Mental Resilience: Bouncing Back From Adversity

"We're all more capable than we think we are." – Sel Ledermen, PhD "The sun will come out tomorrow." "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." "Put on a happy face."Nothing is more annoying than a handful of trite clichés when you are battling adversity and would really prefer a little sympathy, but these Pollyanna-like clichés point out that it is far healthier to develop the ability to bounce back from adversity than it is to remain mired in misfortune.

The Power of Resilience

PD Family and Lifestyles 15061 Sel Ledermen, PhD, a Manhattan psychologist, defines resilience as "the ability to decide that you want to be your best and that you can deal constructively with the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." He points out that in bouncing back from adversity, you may not get exactly where you want to be. Instead, Ledermen says that resilience is the ability to decide that no matter what happens to you, you are going to learn from it. "Resilient people accept responsibility for their lives and their choices, and they understand what's gone wrong so they can fix it."Resilient people are better able to cope with what life dishes out because they learn to deal with present stressors as well as future adversity, adds Robin Dee Post, PhD, a Denver psychologist. They are able to bounce back from stresses in an adaptive, active, healthy way, Post explains. They feel effective and powerful, not helpless. After dealing with loss, trauma, or stress, resilient people can refocus on what is ahead without feeling overwhelmed or allowing past events to have a negative impact.

A Lesson in Resilience

My husband and I learned the value of resilience first-hand when a business merger cost him his job just weeks after his company had transferred us to a new location hundreds of miles away from our friends and family.We suddenly found ourselves alternately dazed, despairing, and panicked with three small children, a stack of bills, no health insurance, no income, and no idea how we would manage. Sleep became a desperately needed, yet elusive, escape. We alternated between a sense of dread and a sense of hopelessness as we sought ways for him to get his job back. I developed a bad case of bronchitis; he became listless and lethargic. We were both irritable and moody.It was not until we began to look forward rather than back that the unbearable weight began to lift. Focusing on opportunities rather than on our loss allowed us to begin moving ahead. We began setting new goals. We re-evaluated our priorities. This made things infinitely better for our entire family.It has been a long, nerve-wracking, and sometimes frightening climb. We have taken missteps here and there, but we have learned and grown more in the last decades than we ever would have thought possible during those first, horrible months. Since then, we have waded through smaller financial setbacks and subsequent career decisions. We are currently rearranging our lives to cope with a loved one's sudden and devastating disability. Our parenting skills are constantly challenged by two teenagers and a pre-adolescent. The lessons in resilience we learned all those years ago are still helping us cope today.

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