We all have experienced some kinds of difficulties, stresses, or adversity in our life, such as failures at school, break-ups of intimate relationship, loss of family members, suffering from illness, and so on. Each change affects us differently, bringing us a flood of thoughts, strong emotions and uncertainty. While some people are trapped into long-term insomnia, less appetite, low mood/depression, and even suicidal thoughts/attempts, some people generally adapt well to life-changing situations and stress. What makes the difference? This can be attributed to resilience.
01 What is resilience?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is defined as the process of adapting well in the face of trauma or tragedy, threats or other significant sources of stress (Southwick et al., 2014). But actually the concept of resilience is complex and may have specific meaning for a particular individual, family, organization, society and culture. Besides, resilience is more likely to exist on a continuum that may present itself in differing degrees across multiple domains of life (Southwick et al., 2014). For example, some people may be very resilient in workplace, but not as resilient in their personal life and relationships. Your resilience may also change over time, and the more you learn about resilience, the more potential you have to integrate its concepts into relevant areas of life. So the idea of resilience is relative and depends upon different situations. What are some of the qualities of resilience? In other words, what does a resilient person look like? Two American scholars, Kathryn M. Conner and Jonathan R.T. Davidson (2003) came up with certain characteristics/traits that resilient people have, which may help you better understand this concept. These characteristics may include: viewing change as a challenge or opportunity, recognition of limits to control, engaging the support of others, close and secure attachment to others, personal or collective goals, self-efficacy, past successes, realistic sense of control, sense of humor, action-oriented approach, patience, tolerance of negative affect, adaptability to change, optimism, faith. A resilient person may not necessarily have all the traits above, but should have some of them, which help the person tolerate all the sufferings in life.
02 What are the factors contributing to resilience?
Since resilience varies from person to person, situation to situation, what are some of the factors influencing our resilience? Researchers have identified numerous factors that contribute to resilience. They are called protective factors and can be grouped into three categories: individual, family, and community. Individual factors include emotional regulation, perception of control and ability to impact one’s own life, self-esteem and self-efficacy, ability to dream or having a sense of purpose in life, social skills and communication skills, empathy, sense of humor, physical well-being, higher intellectual capacity and cognitive competencies, easy temperament. Family factors include good parenting, low family stress, sound parental mental health, and so on. Community factors include: supportive extended family engagement, a close relationship with a mentor, positive school experiences, safe neighborhood, close community, other social support, part of religious or faith community, and so on.
03 How to enhance our resilience?
After looking at the factors contributing to resilience, you may have an idea of how to enhance your resilience. But we still want to provide you some practical suggestions. Sydney Ey, Ph.D. an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University has developed a Resilience Building Plan worksheet. It can help you strengthen your resilience step by step.
1. Recognize Your Signs of Stress.
a. Where do you feel stress in your body?
b. What are some of the bad habits you engage in when feeling stressed?
2. Focus on Building Physical Hardiness. a. What kind of small changes can you invest in to improve your health? (Better sleep, better nutrition, hydration, exercise, etc.)
b. List one small change you can make now.
3. Strengthen the Relaxation Response – Calm Body and Calm Mind. a. List some activities at home that could help you relax. b. List some activities at work that could help you relax. c. Try out some new relaxation skills such as mind
d. Try some self-soothing activities such as:
i. Tactile (Holding something comforting or soothing)
ii. Smell (Smell of lavender, fresh air)
iii. Visual (Puppy or kitten photos, looking out the window, etc.)
iv. Auditory (Listen to music, listen to sounds of nature)
v. Taste (Drinking some tea, eating chocolate)
4. Identify and Use Your Strengths.
a. Describe a time when you were able to overcome or handle a major challenge in life.
b. What did you learn about yourself?
c. What personal strengths did you draw upon?
d. Draw upon an image of when you were the most resilient.
e. How might you apply this strength now?
5. Increase Positive Emotions on a Daily Basis.
a. Identify sources of humor or joy.
b. Express gratitude, visit someone or write a letter.
c. List your accomplishments.
6. Engage in Meaningful Activities.
a. Notice what happened in your day that was meaningful on a regular basis.
b. What kinds of activities did you find meaningful?
c. Identify activities that put you in the flow. (Enjoyable things you do that cause you to lose track of time.)
7. Counter Unhelpful Thinking.
a. Write down what you are thinking about when you get stressed and then ask: What is the worst that can happen and could I survive it? What is the best that could happen? What would I tell a friend in a similar situation?
b. If you can’t stop thinking about something, write about it a couple of times over a 4-week period for about 15 minutes each time. Notice how your story changes or your perspective becomes clearer each time.
c. If you are being hard on yourself, practice self-compassion and learn to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a mental break or a pat on the back.
d. Remember a hero, a coach or a mentor that encouraged you when you doubt yourself.
8. Create a Caring Community.
a. Connect with friends and family on a regular basis.
b. Identify your sources of support
ii. At home.
iii. In the community.
c. Practice good communication and conflict resolution skills.
Last but not least, seek counseling/psychotherapy for help when necessary. Sometimes traumatic things happen and it may totally change our life and our personality. At this time, it may be very difficult to go through it if only depending on ourselves and people around. It is necessary to gradually restore our resilience in the professional setting of counseling/psychotherapy.
Wish you were able to constantly stay calm when facing the adversities in life and stay still no matter how followers bloom and wither, and how clouds roll and spread.
美国心理学协会（APA）将复原力定义为在面对创伤、灾难、威胁或其他重大压力源时能够适应良好的能力(Southwick et al., 2014)。但其实复原力的概念较为复杂，并且对特定的个人、家庭、组织、社会和文化都有特定的意义。此外，复原力更有可能处于连续谱系中，在不同的生命阶段或领域里表现出不同的程度(Southwick et al., 2014)。例如有些人在工作中的复原力较强，但在个人生活和私人关系中的复原力却没有那么强。而随着时间的推移，你的复原力也会发生变化，并且你对其学习了解得越多，你就越有可能将其融入到你生活的相关领域中，变得越来越具复原力。所以，复原力的概念是相对的，并且视不同情境而定。
 American Psychological Association, The Road to Resilience (n.d.).
 Connor, K.M. & Davidson, J.R.(2003). Development of a new resilience scale: the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC). Depress Anxiety. 18(2): 76-82. doi: 10.1002/da.10113.
 Southwick, S.M., Bonanno, G.A., Masten, A.S., et. al (2014). Resilience definitions, theory and challenges: Interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5:25338.
 Sydney, Ey,. Resilience Building Plan Worksheet.