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How you can become more resilient

LORY POUNDER
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

FRISCO ” Everyone experiences crisis, change and loss in their lives, but knowing how to deal with these situations is what sets some people apart.

Resilience is a trait that can help people readily recover from hard times and it is something that can be learned and developed, said licensed psychologist Barbara Leffler, Ph.D., R.N., C.S.



“We live in a stressful time in our culture and our country,” she said. “Being able to cope with stressful times and changing situations is what resilience is all about.”

It is a relatively new part of psychology that developed out of positive psychology, which has been around about 10 years, she added.



Some characteristics of resiliency include authenticity or being true to oneself, flexibility, being open to new ideas, accepting responsibility instead of blaming others, recognizing what is within control and the ability to find meaning and challenge in the demands of life, Leffler said. And what it equates to is the ability to bounce back more quickly from hardships.

For example, a resilient person faced with serious illness would address their feelings, fears instead of feeling hopeless and giving up. They may try to learn as much as possible about the disease, reach out for support and see it as “this is something I have to confront and develop a plan,” Leffler explained.

Another important aspect of resilience is believing in a purpose beyond oneself, she said, adding that it could come from religion, nature, a love of the arts or something else. Also, volunteering or helping others is a component.

Everyone is born with a different temperament and depending on how that interacts with life experiences can determine how resilient someone is, Leffler said. However, it can also be learned.

With children, by setting realistic expectations, parents can help them develop resilience. When expectations are too high, a child has less success, feels more out of control and may give up, Leffler explained.

“The whole idea of resilience really came out of positive psychology and research done with people who experienced overwhelming stresses and losses,” Leffler said.

A major obstacle to resilience is negative thinking. Some people automatically think the worst, give up or blame others, Leffler said. To become resilient, people have to change that kind of thinking, she added. For some, that negative thinking may be a sign of depression and then they should seek treatment. For others, recognizing this pattern is the first step to changing it.

“What’s come out of this positive psychology movement is that that there is more research … so what we can recommend to people is science based … and there’s more research coming out all the time,” Leffler said, adding that some of the other components of positive psychology include optimism, happiness, hope and humor.

Leffler recommended that anyone interested in learning more about resilience should talk to a professional or look into reading materials such as “The Resiliency Advantage” by Al Siebert, Ph.D.


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