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Promoting Resilience in Yourself and Others

Date:Thursday July 8, 2021

Flexible materials, like stretchy fabric, rubber bands, or springs, are known for their ability to be moved, shaped, and stretched and still return to the same original shape. Resilience in people is similar: life’s circumstances may change your outlook in the moment or cause you to have a bad day or a bad week, but the goal of building resilience is to be able to ‘bounce back’ from hardships after they occur.


Many of the strategies that exist for building resilience are actually strong mental health strategies no matter whether you are currently bouncing back from something or not. Strategies like meditation, finding positive elements or lessons in a situation, and reframing challenges as opportunities can help you find your next move even when things aren’t particularly dire.


That being said, there is no reason to see building resilience as a way to minimize the challenges that first responders face: they are often major challenges or even traumatic experiences. The goal is to acknowledge the experience and the challenge associated with it but then to find a combination of next steps that will allow you and your colleagues to grow and return to your personal baseline. Here are three resilience-building strategies and how to employ them:


Finding Positive Outcomes or Lesson to be Learned

After the danger or challenge has passed, one way to return yourself to your normal mode of operating is to look for what, if  any, positive results have happened. Sometimes, these can be as simple as a renewed sense of gratitude for an aspect of your life after seeing something go poorly for someone else, but they also could be a lesson learned about how to be cool in a crisis and what resources are needed for you to work effectively as a first responder. It’s not about immediately being outwardly cheerful, but rather a way to find meaning and purpose that helps you to move forward.


Meditation and Reflection

While spending time alone with your thoughts or clearing your mind may not seem like an “activity,” many people report feeling more calm, alert, and happy after developing a habit of reflecting quietly or meditating. This kind of exercise can be more about finding emotional regulation than about developing a spiritual habit, but if prayer or another spiritual practice is important to you, meditation and reflection can be a place for those activities.


Reframing One’s Perspective

There are a variety of questions that can be helpful guides when you feel stuck in your perspective and are, as a result, feeling lost, frustrated, or in pain. Not every question applies to every situation, but these may be good starting places:


  • How can a weakness I have/others have in this circumstance be a strength in other circumstances?
  • What positive results, outcomes, or possibilities am I downplaying when I focus on a given negative outcome?
  • What evidence do I have that things could improve or that this negative experience will eventually diminish or end?


Again, these strategies aren’t meant to minimize your real experiences: they are instead methods for not having to live in the most intense feelings of difficulty forever. Here are some resources on resilience building to check out:


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