. From the time we are very young, we are constantly faced with obstacles (physical, mental) that we develop the skill to overcome. With increased acuity we learn what makes up our body, that our hands and feet are ours. We learn to touch with increased accuracy; we crawl, and then walk. These appear to be small measures, but they take roughly 9 – 13 months to develop.
Working alongside our physical prowess is our mental ability and our emotional control. All take years to ‘master.’ Along the way we have setbacks. Our ‘connection’ (our tribe – family, friends, and community) is a vital element in developing confidence. They support us when we are doing well, and when we are not. Often, the ability to ‘rebound’ from setbacks is a function of that love and support. We don’t feel ostracized, we feel accepted and love. This level of support helps fuel our ability to work through and to overcome the adversity.
Some of us are naturally more resilient physically or emotionally. I learned as an athlete how to build stamina, strength and keep myself healthy through diet and exercise. There was often an element of mental toughness (fortitude) that was involved. Based on the challenge and what I must adapt to, the psychological part is a critical component to how successful I will be in any given moment.
The emotional part can be the toughest to ‘manage.’ Depending on the challenge, some can be ‘emotionally hijacked,’ which often impedes their ability to cope with certain situations. People who are emotionally resilient understand what they are feeling and why. Another helpful component is that they have a healthy optimism which allows them to look forward with hope. This allows them to deal better with the stressors that surround them.
What helps fuel our resilience? Every Day Health cited, in an article by Katie Hurley:
Self-Control Flexibility, ability to cope, adaptability, acceptance, and willpower
Self-Confidence Strength, self-reliance, determination, resourcefulness, perseverance, courage, optimism, and humor
Personal Relationships Friends, loved ones, colleagues, and others
Purpose and Meaning Things that motivate or inspire you
Communities and Social Support Your tribe, including people who can empathize with your circumstances at life’s challenging moments
I have pointed out, in previous posts, that focusing on the things we can control and how we care for ourselves are important in our ability to be resilient. “What do I have control of” is a question I often ask to understand how much energy directed where will help the situation.
The other focus is how I am caring for me – Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spirit, and Socially (P.I.E.S.S.). If we ‘check in’ with ourselves in times of higher stress, we can find which of our PIESS are depleted and require attention. What are the things in my life that give me energy? What are the things in my life that deplete me? Answers to those questions can help us focus on the areas that matter most. That doesn’t mean that perfect or easy answers will come to mind, but at least we will be armed with the awareness of what matters most to our caring well for ourselves.
I must admit, this year has tested my resilience in a big way. This year felt like a year of ‘layering’ of stress – one thing on top of another. The pandemic and the uncertainty of survival was not just about fear and anxiety, but the length of time that we are required to deal with it; political – the divisiveness between conservatives and liberals leading to the lack of compromise and the ability to get more done; social injustice and white supremacy boiling over; having two more adults and three small children (family) move in in July for the foreseeable future. The combination of events has created layers of stress. I have tapped into many of my coping skills – self-care, optimism, the ability to know and express how I feel, and the love of community multiple times to cope with where I am. I have also tapped into other’s stories of resilience that brings perspective to my situation. I marvel at I/you/others ability to survive, to cope, to make do, to thrive in the worst of times. Part of my optimism is fueled by those stories; those faces that through all their difficulty can rise up and go on – piecing their lives back together, helping others do the same.
Yes, 2020 presented us with many challenges. It also offered us the opportunity to build greater capacity to cope and move on knowing we have developed an inner strength, greater compassion, the ability to deal with loss, the ability to rise one more time and become more.
“Resilience – the core strength you use to lift the load of life.”
Be well. Be more thankful for what you do have. Love more.
To a better you…
P.S My thanks to Everyday Health and their article on this subject. You can find it at What Is Resilience? Definition, Types, Building Resiliency, Benefits, and Resources | Everyday Health