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Keep Your “Reservoir” Full to Increase Your Resiliency

July 20, 2012

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from life’s major and minor setbacks by drawing on sources of positive strength, according to B.A Rogers.

 With over 25 years of counseling people, many who have experienced significant trauma, major losses or life threatening illness, I have frequently pondered why some seem to be more resilient than others.

Even more important, I have wondered whether we can we assist people in increasing their resiliency.   Even without those significant challenges and tragedies, life presents us with daily stressors that can deplete our “reserves” fairly quickly.  And it seems that the lower our reserves, the more susceptible we may be to react and respond more negatively to theses stressors.

 This seems to be one of the key factors – much of the research points to the benefits of keeping our “reserves” full, replenishing what we draw on to handle these daily stressors as well as the bigger challenges.   Certainly taking care of the basics – eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise, balancing work and play, making sure to have joy and laughter daily are all necessary ingredients.  And yes, it appears, the good news is that we can increase our emotional resiliency!

 Not surprisingly, one research study showed that those who counted their blessings (listed things that they were grateful or thankful for) vs. those that listed their daily hassles for 10 weeks felt better both emotionally and physically.  Those participants had the ability to step back and look at the larger perspective of their lives, so that the current stressors weren’t the only, or even the primary focus.   The key to resiliency is to not only “bounce back” during challenges and difficult times, but to even grow and to thrive.

 Darcy Smith, PhD offers 5 tips for increasing resiliency, including this focus on gratitude: 

  • find meaning in adversity
  • build a community of support
  • be hopeful
  • focus on gratitude
  • accept and anticipate change

 My suggestion is to add an additional tip, and that is to be mindful:  pain, stress and adversity can and will pass through our lives.  We can recognize it, observe it, and draw on our own strengths and the strengths of those around us to continue on.

A closing suggestion is to add the bamboo tree to your visualization exercises:  the bamboo tree must be one of the most resilient of the trees, bending and swaying with the winds and weather, drawing its strength both from the earth through it’s roots and the sun through it’s leaves.

Pamela Bryson, LCSW

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