What Is Resilience?

Coping With Crisis

Resilience
Resilience helps people cope with life's challenges. Dougal Waters / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life.

At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a significant role in not only the outcome but also the long-term psychological consequences.

What Is Resilience?

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster while others appear to come undone? People that can keep their cool have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks.

Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. These problems may include job loss, financial problems, illness, natural disasters, medical emergencies, divorce, or the death of a loved one.

Instead of falling into despair or hiding from problems with unhealthy coping strategies, resilient people face life's difficulties head on. This does not mean that they experience less distress, grief, or anxiety than other people do. It means that they handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth.

In many cases, they may emerge even stronger than they were before.

Those who lack this resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Disappointment or failure might drive them to unhealthy, destructive, or even dangerous behaviors. These individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.

Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life's difficulties. People who possess this resilience don’t see life through rose-colored lenses. They understand that setbacks happen and that sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover.

Instead, resilience gives people the strength to tackle problems head on, overcome adversity, and move on with their lives. In the wake of traumas such as the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster, many individuals demonstrated the behaviors that typify resilience.

Not only were they able to remain strong in the face of almost unbearable loss, they were able to carry on and even offer emotional support to others affected by the same tragedies.

Even in the face of events that seem utterly unimaginable, people can marshal the strength to not just survive, but to prosper.

Factors That Contribute to Resilience

Some individuals come by these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain unflappable in the face of challenge. However, these behaviors are not just inborn traits found in a select few individuals. According to many experts, resilience is quite common, and people are very capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient.

Social support is another critical variable that contributes to resilience. Mentally strong people tend to have the support of family and friends who help bolster them up in times of trouble.

Other factors associated with resilience include:

  • Holding positive views of themselves and their abilities
  • The capacity to make realistic plans and stick to them
  • Having an internal locus of control
  • Being a good communicator
  • Viewing themselves as fighters rather than victims
  • Having high emotional intelligence and managing emotions effectively

Explore the articles below to learn more about resilience, test your skills and learn how you can learn the behaviors you'll need to survive a crisis.

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