Everyone experiences stress and trauma throughout their lives. With adequate support from relationships and environments, individuals can often endure these times and maintain mental health. The capacity to avoid risks and thrive in spite of trauma is called resiliency.
Resiliency is the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. It means that you remain stable and maintain healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning in the face of disruption or chaos. If you have resiliency, you may experience temporary disruptions in your life when faced with challenges. For instance, you may have a few weeks when you don’t sleep as well as you typically do. But you’re able to continue with daily tasks, remain generally optimistic about life and rebound quickly. An individual’s resiliency is largely innate but is also affected by experiences and environment.
Resiliency isn’t about “toughing it out.” It doesn’t mean you ignore feelings of sadness, or that you are emotionally distant, cold or unfeeling. It doesn’t mean you always have to be strong or that you can’t ask others for support -- in fact, being willing to reach out to others is a key component of being resilient. Resiliency offers protection against developing such conditions as depression, compassion fatigue, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. How? Because resiliency can offset risk factors (like a lack of social support, being bullied or previous trauma) that make it more likely that you’ll develop a mental illness in the first place.
Just like with most physical health problems, the fewer the risk factors and the more resiliency factors, the less likely a person is to develop a mental health issue and the more likely they are to recover if they do. Resiliency is important for the treatment and management of severe and persistent mental illnesses and non-preventable mental illnesses as well. That’s why actively working to promote your own mental well-being is just as important as protecting yourself from such physical conditions as heart disease and diabetes.
How Can You Build Your Resiliency?
The Centers for Disease Control defines disease as the absence of effective antibodies. According to J. Eric Gentry, master traumatologist, the antibodies used to maintain strong mental health are called “psychospiritual antibodies.” He lists them as: self-regulation, intentionality, perceptual maturation/self-validation, connection and self-care. According to Gentry, the absence of psychospiritual antibodies can result in issues such as compassion fatigue, which is prevalent in the “helping professions,” and that strengthening these antibodies can provide a boost to the immune system.
How to Strengthen Self-Care Antibodies
Physical: Eat healthy foods regularly, practice preventive medical care, participate in aerobic activity, get enough sleep, take vacations.
Psychological: Practice self-validation, make time away from demands, write in a journal, say no to extra responsibilities, decrease stress in your life.
Emotional: Connect with others whose company you enjoy, laugh, cry, play with animals and children, express anger through social action (ie. letters to newspapers, donations, marches, gatherings), love yourself.
Spiritual: Spend time in nature, find spiritual connection or community, sing, pray, meditate, do yoga, listen to music, be mindful of what is happening in your body and around you.
Professional: Take time to eat lunch, connect with co-workers, make quiet time to complete tasks, set limits, arrange your workplace to provide more comfort, get regular supervision, balance your workload.
If you would like more information on psychosocial antibodies or help with building resiliency, contact EAP to schedule an appointment.