Working Towards Resiliency

Unprecedented times…we’ve heard this so many times from the news updates that it’s become a common phrase in day-to-day conversations. This is not a post about the global pandemic, economic situation, the current rioting, or my personal thoughts on how to fill your time when staying home. Instead I want to talk about resiliency and what I’m doing to work towards it in multiple areas of my life. Hopefully some of these thoughts and steps resonate with you.

Defining Resiliency

Merriam-Webster defines resiliency as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.

In other words, resiliency is the capability of a person to deal with change, to deal with adversity, or to deal with challenging situations. But we’re not just dealing with all of these things, we’re recovering from them. We recover in that we either return to our earlier status, or we adapt and change because of our experience.

Resiliency: ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.

Merriam-Webster

Do we let the rivers of life run us down, change us into something we don’t want to be? Or, like the grand canyon, do we let the rivers of life create us into the awesome thing we’re meant to be?

We do have an academic theory of resiliency that tells us that it “is a means whereby people, through planned disruptions or reacting to life events, have the opportunity to choose consciously or unconsciously the outcomes of disruptions” (Richardson, 2002, p.310). The theory states that we’re at a point of homeostasis prior to any disruption. This homeostasis is where we’re at now, where we feel comfortable, where we live most of the time. Then stressors, adversity, and life events challenge this homeostasis to a point where we experience disruption. From this disruption we move into reintegration – where we experience one of four outcomes: resilient reintegration, reintegration back to homeostasis, reintegration with loss, or dysfunction reintegration. From disruption we can either become dysfunctional, return to some lesser level of where we were before, return back to that original state, or grow from it.

Adapted from Richardson, G.E. (2002). The Metatheory of Resilience and Resiliency. The Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(3), 307-321.

What makes us resilient?

But what makes us resilient? What allows us to act in a way to life’s disruptions that we grow instead of becoming dysfunctional or just returning back to our earlier lives?

There has and continues to be quite a deal of research about this. The first wave of research concluded that there are innate qualities, that we’re either born with it or not. The second wave of research focused on the decision process – we can and do choose actively how to reach to life’s events. The third says that we do have a decision to make, but recognizes that past events and other qualities help us to make this decision more easily than others.

So how can we become resilient?

Each person has in them the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity. We may not know it, or we may doubt it when we are in the midst of facing life’s disruptions, but we do. Each person has in them the force and drive to seek harmony and wisdom (Richardson, 2002). To paraphrase one of my favorite movies [Harry Potter], you must merely turn on the light when times are dark. Each time that we do choose to grow from adversity, we then have an increased level of resiliency. We grow through challenges. When we choose to return our earlier homeostasis we know we can get through it again, but don’t have an increase sense of ability or self. When we choose, or perhaps fail to choose to grow from our experiences, loss or dysfunction, our ability to face future challenges becomes reduced.

We have to choose each and everyday to grow, to continue on, to take as much as life can give us and use to be become a better version of our self, to become the most deliberate version of our self possible.

We have to choose each and everyday to become the most deliberate version of our self possible.

JW Harris

Resiliency might look different in different areas of our lives. Relational resiliency looks different from mental and from financial resiliency. Let’s dive into each of these for just a moment.

Relational Resiliency

Many of us have faced tough relationships, whether souring friendships or even abusive families. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to describe what these disruptions may look like from a relationship perspective. So how do we adapt and grow from these trying relationships?

When you experience tough relationship it’s often our tendency to fight or flight. But we have other choices. We can choose to practice empathy for tough friends, and be an active listener during tough conversations. We can choose to re-frame our own thinking during tough times with our friends and family members. Choosing to do so is how we grow, how we know that in the future we can come out of the dark and into the light. Starting small will build momentum that can help us see just how resilient we are in the future.

Mental Resiliency

We don’t like to talk about mental disruptions, about times when we struggle with our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. But it happens, to more of us then we know. I know I’ve personally felt this and still struggle with my own inner dilemmas. So how have I tried to grow from these experiences?

Remember that we are not alone, no one is. We may feel that way at time, and especially when we’re struggling internally. But whether it be friends, family members, peers, neighbors, mentors, or trained professionals, we have someone that we can talk with. I’m not a trained mental health professional, so I don’t want to shortchange you here if you’re looking for true guidance in this area. I just know that from my own struggles that it’s important to seek help, to be open with friends and family members, and to know that you do have the power to grow from these disruptions.

Financial Resiliency

Many people are experiencing financial disruptions right now. Whether they’ve lost their job completely, have had their hours reduced significantly, or just unsure what the future will do to their financial security, many people are feeling financial disruptions. Even if you aren’t one of these people, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience financial loss or uncertainty in your life in the future, at some point. So how can you grow from financial disruptions?

You might be thinking that an emergency fund is the best and possibly only way to be financially resilient. I’d partially agree with you; an emergency fund is a great way to work through financial disruptions. But many people don’t have them, or it’s not just an unexpected bill or change in income that we see as disruptions in our financial lives. Sometimes it’s being left out of a will, seeing another family member being favored financially, loosing an irreplaceable item (a favorite car), or some other life chancing situation. Sometimes we experience financial trauma, financial enabling, or financial loss.

Yes, we can minimize the severity of financial disruptions through prior planning, through building that emergency fund, and having insurance. The power of an emergency fund or insurance to help us through tough times can’t be understated. But for the disruptions that aren’t just purely financial, we have to rely on our internal desire to succeed financially. If your goal is to be wealthy, then you’ll keep on working on building your wealth. If your goal is to be independent, then keep working on independence. If your goal is to just live paycheck-to-paycheck, then wake up! You have to want more than this!

Read more about goal setting here.

Whichever financial goal you have, disruptions challenge us. Disruptions challenge us to either experience loss, return to our lives before, or grow with an increased ability to experience resiliency. In my own life I’m seeking to live a deliberate life, not just financially, but in all facets of my life. As I experience disruptions I’m seeking to grow and continue to learn more about my own ability to be resilient and to seek a deliberate life. I don’t ever want to return to the same status as before – I want to continually grow and be more deliberate in how I live.

Richardson, G.E. (2002). Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 307-321.

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