We’ve all seen news coverage of natural disasters, fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. We’ve seen the people who lost everything. And yet, they seem to have the strength to go on, saying they’ll rebuild. How can they possibly recover from such a terrible experience?
Just as a boxer rises up from the canvas after having been knocked down, some people find something inside of them to give them purpose and direction. This inner strength enables them to recover from what most of us see as overwhelming and insurmountable. We might say such a person is resilient.
What exactly is resilience? What qualities characterize resilient individuals? How can we become more resilient? Let’s explore what makes up the traits and qualities of a resilient person.
Recognizing the Factors Associated with Resilience
Understanding resilience requires acknowledging the role of various factors derived from our life experiences, our relationships with others, and the environment. These factors are adversity, risk, vulnerability, protective factors, and outcomes.
Resilience is only essential when confronted with adversity, such as losses, trauma, and unforeseen life events. The deaths of loved ones, the loss of a job, a divorce, an illness, an accident, or a natural disaster set the scene for resilience: We must have something to overcome and cope with so our resilient qualities and efforts can appear.
What we do for a living, our lifestyles, those we love, and where we live may put us at risk for adversity. We might engage in unhealthy lifestyle practices (smoking, abusing alcohol or drugs, not exercising, overeating), alienate others we care about via our behavior, or suffer a financial loss.
People have different risks of experiencing trauma, loss, or adversity, so it follows some will be more vulnerable regarding the potential impact of traumatic events on them. Vulnerability may also reflect being in poorer health, living alone, experiencing barriers to getting help, or having minimal financial resources.
Protective factors include personal qualities: Healthy and supportive relationships with others. Being more aware of the importance of taking care of our health, getting regular physical exams, not ignoring troublesome symptoms, taking proper prescription medications, and being attentive to the impact of the environment on us regardless of where we live.
Resilience can be built by choosing to be prepared for extreme weather events, knowing community-based social services or emergency-oriented agencies exist should we need their help, and even joining a neighborhood crime watch organization or being an active member of a local religious organization.
A supportive convoy of others — our interpersonal safety net of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers — also provides us with the opportunity to receive (and give) emotional and interpersonal support, information, and advice in times of crisis.
The Qualities of a Resilient Person are Advantageous in Helping Cope with Adversity
The common qualities of a resilient person include:
- Maintaining a positive outlook on life
- Being realistic about what we can accomplish
- Appraising preparing for what the future might hold for our family and us
- Setting and striving for goals we’ve set for ourselves
- Completing tasks important to us and our family
- Developing practical coping and communications skills
- Regulating our emotions and making good decisions, especially during stressful or crisis-filled times
- Recognizing the importance of spirituality in our personal lives
Positive Outcomes Associated with Resilience
Resilient people have less difficulty coping with trauma, loss, and adversity; are less vulnerable to the impact of those events; have greater self-esteem and self-confidence; and have healthy relationships with others. Significantly, they rebound more quickly and recover more fully after a traumatic life event.
Indeed, they grow more resilient!
Developing the above qualities of a resilient person will serve you and your family well personally, interpersonally, physically, and spiritually.