Resiliency: The ability to 'bounce back'
By Chaplain (Maj.) Mike Shannon, 509th Bomb Wing deputy wing chaplain
/ Published October 21, 2013
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Lock him in prison, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snow drifts of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven. Raise him in utter poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln. Have him born into a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a George Washington Carver. Strike him with infantile paralysis, and you have a Franklin Roosevelt.
Burn him in a schoolhouse fire so that doctors conclude he will never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham (he set the world's record for running a mile in 4 minutes and 6.7 seconds in 1934). Call him a slow learner and write him off as uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein. Have him born with the absence of all four limbs, and you have a Nick Vujicic.
When we talk about "resiliency," we are really talking about the ability to rebound, springing back or bounce back after being stretched or stressed. The names mentioned above are stories of individuals who were placed in very difficult circumstances in life that stressed and stretched them beyond belief.
Yet, they somehow found a way to bounce back.
Perhaps you feel as though you are being stretched beyond belief. What can you do to help yourself bounce back? Here are 10 tips experts at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury shared. If practiced, the tips may help Service members better adapt and manage stressful situations:
- Communicate regularly and effectively. Express what you think, feel or believe in a way that will help you solve problems and receive the outcome you desire.
- Maintain positive and personal connections. When you're challenged or stressed, sometimes it's easier to respond successfully with the support of family and friends.
- Avoid seeing a crisis as unconquerable. Even if you can't change a stressful situation, you can change your reaction to it.
- Be accepting of change. Accepting the things you cannot change allows you to focus on the things you do have control over.
- Move toward your goals. Focus on goals you can achieve in the near future instead of focusing solely on distant goals.
- Take positive, decisive actions. Don't view problems as permanent. Explore actions you can take that will give you more control over a situation.
- Look for opportunities for self-discovery. We can often learn valuable life lessons as a result of a traumatic event.
- Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and learn to trust your instincts.
- Keep things in perspective. Focus on the broader context and keep a long-term outlook.
- Look to a hopeful future. Visualize what you want your life to be, rather than fearful of what it could be.
As a spiritual leader, I would also add -- continue to grow in your faith.
Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub in their book "God Attachment," cite the works of Dr. Harold Koenig, founder and former director of Duke University's Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality, and Health, and his colleague Dr. David Larson, the former president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research.
Their research found that spirituality and religion have very positive effects on our mental health. Here is some of their research reveals:
· Spirituality helps to safeguard against the effects of stress and depression
· 'Religious involvement is more strongly related to mental health outcomes than to physical illness and mortality.' That is, being involved at church, in religious practices, or with the spiritual disciplines has shown to have more positive effects on mental health even on physical health and death rates.
· Personal involvement in spiritual practices and a religious community is related to a lower likelihood of anxiety disorders, depression, and alcohol and drug abuse and dependence. According to the research public religious community "is most strongly predictive of better health."
· Religious involvement in a faith community is also linked to a faster and more likely recovery from mental illnesses and substance abuse/dependence. The findings on substance abuse come primarily from studies on the efficacy of twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (pgs. 86-87).
If you are having difficulty in bouncing back from whatever you are facing in life, let me encourage you to seek help. There are a number of place you can go to seek additional counsel or help.
Some of the places you may look into are the Chaplains Corps, the Chapel Community, a worship community off-base, Mental Health, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, and there is always the Military One Source.
I believe any one of these agencies are willing to walk with you through good times, times of transition or even in difficult times. All to help you be more resilient.