What is Resilience?

March 04, 2021 by Coach Training EDU

What is Resilience

Resilience is something we hear about pretty often, especially in the last couple of years. With the COVID-19 pandemic turning our world upside down, our resilience has really been put to the test. But what exactly is resilience? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing?

Resilience can seem like something negative because it usually seems to be mentioned after you’ve experienced a problem or have been through a difficult situation. After overcoming a challenge, you’ll hear, “you’re so resilient.” If being resilient involves me experiencing and navigating my way through a stressful situation, why would I want to be resilient? 

However, resilience is a positive thing. Let’s dive into resilience so you can get an understanding of why. 

Psychology of Resilience

First, let’s look at the psychology of resilience. Resilience is defined as the process of adapting in the face of adversity, tragedy, threats, traumatic events or significant sources of stress. We’re all going to experience challenges, setbacks and tragedy in our lives; resilience is how we face these issues.

The study of resilience was really deepened in child psychology. Emmy Werner was one of the first psychologists to research resilience focusing on resilience in children. Her resilience research began with the study of a group of high risk children in Kauai, Hawaii in 1955 and tracking their behaviors until they were 40.

These children faced difficult conditions from their environment growing up such as poverty, parental alcoholism and mental illness. 

According to psychologists Werner & Smith, “One third of the children in this group grew up to be adults loved well, worked well, played well, and expected well.” The other children in the group struggled more in their adulthood with things like chronic unemployment and substance abuse.

Werner discovered that the one third who grew up to live in more positive, stable circumstances had similar characteristics:

  • At least one positive role model
  • At least one skill that they took pride in 

Werner concluded that one third of children that had some of these protective factors were less likely to succumb to negative risk, despite all the children having stressful situations growing up.

These protective factors such as having social support, being active or having skills to work on help you overcome the challenging situations that put you on the road to resilience.

Why is Matters

Resilience provides people with the strength to overcome adversity. We’re all going to encounter difficult situations in our lives, it’s how we solve these problems and our ability to face these challenges that allow us to prosper.

It can become very easy to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and resilience gives you the tools to prosper when experiencing adverse events. The more resilient you are the better you become at problem-solving. With coping better in the face of adversity, you learn how to manage your stress and become resourceful with your solutions leading to positive outcomes.

Resilience’s Affect on Health 

Resilience has been proven to benefit over individual well-being as well specifically impacting longevity and depression. 

A study conducted by Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey proved that people within the age range of 90-100 with better resilience have a 43.1% higher likelihood of living over the age of 100 compared to those in the 90-100 age range with lower resilience. This study concluded that resilience positively affects longevity at all ages.

Resilient people live longer.

In 2012, the International Journal of Population Research conducted research exploring the relationship between resilience and depression with refugee teenagers in Australia. It is not uncommon for refugees to face adverse situations and traumatic experiences which are the types of stressors that build resilience. The study found that teenagers who scored higher on their levels of resilience based on the results from surveys they took had less depressive symptoms and faced less emotional challenges. Fostering resilience proved to be a vital factor in reducing mental health challenges with refugee teenagers.

Types of Resilience 

There are four types of resilience: emotional resilience, physical resilience, mental resilience and social resilience. These different aspects of resilience can give you a clearer picture of the development of resilience and how we’ve all experienced it in our lives.

1. Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is connected to emotional intelligence and awareness with the ability to remain optimistic in the face of adversity. This type of resilience is intrinsic.

Imagine you’ve been let go from a job you’ve been working at for years because of external issues outside of your control. It’s an awful situation. You’ll probably feel betrayed, disappointed and panicked. After the initial shock and the worldwind on emotions that come with that, how do you calm your mind? That’s the process of emotional resilience, being able to control your emotions and move forward in a level-headed state after a serious emotionally altering event. 

2. Physical Resilience

Physical resilience is your body’s ability to rise to physical challenges and maintain stamina. This type of resilience is about pushing yourself. Physical resilience is common in personal trainers, fitness coaches and yoga instructors, just to provide a few examples. These professions are based in pushing yourself beyond the physical limits you currently have to become stronger. 

3. Mental Resilience

Mental resilience is about mental flexibility. Your ability to understand different perspectives, solve problems creatively and take steps towards your goals. This kind of resilience is also intrinsic. It’s about you pushing through thoughts, procrastination and figuring out what motivates you in order to move forward towards your goals. 

4. Social Resilience

Social resilience is about connecting with people. This type of resilience is directly related to your ability to maintain and build strong relationships. Social resilience is complex because there are so many different kinds of relationships such as family, colleagues, friendships and romantic partnerships.

Relationship between the Resilience

The interesting thing about these types of resilience is that they all tie together. In order to have positive and engaging social relationships which fosters social resilience, you need to be mentally resilient. You need to understand different perspectives to build meaningful, positive relationships and that’s mainly achieved by interacting with different perspectives.

Mental and physical resilience are also interconnected. Pushing beyond your current physical boundaries is also a mental game. You have to think about your goals and what motivates you to put yourself in the headspace to reach your fitness goals. 

Emotional resilience is tied back to social resilience. Let’s go back to the example of getting let go from your job. You’re on a rollercoaster of emotions, but in this frenzy of emotions you’re interacting with people you’ve worked with on a daily basis for years. It’s important to move past the initial shock and maintain these relationships. These people were a big part of your social support system for so long and they can serve that same purpose in the future. The role of resilience in people’s daily life is significant.

Resilience is a process and it’s usually built in the most stressful moments of our lives. However, it’s important to recognize resilience as a good thing and the benefits that come along with it. Consciously building resilience is a powerful step you can take to gain more control of your life and better prepare you for future challenges you haven’t experienced yet.

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