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January 17, 2014

Promoting psychological resilience after disaster


color=”#cc00cc”>Fri Jan 17, 2014

by Dr Jozelle Miller

Health Psychologist

Milton Cato Memorial Hospital

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good” – Elizabeth Edwards.

A research report done after the terrorist attack of September 11, by Bonanno et al stated “Bad things happen, and unfortunately they happen to most people.” Epidemiological studies indicate that the majority of adults are exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event.{{more}}However, not everyone reacts to post-traumatic events in the same way, and although most people experience distress and confusion, typically only a small subset of exposed adults develop post-traumatic stress disorder….MOST ARE RESILIENT!!!!

Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or simply not showing negative effects. It is a dynamic PROCESS, in which the individual exhibits a positive behavioural response or outlook in light of imminent distress. A host of studies report a robust relation between positive emotions and psychological resilience.

Multiple methodologies (e.g. self-report, observation, longitudinal studies) have been used to demonstrate that individuals who report resilience are characterized by positive emotions and attitude.

Resilient persons:

o Have zestful and energetic approaches to life, and they are curious and open to new experiences (Block & Block, 1981; Klohnen, 1996; Masten, 2001; Werner & Smith, 1992; Wolin & Wolin, 1993).

o They also use positive emotions to achieve effective coping outcomes by using humour (Masten, 2001; Werner & Smith, 1992; Wolin & Wolin, 1993), creative exploration (Cohler, 1987).

o Are generally relaxed (Anthony, 1987).

o Engage in optimistic thinking as way of coping.

Additionally, resilient individuals not only cultivate positive emotions in themselves, but they are also skilled at eliciting positive emotions in close others (i.e., family members, friends), which creates a supportive social network to aid in the coping process (Demos, 1989; Kumpfer, 1999; Werner & Smith, 1992).

Fostering an attitude of Resilience

Researchers have identified some key characteristics of resilience. Many of these skills can be developed and strengthened, which can improve your ability to deal with life’s setbacks.

1. Awareness:

Resilient people are aware of the situation, their own emotional reactions and the behaviour of those around them. In order to manage feelings, it is essential to understand what is causing them and why. By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain their control of the situation and think of new ways to tackle problems.

2. An Understanding that Setbacks are Part of Life:

Another characteristic of resilience is the understanding that life is full of challenges. While we cannot avoid many of these problems, we can remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change. Change is the only constant in life; when it occurs, we are expected to accept and adapt to our NEW REALITY.

3. An Internal Locus of Control:

Do you perceive yourself as having control over your own life? Or do you blame outside sources for failures and problems? Generally, resilient people tend to have what psychologists call an internal locus of control. They believe that the actions they take will affect the outcome of an event. Of course, some factors are simply outside of our personal control, such as natural disasters. While we may be able to put some blame on external causes, it is important to feel as if we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope, and our future.

4. Strong Problem-Solving Skills:

Problem-solving skills are essential. When a crisis emerges, resilient people are able to spot the solution that will lead to a safe outcome. In danger situations, people sometimes develop tunnel vision. They fail to note important details or take advantages of opportunities. Resilient individuals, on the other hand, are able to calmly and rationally look at the problem and envision a successful solution.

5. Having Strong Social Connections:

Whenever you’re dealing with a problem, it is important to have people who can offer support. Talking about the challenges you are facing can be an excellent way to gain perspective, look for new solutions, or simply express your emotions. Friends, family members, co-workers, and online support groups can all be potential sources of social connectivity.

6. Identifying as a Survivor, Not a Victim: (MOST IMPORTANT)

When dealing with any potential crisis, it is essential to view yourself as a survivor. Avoid thinking like a victim of circumstance and instead look for ways to resolve the problem. While the situation may be unavoidable, you can still stay focused on a positive outcome.

7. Being Able to Ask for Help:

While being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help. During a crisis, people can benefit from the help of psychologists and counsellors specially trained to deal with crisis situations.