When the coronavirus arrived, it became the focus of the world.
It narrowed our attention, it magnified its threat, it increased our anxiety and it amplified our vulnerability.
However, on the other side of our vulnerability is the truth of our deep resilience.
It turns out that you and I are far more resilient than we think we are.
To test your own resilience, here’s a quick self-assessment from Dr. Noah Shpancer. Answer the following questions as Generally True (GT) or Generally False (GF):
1. I am able to adapt when changes occur.
2. I can deal with whatever comes my way.
3. I try to see the humorous side of things when I am faced with problems.
4. Having to cope with stress can make me stronger.
5. I tend to bounce back after illness, injury or otherhardships.
6. I believe I can achieve my goals, even if there are obstacles.
7. Under pressure, I stay focused and think clearly.
8. I am not easily discouraged by failure.
9. I think of myself as a strong person when dealing with life’s challenges and difficulties.
10. I am able to handle unpleasant or painful feelings like sadness, fear and anger.
If you answer ‘GT’ to most of the questions (adapted from the Connors- Davidson Brief Resilience Scale, you may consider yourself a resilient individual.
In general, resilience is most widely referred to as “one’s ability to undergo adversity without suffering debilitating effects.”
And ...since the 1990s, we have discovered that resilience is our default mode.
In other words, resilience is a characteristic that ALL of us have!
For example, Lisa Butler of Stanford University found that “most individuals exposed to terrorism or other large-scale collective trauma experiences are NOT severely traumatized, but instead, exhibit remarkable resilience.”
Another well-known conducted after 9-11 examined resilience in a sample of over 2,500 New Yorkers during the six months following the attack.
Resilience was observed in over 65 percent of the sample.
Masten and Garmezy, in their own work with children, concluded that human psychological development is well-protected from failure and designed to succeed.
So, my dear reader, you and I are far more resilient than we think.
However, it is tempting to think of resilience as something you either have or you don’t have. In fact, research suggests that resilience is not so much a trait but a dynamic, reciprocal process,
In other words, resilience is a response ALL of us have to what is happening to us
And do you know what increases our resilience; social relationships!
Masten and Garmezy famously found that “Children who experience chronic adversity fare better or recover more successfully when they have a positive relationship with a competent adult.”
So my take-home message for you today is two-fold:
1. Your own resilience in the face of adversity is not completely up to you. Some of your success or failure depends on the luck of the draw. Moreover, past and present external conditions (both of which may be out of our control) may factor in our ability to "do" resilience—develop and deploy effective coping skills.
2. However, many aspects of our resilience are indeed up to us. In other words, we can choose to be resilient during this world-wide pandemic.
So here are four useful ways to think.
1. Nurture your relationships with others. Rather than isolate —nurture and invest in your social relationships. Call the ones you know and love on the phone. Be intimate with your partner. Be useful to others.
2. Increase your self-care. Intentionally incorporate those things that give you a sense of meaning, joy, peace and solace. In other words, choose to do things that make you feel good about yourself.
In other words, quit shooting yourself in the foot!
3. Open up your flexibility. Bend so as not to break. Accept your feelings, and consult your values in making decisions. Seek to adapt and find opportunity in crisis. Assess your situation fairly in a broad perspective. Don’t buy the first thought that comes to mind. Check the facts and tell yourself the truth.
4. Replace worrying with problem-solving action. Focus on those aspects of your situation that are under your control; and accept those that are not. Accept and face the challenge the world has placed before you. Instead of reacting from conditioned habit, respond from conscious choice.
And the wonderful response of your brain, (and I have reminded you of this thousands of times before, dear reader), is that it believes everything you tell it.
So when we lock onto these new decisions, it rewires itself so that these new decisions, including our resilience, not only become the way we think, they become who…we…are!
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available online at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.