Every now and again a particular word becomes so widely spread around that it ends up becoming “cool”, or the right thing to say. These unprecedented days we are living have catapulted the word resilience to this status. Pandemics, worldly spread epidemics, are not present in all chapters of history books; as a matter of fact, there have been a limited number of them, as far as historic registers are concerned. What then, does the word “resilience” have to do with the Coronavirus pandemics?
Resilience, according to Michaelis Dictionary, is “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress”; also, it has been defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. I particularly like the first one, due to the imagery evoked by the words. A good example could be elastic bands… we can pull them on both ends to opposite directions, “straining” or deforming them, only to see them recover the original shape and size when let lose. Likewise, human beings have the innate ability to adapt to life-changing situations and, many times, emerge even stronger than before. This is resilience.
Everybody’s life is full of unexpected twists and turns, which, in a way, make it the most thrilling of schools. Among examples of challenges people are most commonly presented with are the death of a beloved person, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job position or a serious illness. Each person responds in different ways to such situations, each person feels or thinks in a particular way, with unique thoughts and emotions. What determines how much resilience a person possesses is her ability to adapt well overtime to whatever she has faced, coming out of the hardship and suffering, many times, empowered by the experience.
It is true that some people are more resilient than others; however, this does not mean that resilience is a personality characteristic that only some people have. Rather than this, resilience involves a set of behaviours and attitudes that anyone can learn and develop. As a matter of fact, research on this field has shown that resilience is something ordinary rather than extraordinary. A good example is the efforts to reconstruct life from scratch that many people demonstrated after the massacres of World War II.
Increasing resilience is not an overnight process. It takes time and requires purpose and intention as any other constructive process, such as building muscles or learning a skill. One has to focus on a set of purposeful behaviours so as to increase resilience: building connections, fostering wellness, finding purpose and embracing healthy thinking.
Some healthy attitudes to be adopted when times are rough, as is the case of the long lasting social isolation inflicted on us who are essentially a social species, are trying to strengthen old relationships in any way possible and trying to form groups, to bond, which nowadays is by means of technology; taking good care of our body and avoiding poisonous substances, to make sure it can keep us standing; taking good care of our mind and spirit, through prayer and meditation; empathizing with and trying to help the ones in need; increasing self-awareness and reassessing our goals; keeping things in perspective and adopting a positive outlook. Still, accepting that which cannot be changed and learning form the past are behaviours which can contribute for a better outcome of life adversities and stressful moments.
Swerving from the many unexpected pitfalls on life paths is not usually in our hands. Whether we like it or not we will be repeatedly faced with setbacks of diverse intensity and importance. This is a fact inherent to the human condition. The good news is that there is something we can actually change, and this is our attitude, or the way we approach whatever comes our way. We cannot avoid pain, but we can choose the amount of suffering to experience. Yes, the “pop” word to have up the sleeve these days is definitely resilience.