Resilience has been defined by psychologists as the ability to adapt well to the difficulties in our lives including all kinds of adversity and stress. This ability decreases the risk for development of post traumatic stress disorder. Resilience can help those of us who are coping with significant health challenges like dealing with neuromuscular disease.
Research suggests that humans are actually quite resilient. Resilience does not suggest, however, that a person does not experience distress, but instead that they find ways to cope and adapt. Strong supportive relationships strengthen resilience. Other factors include skills such as planning, communication, and problem-solving, self control skills, and a healthy self image.
While personal characteristics influence resilience, the ability to adapt well to difficulty can be strengthened. General categories for building resilience include: building positive relationships; cognitive strategies related to how one views one’s self, problems and life changes; positive growth and goal directed behavior; self-care behavior, including maintaining life balance and flexibility; and spiritual practices. The best strategies for a particular person will depend upon that person’s individual characteristics. See the Resources section below for additional information regarding specific strategies.
Resilience can also be strengthened through looking at and learning from the past. Considering times when an individual has had difficulties meeting challenges and times when challenges have been successfully met can help one to learn how to overcome future obstacles.
Parents can help their children develop the skills that they will need to build resilience through teaching them the types of strategies discussed above. Additionally, family characteristics such as family closeness, positive rituals, listening and communicating well, providing a safe and nurturing environment, and promoting skills such as empathy and perspective-taking can aid children in developing resiliency.
Many people will need assistance in dealing with the challenges of life. Along with support from our family and friends, sources for help can include self-help and support groups and informational resources. For some individuals, counseling from a licensed mental health professional can be beneficial.
Research has shown that people can learn to be resilient and to face adversity well. For those of us coping with neuromuscular disease, strengthening resilience can enhance our ability to cope and thrive.
APA, (2010). The Road to Resilience. American Psychological Association website. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx# . Retrieved 12/28/11.
APA, (2011). Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers. American Psychological Association website. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx . Retrieved 12/28/11.
NIMH, (2011). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/complete-index.shtml . Retrieved 12/28/11.
WebMD, (2011). Building Resilience – Topic Overview. WebMD website. http://www.webmd.com/balance/tc/building-resilience-topic-overview . Retrieved 12/28/11.