"My name is Dr. Darlene Powell Garlington, and I am a licensed clinical psychologist. Like everyone else, I have endured difficult times in my private life, but I was sorely tested when I went through a very traumatic — and public — experience that threatened to destroy my family. Although I share parts of this very personal story to demonstrate how my family’s resiliency was tested and strengthened through this very challenging time, this book is really about building your own resiliency to carry you and your family through whatever crises life brings to your doorstep."
This excerpt was taken from one of my books, "Blooming Again: Weathering Personal Storms and Growing Resilient Families," to show that at some point, EVERYONE experiences varying degrees of setbacks. The important thing is not "if" and "when" we experience life's challenges, but how we cope with them. Our ability to “bounce back” or recover after experiencing a crisis, adversity or trauma demonstrates our resilience.
Those who lack resilience often become so overwhelmed by challenges that they are unable to function socially, at work, and/or even within their own family. They may also dwell on problems and begin using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with hardship and as an escape. These coping mechanisms may include self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, food or gambling. These individuals are usually slower to recover from setbacks and may actually experience more psychological distress as a result.
There are times when our lives feel out of control and everything seems to be going wrong. These are real circumstances that upset us and cause us emotional pain. The distress can often become debilitating. Some of us cope more effectively than others. This is typically based on protective factors such as family support, health, social environment and resources. Also, our perspective frequently makes a tremendous difference. If we can recognize that the difficult period will pass, we will be better able to visualize improved times ahead.
Regardless of the pain and anguish we may experience at one point or another in our lives, we do persevere through difficult times. In fact, with support, we often emerge stronger by persevering through the trauma or adversity. Those who grow are better able to put things in perspective and, in so doing, reveal that they very much value life. They gain a deeper appreciation for what is really important, especially family, and consequently, they are better at prioritizing.
We are constantly learning and growing from our experiences ̶ both good and bad. Healing comes from our ability to make holistic health a lifestyle. Holistic Health is a way of life and focuses on how to strengthen our body, mind and spirit. Fitness, positive thinking and maintaining a loving spirit are the keys to building resilience. It can’t be a temporary fix to a traumatic event or major problem. It is an ongoing life choice to continue to move toward fulfillment and joy.
We need to remember that we can’t change the past nor completely control the future. Often, we spend too much valuable time regretting the past and/or worrying about the future instead of living in the present moment. Living in the moment, or mindfulness, is also an incredibly powerful means of building resilience. When we face stressful or traumatic situations involving our health, family, work, finances, church or community, it may feel overwhelming. When we focus all of our attention on the problem, it will likely exacerbate the situation and illuminate the problem. Letting go and concentrating on the present is a process. We are better able to focus on the "here and how" when our overall lifestyle focuses on physical health, mental fitness, and spiritual strength.
Do you say, “I will get through this” or “I will never make it”?
Do you think, “this too shall pass” or “this will never end”?
Do you, "face the fear" or "avoid the situation"?
Do you engage in "healthy outlets" or do you "self-medicate"?
Are you "optimistic" about the future or "pessimistic" as to where you are headed?
Can you "adjust to change" or do you "dread changes" in your life?
Do you have "self confidence" or are you usually "uncertain" about yourself?
Do you "have perseverance" or do you "give up easily"?
Do you have "spiritual strength and faith in God" or do you believe "there is no higher power or something greater"?
Do you have "strong social connections" or are you basically "a loner"?
If you respond "yes" to the first part of each question more frequently than the second portion of the question, you are considered to have many of the characteristics of a resilient person. However, if you have more "yes" responses to the second portion of each question, you need to learn to "Bloom Again!"
None of us are always positive in our thinking and secure in our approach to life's difficulties. Resiliency is an ongoing process of growth and empowerment. Please don’t be self-critical if you aren’t where you want to be. Being resilient does not eliminate our stress, nor does it erase life's difficulties. Instead, it gives us the strength to face problems head on, overcome adversity and move on with our lives. Keep working at it because the more we practice, the better we become!