Helping You or Your Clients to Develop More Resilience
Resilience is our ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward after a setback — to snap back into place after being stretched to our breaking point. When our difficulties include chronic illness and/or pain, the challenges can be both psychological and physical. Let’s explore some ways we can develop more resilience.
The Perception of Failure
The first ingredient involves our perceived shortcomings and our own definition of failure. Did a chronic illness diagnosis make it necessary to leave behind a career or an athletic interest we loved and enjoyed? Did our ongoing symptoms prove to be something a spouse or partner could no longer cope with?
Our perception of failure is critical to developing resilience. The lens through which we view our life experiences casts a certain tint to what has taken place and what will occur in the future. Are we viewing life through a pair of dark, gloomy glasses, or do we see things through more optimistic, rose-colored ones?
An optimistic perception is hard-earned for many people. It takes some cognitive retraining, positive affirmation and other conscious behavioral changes to shift our patterns of thinking. And for those of us with chronic illnesses and painful conditions, our distressing physical symptoms can erode optimism.
If we nurture our ability to find value and success within our current physical reality, then we are well on our way to unlocking one of the secrets of resilience.
Conversely, if we perceive life experiences as meaningless and futile, then we won’t have confidence in our ability to survive them and thrive despite them. This is the reason we need those rose-colored glasses – to help us move forward and achieve some positive outcomes for ourselves.
Accepting Some Truths and Creating a New Path
Another aspect of resilience is our ability to accept reality and to find ways to be creative within it. Sometimes we will need to explore new paths altogether. As a little child with juvenile arthritis, I readily accepted many aspects of my physical reality. For example, I knew that my chances of being a ballerina were quite remote, therefore, I didn’t spend much time pondering what I knew was outside of the scope of my physical ability at that time.
What I did instead was to build upon some of my attributes and pursue interests which were within my realm. My brain worked like a flowchart with the standard, “if not, then” logic. I always had a “then” in mind since I knew there would be some “nots.”
It definitely is more difficult to handle the “nots” as adults, though, since we tend to be more set in our ways and have more previous experiences with which to compare our current reality. But it’s still vital to our level of resilience to avoid getting caught in the trap of thinking only about what we cannot do. There are still plenty of things we can do.
Something Bigger Than Our Illness to Connect With
Looking to the world outside of our skin and connecting with something that holds more power than our illnesses can boost our levels of resilience. Whether it’s the overwhelming natural beauty of our planet, the love we feel in the company of other human beings, or a higher power, we have an array of choices when it comes to these larger-than-life concepts.
How do these connections help with resilience? We can gain strength and energy from them. They help us to not feel quite so alone in our struggles and can provide us with something to focus on that makes our illnesses seem smaller in comparison.
Now that we have focused on 3 key ingredients to resilience, let’s explore some ways to implement them:
- Redefine what failure means. Even in the midst of the most painful life situations, you have still managed to do something successfully. Identify it and celebrate it. Plan to achieve more success in the future.
- Is there an aspect of your physical reality that you have not yet accepted? Is it because you equate acceptance of some limitations with destroying what you’ve dreamed of accomplishing? Dream a different dream. Sure, it may be painful to dismiss or delay the achievement of a dream, but you have the power to revise your dream accordingly and in a way that will ensure success.
- What lies outside of your skin that is “larger” than your illness? A body of knowledge, a higher power, the love of your family, an activity in which you can completely lose yourself…the list is infinite. Pursuing these connections and interests can provide you with additional strength and positivity and will help you to look forward to what lies ahead.
Even if your natural level of resilience is limited by your life experiences, your personality or other factors, you can still work toward the goal of becoming more resilient. It may take practice and some time to instill the necessary habits that foster resiliency, but it will be well worth the effort.
Tina will be the featured presenter on our next webinar entitled “Using Intrinsic Skills and Traits to Help Overcome Chronic Illness and Pain.” Join us on Sunday, March 3, 2013 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST. In addition to her experience as a counselor and healthcare advocate, Tina has lived well despite chronic illness since she was a young child. Learn some of her strategies to help you, your clients, and patients live a more vibrant, peaceful life that includes improving physical symptoms as well. Cost is $30. 1.5 CE’s available for most mental health and healthcare providers. For more information and to register for the webinar, please go to: