Did you know that the term Psychological Resilience was borrowed from other sciences including epidemiology? That’s right, the conversation about our ability to mentally and emotionally cope with crises came from the study of how to stop the spread of disease, including viruses. In microbiology, as well as ecology and other fields of study, resilience is the ability and rate of a system to recover from the disturbance and return to its pre-disturbed state. While I have seen some great conversations on whether or not we actually want to return to our previous state, resilience will at the very least get us through this crisis, where we can determine what is next.
Resilience is frequently partnered with other terms to describe various system’s responses to stimuli. For example, an Ecologist might discuss resilience vis-à-vis resistance. The latter being the ability of an ecosystem to remain unchanged when being subjected to a disturbance. In the Psychological world, resistance has some other connotations, but I’m going to stick with it for a minute because I like the analogy of a forest fire.
The fire is the virus- it is already burning, and without the aid of a vaccine, it is going to burn for a bit. But not all forest fires are created equal. Some forests, like the sand pine scrub forest in the OCALA National Park, have very low resistance because the ecosystem is dry and the tree’s bark is thin. However, what sand pine lack in resistance, they make up for in resilience. Fire actually causes their cones to open and their seeds thrive in the charred ground.
Much like old growth forests, what you have planted and how deep the roots go will help determine your resilience. Is your forest full of underbrush and weeds? Do you lack the self-care that prevents dangerously dry conditions? We’re all going to get a little singed, but putting in the work will help prevent everything for burning up completely.
The American Psychological Association’s 10 ways to build resilience:
- Maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others
- Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems
- Accept circumstances that cannot be changed
- Develop realistic goals and move towards them
- Take decisive actions in adverse situations
- Look for opportunities of self-discovery
- Develop self-confidence
- Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context
- Maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished
- Take care of you mind and body