We know that individuals handle adversity in many different ways and that the different approaches and strategies that they make use of have been learned and shaped by the culture, society, and family systems that they grew up in and of which they are part. But some common skills and attitudes emerge.
- Being connected to others. Relationships that can provide support and caring are one of the primary factors in resilience. Having a number of these relationships, both within and outside of the family, that offer love, encouragement, and reassurance can build and support resilience, by developing new friendships, for instance.
- Being flexible. By definition, it is a key component of resilience and one of the primary factors in emotional adjustment and maturity. This requires that an individual be flexible in his thinking and his actions, such as by trying something new.
- Being able to make realistic plans and take action to carry them out. Being able to see what is, rather than what you would like is a part of this skill. Being proactive rather than reactive and assertive rather than aggressive or passive are components of this skill, for example taking a Red Cross course in CPR and First Aid.
- Being able to communicate well with others and problem-solve both individually and with others. This includes basic communication, listening, and problem-solving skills, such as by working as a team member within your community.
- Being able to manage strong feelings. This requires being able to take action without being impulsive and responding out of emotion. It also encompasses the ability to put emotions aside when clear thinking and action are required. Being able to use thinking as a way of managing one's emotions is a key component of this skill. For example, when you're angry or hurt, think before you act.
- Being self-confident. Having a positive self-image is critical if a person is to be able to confront and manage fear and anxiety in his or her life, such as by helping someone else.
- Being able to find purpose and meaning. Being able to make sense out of what is happening and to find meaning in it is critical if one is to be able to manage the feelings that are aroused in a crisis. Spiritual and religious practices are often a component of this factor, including acting on one's values.
- Being able to see the big picture. This factor is often closely aligned with #7 and #5. Optimists in general are better able to see the bigger picture than pessimists. They are more likely to see good and bad events occurring in their life being temporary rather than permanent. This, too, will pass. They are also more likely to see events as having a specific impact on certain areas of their life rather than having a pervasive impact on their entire life or their future. Last of all, they are less likely to blame themselves or someone else for the hard times. Optimists avoid the blame game. They hold themselves and others accountable without the emotional dose of blame.
- Being able to appreciate and use humor appropriately. Whether humor is "sick" or "dark" often depends on the setting. Laughter may have healing powers. For example, if you're not feeling well, watch a funny movie.
- Being able to take care of yourself, e.g., diet, exercise, financial health, etc. First responders and health care professionals are often major offenders in this area. They often assume that the rules do not apply to them, but they do. Make a SMART Plan for exercise.
- Being able to care for others physically and emotionally. Occupations and volunteer activities that involve caring for others can often build resilience, by volunteering in a shelter or a food bank, for instance.
"Duct Tape Isn't Enough": Survival Skills for the 21st Century. Module I, pages 4 and 5