Dictionaries define resilience as “an ability to recover from, or adjust, easily to misfortune or change.” The military takes that definition a step further by adding “an ability to grow in the face of stressors and changing demands.”
As one might guess, a military member’s ability to be resilient in the face of adversity is imperative, given the magnitude of responsibility that lies within the spectrum of national security. However, that ability does not have to be a military secret. For the benefit of those who might need some help in the area of resilience, what needs to be understood is that one’s ability to bounce back from stressful moments begins and ends with altering and/or improving a person’s lifestyle, or health.
What else needs to be made clear is that one’s health is not limited to the physical sense of the word. When it comes to working on resilience, health can be broken down into four parts: Physical, Mental, Social, and Spiritual.
Being in good physical health plays a major role in one’s ability in dealing with stress. The benefits of being in good physical condition not only have to do with the body, but also the mind. Science has proven time and again that the benefits of proper diet and exercise pay dividends in a multitude of ways when dealing with stress.
A “well-conditioned” body not only reduces the probability of medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and bad cholesterol, but also promotes better sleep patterns, increases self-esteem, which in-turn can limit the feelings of depression and anxiety.
To be clear, “well-conditioned” does not mean that a person must be a body builder, or a marathon runner to be in good shape. It simply means eating healthy; more fruits and vegetables and less fast food, and exercising regularly; any form of activity that gets the heart pumping and a good sweat going for a period that is comfortable and can be sustained for a few minutes at a time. For people who don’t have much experience with physical fitness routines, a doctor can make recommendations consistent with your current state of health.
Mental health is probably one of the more overlooked aspects of an individual’s health. This aspect of one’s overall health pretty much boils down to self-awareness about a person’s feelings before, during, and after a stressful situation comes along. For some it’s an easy area to address, for others it most definitely is not. Ask yourself; Am I ok? Do I feel sad? Do I feel angry? Do I have hope, or am I hopeless?
Experiencing any one of these emotions are a normal part of life. However, a fixation on sadness, anger, or isolation, could be an indication of something more serious and if left unchecked can lead down a road that makes resilience virtually impossible.
If you find yourself in a state where you believe you might need help, friends and family are a great resource, as well as medical professionals. When it comes to mental health, it’s important to be honest about your emotions and not allow pride or stigmas prevent you from reaching out for help.
Whether we like it or not, talking to the “lone wolves” in the room, humans are social animals, and we do better, when we belong to a group. The social health facet of resilience addresses that very subject of the human condition.
Let’s be clear. A healthy social life does not mean spending countless evenings in night clubs, or bars, drinking yourself into a drunken stupor, or “hooking up” with strangers. Fun as that may be, and although an occasional visit to these places with good friends, or family is not a bad thing, they only offer a short-term solution.
Also, if you are the socially awkward type, do not throw yourself into uncomfortable situations among people in which you do not relate. That’s just asking for trouble.
In social health, the focus relies on strong bonds with people you trust. This can be multiple relationships spread out among a multitude of friends and or family, or it can be one good one with a single individual. What’s important is that we all need that someone we can call when times get rough, and who know us better than we know ourselves and can identify when we are “off,” or unhappy.
If you don’t have a person in your life that can fill this role, that is okay. There are several support groups available that can be of assistance to anyone who needs it. Once again, medical professionals are the best resource to find the appropriate group to fit a person’s needs. Though, a Google search, or social media page would probably do a person just as good. I will always trust a doctor in providing the best care when it comes to support group referrals, but, I guess I’m just old fashioned.
NOT RELIGION! That statement will forever be the preface when it comes to addressing the spiritual health of an individual. It always makes me chuckle. I think because the subject of religion has become so taboo in today’s society. But I digress.
No, spiritual health does not have anything to do with religion. If you are religious, continue practicing your faith, whatever it is. If you are not religious, then your spirituality lies in your own personal values and moral code. That’s it.
Whatever you feel your place in the world is, continue believing in that, and foster it. And if you know people who believe the same as you, make social connections with those people and support each other. The same is true for people of faith. Practice your faith and lean on your religious community for support. Anyone seeing a common theme here?
Spirituality gives life meaning and purpose. It assures us that we belong in the world and gives us a reason for living. Good spiritual health can strengthen a person’s ability to see the good things in their respective lives, as well as provide a determination to persevere under adverse and stressful conditions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to difficulty and hardships, there are no magic words to alleviate the stress that can come about as a result of tough experiences. Life is full of moments that bring about seemingly insurmountable levels of stress many of which cannot be avoided.
Fortunately, stress and anxiety does not have to linger. Hopefully, I’ve provided some assistance on how one can be resilient when faced with such difficulties.
It’s important to remember that the different health themes I wrote about cannot be perfected overnight. Each one requires an awareness of self, and conscious choices to be made about one’s lifestyle. Changes may be necessary, and as we all know, change is not always easy. That being said, I feel confident that if an effort is made to improve one’s health in each of the previously mentioned areas, in turn, that person can expect to see their resilience improve over time.