Resilience is the biological and mental ability to engage adaptively with disruptive life stressors, improve them, and bounce back better. Degrees of resilience exist; challenging contexts to steadily foster innovation and amplify resilience strategies.
Seed of Resilience, oil on canvas by author
Source: Original oil, Frank John Ninivaggi MD, 2010
COVID and demanding times make renewed attention to resilience and well-being timely and practical. Spotting and naming emotions broadens a sense of safety, self-controlling managerial skills, and social connectedness. Resilience-enhancing psychoeducation contains the seeds of resilience discussed here.
Emotional Literacy is identifying, understanding, and using emotions. Accepting and positively reappraising feelings amid challenging events is essential. This mental fluidity amplifies psychological and neural connectivity, promoting empathy, optimism, and compassion. Thus, such skills minimize feeling “out of control” and promote proactive self-management. Self-efficacy and self-agency entail realistic appraisal, preparation, and prudent mental equipoise. As an asset, an internal “locus of control” means having realistically developed competencies and resources to prevent and cope with stressors and emerging disruptors.
Emotional Intelligence Guards against “burnout”
The elements of emotional literacy are the building blocks of emotional intelligence, Understanding language, reading, learning problem-solving, and applying these in real life to achieve intended goals shows intelligent behavior at any developmental stage. A broad range of intelligence skills reflects the diversity of human ingenuity.
The unexpected challenges of the last several years have harshly upset health, personal lives, social routines, jobs, businesses, and economics at individual and global levels. What had been routine is gone and continues to change. The phenomenon of burnout, with its exhaustion, callousnessand sense of utility emerged a decade ago, only to be pounded by COVID and its unique biomental challenges. “Making adjustments” is a phrase that simplifies handling these immense complexities. While no one approach is broad enough to manage these emerging dilemmas, emotional literacy may be a central strategy undergirding many approaches, making burnout less likely.
Motivation and Self-efficacy
The likelihood of burnout can be minimized by periodically stepping back and mindfully prioritizing one’s clarity of purpose—short, medium, and longer-term. This can be reviewed and refined progressively. When the “good’ is not sacrificed for the “perfect,” realistic intentions and values emerge. Thus, burnout trajectories lose their potency. Stepping back and seeing the broader view helps reformulate forgotten routines, such as a healthy diet, exercise, and self -care. The significance and satisfaction of personal relationships loom high amidst these basic givens. Motivation and self-efficacy enhance resilience. Mindfulness as a sensitive awareness expands emotional awareness and broadens emotional intelligence, a pillar of resilience.
Resilience denotes the ability to bounce back to healthy functioning when one is under stress. Adaptive recovery is facing an unexpected challenge and navigating through its unanticipated course while constructing positive outcomes. Predispositions include neurobiological, genetic, constitutional, and temperamental factors (Masten & Reed, 2005). Thus, dynamic adaptation to threats and failure in the face of adversity coupled with learned life experiences provide the building blocks for innovative solutions. Resilience is not only a response to trauma recovery but also an adaptation to illness.
Processes within resilience include coping skills as steps in responding to unexpected changes. Personal and environmental reconfigurations aim to reinforce safety and restore equilibrium. Central to resilience is the capacity not to become disabled but to experience short-term shut-downs as manageable pauses in recovery. Thus, resilient stability supports inner strengths to recover rapidly from tolerable disruptions. Outcomes become abilities to sustain functional working levels, develop durable sensitivity to disruptions, and less a result of stress. This form of emotional literacy transforms toxic stress into tolerable stress. Equally necessary is learning to avoid such stress-provoking situations. This resilience enhancer helps expand earlier coping abilities to resist decompensation and more readily bounce back. Tolerable disruptions cease to be overwhelmingly stressful.
Martin Seligman (2011), states that stress reactions are typically distributed. Within a month, most return to where they were before the trauma. Post-traumatic growth occurs at one end of the spectrum; a few continue to suffer and require ongoing help. Individual factors play significant roles in results.
Skill-building tools help develop and reinforce resilience and post-traumatic growth. Essential tools include executive functions, coping skills, emotional intelligence, and supportive relationships. Supportive relationships—caring for others—family, friends, and trusted professionals, are meaningful relationships, An emphasis on listening enriches interpersonal meaning, opening previously hidden opportunities. Optimism promotes recovery by viewing adversity as a solvable challenge, not as unbearable. A realistic appraisal of situations permitting acceptance of what cannot be changed puts a functional perspective on problem-solving with goals. Changing conditions present nuanced reconfigurations—expanded solutions.
Loss Amplifies Self-understanding
Collaboration with others supports decisive action. Viewing loss as the opportunity for enhanced self-understanding and psychological growth counters hopelessness and helplessness. Loss can amplify self-understanding by building self-confidence. Seeing a loss in the broader context of one’s life softens the acuity of its immediacy. Thus, reframing one’s narrative and shifting from a narrower to a broader focus is an opportunity to see beyond just ourselves. Mindful attentiveness uses protective resources to shield from toxic stress, fostering steady recovery to cope with stress as it occurs.
Realistic Optimism and Key Protective Factors
Protective factors include biology, self-awareness, self-regulation, mental flexibility, optimization, self-efficacy, interpersonal caring and support, and a vast net of social supports. Realistic optimization minimizes risk by prioritizing:
- The ability to face and work through fears and uncertainties
- A solid moral compass
- social support networks
- Family and personal relationships
- Spiritual, mental, and physical fitness
- Resilient role models
- Psychological flexibility
- Skill in finding and constructing meaning in one’s life
These protective factors are the seeds that grow resilience and protect against future stressors. This process is termed steeling and inoculation, Acceptance, positive reappraisal, and renewed gratitude are hallmarks of emotional literacy.