Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster while others appear to come undone? People that can keep their cool have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks.
Have you met a few resilient people during the past six months? I have. Those who have lost their loved ones to the Coronavirus, perhaps without even being able to hug or kiss them goodbye. The essential workers I see day in and day out, working the front lines at the hospital, the mailbox, or at the local grocery store have shown tremendous resilience in the face of this difficult pandemic. And those who have lost vital income when jobs were cut due to closure and business losses.
Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. Instead of falling into despair or hiding from problems with unhealthy coping strategies, resilient people face life's difficulties head on. This does not mean that they experience less distress, grief, or anxiety than other people do. It means that they handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth. In many cases, they may emerge even stronger than they were before.
Those who lack resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Disappointment or failure might drive them to unhealthy, destructive, or even dangerous behaviors. These individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.
Some people are born more resilient. Some get a better start in life with parents who give their children the space to learn how to overcome challenges on their own. For others, it's a skill learned over time. Both mindfulness and yoga practice can help us build resilience.
Don't assume that people who possess resilience see life through rose-colored glasses. On the contrary, resilience doesn't eliminate stress or erase life's difficulties. They understand that setbacks happen and sometimes, life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but they are able to move through the pain and grief in their own time. And emerge stronger.