In its most basic definition resilience is the ability to adapt or recover from stress or challenge in a healthy manner. Many used to believe that people were either born resilient, or not. That the ability heal and recover in the face of adversity was an intrinsic trait. Happily, we now recognize that while there are some internal capacities to resilience, qualities that support a recovery over time can be grown, built, and supported in ourselves and others.
Perhaps it was a natural outcome of the research on trauma, that there’s been renewed attention placed on the quality of resilience. As individuals, organizations and communities begin to invest in the 3 R’s of trauma-informed care (Realizing, Recognizing, and Responding), research in resilience offers hope in the face of the impact of trauma. Once we understand the prevalence of trauma and begin to see its impact in ourselves or others, we want to know what to do and how to respond.
Enter resilience development….By applying what we know about how to develop resilience we can be both proactive -helping support resilience in all people and also reactive -by adding these tools in our toolbox to provide intervention and support when a trauma has already occurred. Additionally, we now understand that resilience development is not just for children. Emerging science on neuroplasticity demonstrates that human brains continue to malleable well into our thirties, and likely beyond. We are never too old to learn to ways to cope, and to increase our ability respond and recover.
Here are three simple ways we introduce resilience development strategies into our work and lives.
- Build connections. One of the building blocks of resilience is “I Have” which refers to supports and services. Under this category we see key opportunities to improve outcomes and well-being by providing unconditional positive regard in our 1:1 interactions. We can also use our advocacy abilities to engage a network of support around an individual or family of both formal and informal supports.
- Be strength-based. So many of our historical systems are focused on deficits. And an unintended consequence of some of the research on trauma and adversity is that individuals can come to believe they are broken and beyond repair. By training our hearts and minds to find internal strengths and offer targeted feedback to the beauty we in another person’s abilities we add to the second building block – “I Am” which is comprised of personal, character traits. We can demonstrate to others what we see and value in them as individuals, perhaps showing them for the 1st time that they are worthy, and capable of being liked and loved.
- Teach skills. The final building block of resilience is “I Can” and promotes skill development in relationships, health, and advocacy. By helping others learn new skills, be supported while they try (and perhaps fail), practice and begin to use in more places in their lives we increase their internal locus of control, provide tools in the toolbox for future challenges, and the confidence that they know what to do to help themselves.