Dictionary.com defines RESILIENCE as:
the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
In Wikipedia the following points are made:
“Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had. There is a common misconception that people who are resilient experience no negative emotions or thoughts and display optimism in all situations. Contrary to this misconception, the reality remains that resiliency is demonstrated within individuals who can effectively and relatively easily navigate their way around crises and utilize effective methods of coping. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with positive emotionality; they are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.”
I believe that a large part of this flexibility and inner strength can come ONLY when you have come to accept yourself as an imperfect human being. When we expect ourselves to be perfect, not acknowledging the pain of certain situations, we are sitting ourselves up for self-bashing. [When talking to parents of new infants with Down syndrome, I worried most about those who were in the “Gee I’m so grateful G-d chose us!” mode; those who admitted to the pain where better able to take the steps needed to keep their families emotionally healthy.] When we engage in overthinking how terrible we are, we waste our energy there, instead of taking active steps to cope.
Here are my ideas on weathering challenging foibles of life:
First we need to ascertain exactly what is bothering us, what is the situation. Is this caused by something you have control (even partial) over, that you can rectify? Is this caused by someone else that you cannot control (or choose not to control)?
If the distressing situation was caused by something you did, you need to forgive yourself for not having been perfect. (This does not mean absolving yourself from taking rectifying action in the future, by the way….) For example:
1) I think I should have done more fun things with my children when they lived here, and been less concerned on accomplishing my “to do” list. This does not make me a bad parent (I DID do things with them, just not as much as I think I should have) or an evil person. I was trying my best, and there were definite reasons for what I did. (However, this does not mean that I shouldn’t be careful not to let my “to-do list” preempt time with my grandchildren!)
2) I was terribly overweight for many years, and that was because I made poor choices. It does not mean that I was an un-worthy human being. It means that I needed to take action, but that means NOTHING about my value as a human being.
If the situation is caused by someone (or something) you can not control (including G-d), you can acknowledge that the situation hurts, and that you wish things were different. You need to accept the fact that you can not necessarily change the situation. Your Uncle Al may one day wake up and decide that his low opinion of you is wrong (and therefore stop criticizing you), but it may not be likely. Neither is your teen likely to become more neat, nor are you very likely to win the lottery and become rich. YOU can only decide what you are willing to live with, which may often be things you do not like, but the ramifications of change may be worse (ie, “jumping from the frying pan into the fire). The major point here is that you do not need to feel bad that there IS the situation, that you don’t like it, and that you are doing the best that you can. For example:
- Shortly after Ricki was born, I was at a friend’s new baby’s son circumcision feast. Several people there praised me for being so “upbeat”. I turned to a good friend and confided “Sometimes I feel like SCREAMING that this was not the baby I had prayed for.” SHE had a baby with cancer; she understood, nodding. She said that “accepting G-d’s will” does not mean saying that everything is great. It is simply keeping your connection with G-d, and not throwing everything out the window.
Some situations are very painful. Acknowledging that you feel that way is what allows you to move on and deal with it.
Once we have accepted our feelings, and recognized ourselves as fallible human beings, we can move on to the next step. The next step is to make an action plan to deal with the situation. I will not go into great detail now, as I have covered this before HERE and HERE:
But let me add that when dealing with stressful situations, part of the plan needs to be dedicated to reducing contributing triggers (ie, the need to eat healthy, sleep well, etc). And try to be kind to yourselves as well.