How Resilient Are You?

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on January 23, 2018

Do you overreact to setbacks? Or do you take a long time to bounce back from them?

Maybe you need to become more resilient.

In this busy, often stressful world, we need resiliency to cope well. Being resilient is good not only for our mental but our physical health.

“Resiliency is the ability to rise above adversity or stress,” said J. Eric Vance, M.D., a psychiatrist with Carilion Clinic’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Resilient people are often exposed to serious risk factors in their lives, yet they bounce back or move on, coping successfully and healing quickly.”

Understanding Resiliency
“If you think about it, resiliency is an essential element of staying healthy in spite of stress,” he added.

Why are some of us better at it than others? 

There are many factors that affect how resilient we are, including:

  • Personality traits
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social relationships
  • Involvement in activities
  • Attitudes of confidence and faith
  • Living environment (whether it is safe and structured)

“All of these have positive effects on our health and well-being,” said Dr. Vance.

While almost everyone has at least a few of these protective factors, the challenge is to develop enough to help you rise above life’s adversities.

“The most resilient people have many protective factors and seem to be able to bounce back from even severe setbacks to regain some degree of health,” Dr. Vance noted.

That is not to say setbacks don't have an effect.

“Of course anyone will pay at least a small price for the most severe hardships, and even the most resilient carry scars from the past," he said. "We all have our ‘breaking point’—it’s just that resilient people are stronger than average.”

Happily, there is a growing body of research on resiliency, including how to teach people to be better at it. Many researchers, including some at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, are trying to understand the neurophysiology of resilient people.

Strengthening Resiliency
So what can you do to improve your resiliency now? First, explore and strengthen the protective factors you already have. Then develop new protective habits.

“We know that certain aspects of resilience can be taught and practiced, such as gaining better emotional control with meditation or prayer,” said Dr. Vance. “We also encourage people to strengthen their social relationships and embrace new activities and hobbies that bring a sense of competence and confidence. This will help them rise above challenges.”

Most of us know others who are resilient and who’ve risen above adversity. Observe their behaviors and try to learn from them.

Chances are you can be far more resilient than you think.
 
Learn more about how building social relationships can help keep you healthy.