The Resiliency Rx – check-in to check-up
Resilience is the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances. It is a trait that allows us to exist in this less-than-perfect world while moving forward with optimism and confidence. From a psychological research perspective resilience is a term of collective skills (I’ve included 28elements below) which are developed during the childhood years.Many of them can be enhanced or corrected with help – in other words resiliency can be taught, to both children and adults!
Resiliency is required not only to deal with day-to-day hassles, but also for more exceptionally stressful events. Stress such as that experienced when you are going through a divorce, lose your job, suffer a bereavement, fail a significant exam, or are diagnosed with a serious illness, require an ability to respond to these acute stressful situations.
If you are resilient you are better able to face the stressful slings and arrows that one encounters in a lifetime, rather than resorting to maladaptive coping strategies such as escapism (gaming, having affairs), self-medicating (abuse of alcohol, drugs), or breaking down (depression, burnout, anxiety attacks). Hence, we like to think of resiliency as the super multivitamin – and the daily prescription (Rx) provides protection from environmental stressors which might, potentially, make us unwell.
There are a number of tests of resilience – for children, youth and adults. They can be self-administered. I have adapted selection of questions from various tests below to provide some examples of some of the items that are sometimes assessed. I remind you, the test in this blog is not an empirically tested diagnostic test, it serves instead as a potential check-up of your current aspects of functioning – a check-in check-up.
The RED DOOR Resiliency Rx – quick check-up
Let’s begin with some questions about how you see yourself, and then explore other categorical elements of resilience. Select the frequency that you experience the following thoughts/ feelings or experiences:
How I see myself
It stands to reason that how you see yourself will influence how well you feel you can respond to a stressful situation. Self-efficacy, our belief in our ability to influence the outcome of a situation is a key aspect. If we do not believe we have any chance to change an outcome we are forced to sit inert, whilst unfortunate events happen ‘to us’. How we see ourselves, our positive self-affect(self-liking)is also an aspect of resilience, as is our self-esteem(sense of self-worth). If we think positively about ourselves and see our worth, we can withstand adversity’s impact on our feelings towards ourselves, and our ability to be positive in the future.
A series of beliefs about ourselves, especially if they are distorted, can compromise our ability to cope. If you see yourself as a ‘loser’, or an ‘idiot’, you will expect that situations are likely to end in a negative position. When stress occurs, those who harbour perfectionist distorted fears, such as a strong fear of making mistakes or have doubts about your actions to the extent that you are forced into in action, maybe in for a harder time when the going gets tough.It stands to reason that how you see yourself will influence how well you feel you can respond to a stressful situation.
On the four questions above I would expect a score of 10 or above to indicate that you see yourself well in terms of ability to be resilient. *
Framing and reframing situations
How you see the situation, and can challenge one’s original interpretations of a situation – the ability to frame and reframe – also influences your overall resiliency. Cognitive distortions – beliefs that you hold about the world, influence how well you can respond to it. If you tend to catastrophize about what may happen, you create a lot of additional internal anxiety for your system to deal with, beyond that which is presented by the original situation.Additionally, comparing your work or yourself to others is a guaranteed way to build doubt in yourself over the long run. Even if you are the cleverest, you probably won’t also be the most charming, or good looking, or most popular, or best educated, or best dressed. The list of comparisons you can make is endless, and the only guarantee is that you will, eventually, fall short.
Your ability to brainstorm creatively about resolving problems will lead to confidence to address challenging situations, just as having a positive attitude about challenges, learned optimism also helps. Being present, and mindful, is essential. Tackle each problem step by step and don’t fret over the parts that are a long way off from being realised. Many concerns may not materialise. If you focus on all the potential problems you may encounter in the futurebefore you make a particular decision, it’s enough to make one hide under the covers for days on end, rather than face up to making needed decisions today.
Being grateful is not just for hippies. Being grateful and keeping gratitude lists encourages two positive resiliencies boosting aspects – firstly, the ability to see that many things are good, even when not everything is good, and secondly, the recognition that there are a lot of people who would be happy to have half of what we have. Altruism, and helping others rise, will help you install the ability to bounce back into your own psyche.
On the five questions above, I would suggest that a score of 17 or higher indicates that you frame, and reframe, situations in a positively resilient manner. *
Current coping mechanisms
Take a moment to consider how you cope with stress now, as it is very likely that you will utilise the same coping mechanisms in moments of acute stress. Maladaptive stress responses include self-medicating through alcohol consumption or recreational drug use, escaping through game playing (on devices or with people), and avoidance (procrastinating, avoiding going out). There are healthier coping mechanisms that you can learn. A good place to start is in identifying the stressors in your life and how your body responds under stress (for example stomach pains, headache, fatigue, shaking) so that you can identify these symptoms relationship to your anxiety experience. Learn calming techniques, breathing, relaxation, colouring, and mediation to help calm your body. If you lack assertiveness, consider assertiveness training. Practice stress management techniques (blog coming shortly on this specific topic).
If you score less than 12 on the four questions above, it may be time to evaluate your current coping mechanisms in terms of ability to be resilient over the long term*.
Making the most of your support network
In order to be resilient, you need to be able and willing to ask for help and lean on people. What is particularly important, and a key element of our Teen Resiliency Rx course is understanding who are your real friends and differentiating them from those you simply spend time with. We all need someone, actually more than one, person we know has got our backs. Sometimes even trustworthy friends cannot be there for us in a crisis, because of their own life situations, so having a diverse network of support is important, especially for teenagers. Encourage your teenagers to have friends both inside and outside of school.
Resilient people also have healthy relationships with people they spend time with. Theyhave robust boundaries – they understand what is their responsibility and what is yours and do not get those mixed-up. They do not hold negative cognitive distortions about how others see them, and have the skills to appropriately deal with conflict in relationships. All of these skills can be taught if you consider yourself enmeshed in other people’s drama, or constantly thinking people hate you.
I would consider a score of 14 or over to demonstrate that you are doing well in building supportive networks around yourself, providing a safety net, in case you need it. *
Are you committed to your purpose?
If you have had your path in life written for you by others, perhaps your parents or as the trailing partner of an expat, you may feel a lack of purpose. This is because you are not pursuing your own goals, rather than those of others. It is important to have a personal sense of purpose about your own life. If it needs some temporary adjustment because of your circumstances, that can be incorporated. You need to know where you are going, and why it is important for you, or you will not feel satisfied when you get there. Build a personal growth plan and an action plan so you feel directed. Manage part of your time to achieve these goals. Believe in yourself, be confident , and committed to your purpose. Enlist help if you cannot do this on your own. Remember, it is a sign of strength to ask for directions, not a sign of weakness.
Part of being committed to a purpose is to ensure that you make it to the finish line. Your health is a priority. Many of us place our health needs on a backburner because of today’s pressing needs. Your body and mind need you to be as healthy as you can be, so that if an acute stressor occurs, you have your health to rely on.
If you score 13 or more you are on your way to your purpose. If you score below this, please consider what you can do to help yourself build purposeful resilience into your daily plans*.
How did you do?
If your resiliency check-up went well, then congratulations. If your scores didn’t add up as we recommend, then you might like to think about which resiliency building areasyou can develop. At REDDOOR we regularly have courses on resilience for teens and for adults. For more information contact as firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please remember this is not a true empirical diagnostic test. Low scores indicate you can work on areas, high scores do not guarantee that you will be resilient when hit by a crisis. If you have any concerns about your resiliency score contact our team at RED DOOR for more discussion. email@example.com