By SHARON OTTS, LCSW, CSAT, CMAT
As we enjoy this time of year when we formally celebrate our freedom, I can’t help but reflect on the chain of events that culminated in the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
After suffering the indignities and hardships of oppression and inequality, there were people that were able to “rise to the challenge.” They made a plan and took action, which started forming a path for the choices and liberties that we have today. This situation helps convey the concept of resilience, which is simply the ability to adapt to life’s challenges, setbacks, misfortunes, and traumas.
You will still experience the emotions that are connected to these situations like grief, pain, anger, and can still function at both a physical and emotional level. The highest level of resilience involves the ability to not only cope with difficult situations but to come out of them even stronger. Those among us who are lacking in this trait have more of a tendency to dwell on problems, blame others, feel victimized, or become overwhelmed.
Working for Pine Grove, we see individuals and families on a daily basis that are struggling to recover from painful and difficult mental disorders and addictions, many of a chronic nature. Although there are numerous and varied interventions that come into play in the treatment and recovery process, developing a mindset of resilience is very effective in the instruction of how you can come to your own assistance.
Resilience encompasses elements of the mind, body, and spirit. There are some methods of thinking and behavior that can be used to build and strengthen these abilities.
Emotional health is about cultivating a positive state of mind. Try to frame your life in the slogans of optimism such as “The glass is half-full rather than half empty,” and “If life gives me lemons, I will make lemonade.”
The concepts of hope and faith are important in this area. Find a way to engage with your spiritual side and develop a connection to something bigger than yourself. You may accomplish this by attending church, praying, meditating, and experiencing nature. These behaviors generally result in feelings of peace, contentment, and acceptance of life on life’s terms and the reality that our existence is a journey with periods of joy as well as times of sorrow.
Establishing positive, supportive relationships is also an essential component in this process. Make time in your life to nurture relationships with the people who love, support, and accept you. Simple activities such as eating together, playing board games, watching a movie, and taking a walk do make a difference. Attending support groups and participating in church activities also are beneficial. Getting involved in connected relationships brings a sense of personal satisfaction.
Learn the skill of reframing life’s challenges. Resilience does not make your problems go away. However, you can develop a way to see past the problems and still find enjoyment in life.
Embrace the concept that life’s obstacles, including failure, are just a part of the journey to success. Each obstacle is an opportunity for personal growth. Appreciate the benefits of hard work and perseverance because anything of value usually does not come without some struggle or sacrifice. Learn from your past experiences and reflect on how you handled hardships. Understand what worked for you and what was ineffective. Be proactive and figure out what needs to be done and make a plan of action.
Cultivate a feeling of self-worth, give yourself affirmations daily, and reflect on your strengths and the people in your life who love you. Make each day meaningful and find activities that give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Search for satisfaction and joy in the little things in life like a beautiful sunset, a rainbow, and birds singing.
Practicing daily self-care behaviors is one of the most important steps in developing resilience. Pay attention to and take care of your needs and feelings. Get enough exercise and sleep, eat healthy, have a physical, and visit the dentist. Learn and practice stress management and relaxation by starting the day with a meditation and ending it with a gratitude list. Practice your spiritual beliefs through prayer and participation at church.
Most of us will be faced with difficult situations and tragedies in our lifetime and these will affect us, but they do not necessarily have to define who we are and who we will become; there are skills that can help us “rise from the ashes.”
Sharon Otts is the Program Coordinator for Pine Grove’s Family Program.