Opinion: How to help yourself become more resilient

Submitted photo: Dave Kraybill, Executive Director of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.

The second in a three-part series that explores our ability to uncover and nurtureour inner resilience and that of others.

When people, young or old, are going through a tough time, they usually don't stop to remind themselves that it would sure be in their best interest to be more resilient. Often, we're reactive and sometimes forget the amazing bank of coping skills at our fingertips. We can't always plan ahead for stressful situations, but we can build our resilience so that adversity will only make us stronger individuals. In that way, we serve as models for others, especially our children, who look to us for cues on how to behave.

Fight or Flight. When facing adversity, it is a human reaction to respond to our immediate rush of emotions. It's our inherent fight or flight mentality willing us to act first and ask questions later. Don't mistake that rush to judge as our instincts at work – as in that inner voice that tells us it's wise to run from a burning building. Instead it is that spiraling sense that we're losing control of our environment. It's at moments like that when our resilience can lift us above the fray.

How do we equip ourselves to be the best role models for others? We plan, think and then act. A couple important questions we can ask ourselves in stressful situations are: How can I respond? And, what can I do differently?

It's easy to fall into traps when our emotions take over: I'm upset. Therefore someone else is at fault. And they are responsible for making me feel better. Instead, we serve ourselves and our resiliency better when we ask ourselves: What can I do in this situation to improve the outcome for both myself and for others. In doing so, we are empowered to take back control.

Weathering the Storm. We shouldn't underestimate, however, our ability to overcome and to transform. Planning ahead is one great way to give us an edge. How can you enhance your resiliency toolbox?

• Find meaning in past adversity: Learn from what has happened and take decisive actions going forward. For instance, a slow economic recovery can deeply affect a small business owner, making for a lot of sleepless nights. Instead of letting frustration get the best of them, many owners now view their businesses differently and use what they learned to create new opportunities for the future. Do we want to battle adversity all the time? No! But facing it head-on allows us to put our inner resilience into practice. In retrospect, a past or current life adversity may have been placed in our path to make us stronger.

• Form a community of support: Whether with trusted people or places, good relationships go to the heart of what's essential when it comes to resiliency. For adults, perhaps that person is a spouse, life-long friend, sibling or relationship nurtured in a life interest or faith community. For children, it could be a parent, teacher or friend, in addition to the community support offered by schools, churches and after-school programs. The more connected your group, the bigger your safety net with those who will listen.

• Rely on the knowledge that life has a purpose and meaning. Challenges in life may be put in our path for a purpose: Adversity can make us become stronger and ready for more challenges in the future. This being said, a positive outlook can help. Maintain an optimistic outlook, while always keeping things in proper perspective. In doing so, you are able to build your stress tolerance and focus on the areas you can change, rather than those out of your control.

Continue the dialogue by reading all articles in this series. Part one defines what resiliency means and why it is important; while part three aids parents in helping their children be more resilient. For additional information on resiliency, check out Dr. Laurie Betts' Blog, 'Foundations for Life' on www.missionhealthyliving.org.

About the Foundation – The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation's mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit www.pottstownfoundation.org for more information about the Foundation. Discover Pottstown area's online community at www.missionhealthyliving.org to learn and share great information on how to lead a healthier life – including its series on resiliency. You can also follow Mission Healthy Living on Facebook and Twitter.

David Kraybill is the Executive Director of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.

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