Resilience: Attitudes and Skills

30th April 2015 | By More

ResilienceResilience depends on supportive, responsive relationships and mastering a set of capabilities that can help us respond and adapt to adversity in healthy ways:

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Personal Control

Resilient people focus on events over which they have some influence or control rather than adopting what researchers have referred to as a “victim’s mentality” and constantly asking, “Why me?”. Those who believe in their own capacity to overcome hardships and guide their own destiny are far more likely to adapt positively to adversity.

It is for this reason that adults must communicate in an emphathic way to children that while they have had little, if any, control over the emergence of certain adverse events in their lives, what they can learn with the assistance of supportive adults is to gain increasing control over their attitude towards and the constructive ways in which they respond to such negative events.

Executive functioning & self-regulation

These skills enable individuals to manage their own behavior and emotions and develop and execute adaptive strategies to cope effectively with difficult situations.

Programs that actively build skills for planning, organization, impulse control, cognitive flexibility, and other executive functions can also improve the abilities of adults with limited education and low income to cope with, adapt to, and even prevent adversity in their lives and in the lives of their children.

Cultural Traditions & Faith

Adults and children who are solidly grounded within such traditions are more likely to respond effectively, when challenged by a major stressor or a severely disruptive experience.

Health & Wellness

Increasing evidence suggests that regular physical exercise and stress-reduction practices (such as mindfulness and meditation) at all ages can alter brain structure and function, while also reducing the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.

Contributory or Charitable Activities

Participation in activities that involve helping or enriching the lives of others, add meaning, purpose, and resilience to our lives. I have long advocated that we regularly introduce opportunities for children to engage in such activities as an effective intervention for reinforcing resilience.

Avoid Blaming the Victim

There is no ‘resilience gene’ that determines the life course of an individual irrespective of the experiences that shape genetic expression. The capacity to adapt and thrive despite adversity develops through the interaction of supportive relationships, gene expression, and adaptive biological systems. When overcoming the odds is erroneously viewed as simply a matter of individual motivation or grit, the failure to succeed is perceived as the fault of the individual, and ‘blaming the victim’ becomes the most frequent response.

This misinterpretation has contributed to public policies that actually work against helping children to become more resilient. An example that is offered is the practice of removing a child from an environment that is unsafe but failing to provide opportunities necessary “to restore the relationships and build the capacities that underlie resilience.

Is It Ever Too Late?

We conceive of resilience as a “mindset” associated with particular skills and coping behaviors, so there is no reason to believe that resilience cannot be nurtured throughout our lives. The capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. A growing body of evidence shows that the coping skills that support effective adaptation in the face of adversity are built through a developmental process that occurs over an extended period of time, from infancy through adolescence and into the adult years.

Extensive evidence collected over decades of research points towards the powerful influence of a composite of personal, relational, and contextual factors that are associated with positive outcomes in the face of adversity. Drawing on this powerful knowledge base, all prevention and intervention programs would benefit from focusing on combinations of the following: (1) facilitating supportive adult-child relationships, (2) building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control; (3) providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities, and (4) mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

Compiled from an article by Dr Robert Brooks (Clinical Psychologist & Author – Harvard Medical School)

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Category: Mental, Resilience

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