Building personal resilience

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ruth A. Monsanto-Williams
  • 21st Medical Group

We often hear the word resiliency, but what does it mean?  There are multiple definitions of the word resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; the ability to be happy or successful after something difficult or bad has happened, and positive adjustment in the face of hardship.

Military resiliency often refers to the training programs that support military personnel and their families in the development of mental, physical, emotional and behavioral toughness, designed to help people cope with adversity, adapt to change and overcome challenges. 

This means that to be resilient, one has to know how to cope in spite of setbacks, barriers, or limited resources. It is a measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing to overcome obstacles to get it.

Want to bolster your own inherent resilience? Here are five ways to go about it:

  1. Pump Up Your Positivity:  Resilient people are categorized by accepting negative and positive emotions, even in difficult and painful situations. Resiliency means finding redeeming value in most challenges and finding a silver lining in difficult times.
  2. Live to Learn:  Use difficult situations as an opportunity to grow and go forward. Ask yourself, “what is this situation teaching me?” Look at challenges as a chance to learn, problem-solve and build self-confidence.
  3. Take Care of Yourself:  Good health and a regular routine of healthy habits are fundamental to mental and physical resilience. Daily habits count. When you’re caught up on sleep, eating well and keeping stress levels low, you’ll be less fragile and less likely to fall into unhealthy patterns following a serious setback.  One of the best ways to nurture that is to take regular mental breaks, for example by developing a regular meditation practice.
  4. Hang on to Humor:  Playful humor enhances survival. Laughing reduces tension to more moderate levels and psychologically, choosing lightheartedness can be exceedingly empowering.
  5. Open Your Heart:  Being of service to others is a powerful way of stoking resilience. In studies, researchers found that serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness. When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put misfortune into viewpoint.