By Caitlin Kelly
I found this recent New York Times story interesting, which offers several specific tips on how to build your resilience:
Much of the scientific research on resilience — our ability to bounce back from adversity — has focused on how to build resilience in children. But what about the grown-ups?
While resilience is an essential skill for healthy childhood development, science shows that adults also can take steps to boost resilience in middle age, which is often the time we need it most. Midlife can bring all kinds of stressors, including divorce, the death of a parent, career setbacks and retirement worries, yet many of us don’t build the coping skills we need to meet these challenges.
I’ve long been interested in, and I most admire, people who are resilient — partly because if you’re not, life can end up morass of poor-me-why-me? misery.
Having said that, if you’re struggling with chronic illness and/or persistent poverty, let alone both, it’s damn hard to get out of bed in the morning with optimism.
But a strong filter also creates real problems, because it effectively lies about reality to both the healthy and the sick. It lies to the healthy about the likelihood that they will one day suffer, hiding the fact that even in modernity the Book of Ecclesiastes still applies. It lies to the sick about how alone they really are, because when they were healthy that seemed like perfect normalcy, so they must now be outliers, failures, freaks.
And this deception is amplified now that so much social interaction takes place between disembodied avatars and curated selves, in a realm of Instagrammed hyper-positivity that makes suffering even more isolating than it is in the real world.
And here’s a new, great list of helpful tips on how to build resilience from my friend and colleague Gwen Moran, writing in Fast Company magazine.
I have friends and family who’ve survived sexual abuse and assault, negligence, brutal and costly divorces, serious illnesses…It’s not just a matter of surviving, (which can be difficult and isolating enough!) but coming out the other side with some hope or optimism intact.
You have to somehow believe it’s going to get better, even with much current evidence to the contrary.
I’ve written here a few times about some of the challenges I’ve faced, even as a relatively privileged white woman: mental illness and alcoholism in my family of origin, multiple family estrangements, job losses and protracted job searches, three recessions, multiple surgeries, divorce, criminal victimization.
But…it could always be worse.
I was struck, limping for a month through multiple European cities wearing a large and very visible brace on my right leg after re-injuring it on a bike ride in Berlin, how many people sympathized: “Oh, poor you!” or “You’re so brave!”
My choices? Stay and continue on, and limp, or leave in the middle of a cherished and otherwise wonderful vacation; popping painkillers and wearing my brace were not a big deal, and probably looked worse to others than it felt to me.
But bravery to me is a much deeper, and stronger quality.
You can only know really know how much you can handle once it’s thrown into your lap — often without warning.
If you have health, friends and some savings, tough times are more bearable than if you’re ill, broke and lonely, when it can feel like the whole world is aligned against you.
I decided to marry my husband after he responded with grace, speed, decisiveness and generosity to a crisis within my family. His resilient and optimistic character revealed itself in ways that no movie date or romantic holiday could ever have shown me.
His resilience was one of — and still is — his most attractive qualities.
I value resilience highly, wary of people who spend their lives throwing pity parties, especially the otherwise privileged who are shocked! when difficulty strikes.
We have an example of resilience in our home, a weary little geranium plant who I’m always sure is about to kick the bucket at any minute. Instead it keeps on blossoming and blooming, even on its two scrawny stems.
Do you value resilience in yourself and others?