Resilience is a label for a concept to prepare people for the inevitable trauma that we are likely to experience in our lives.The military is on the front lines here. Likely, PTSD was brought to light from observing the experiences of returning combat veterans. In America’s civil war, it was called Soldier’s Heart, in WWI it was called Shell Shock, WWII Combat Fatigue, the term, PTSD was coined in the 1980’s (I believe).
Trauma is not uncommon: military actions, natural disasters, crime, sexual abuse, bullying are all examples seen around the world today.
The American Psychological Association ( apa.org) has developed this ‘top 10’ list for teens. Each element strengthens parts of the psyche that, they profess, will help each of us resist a long term stress related disorder. Obviously, the wording would be different with a different age group.
There is also a new article about talking to children, regarding the recent elementary school shootings.
10 Tips to Build Resilience
What are some tips that can help you learn to be resilient? As you use these tips, keep in mind that each person’s journey along the road to resilience will be different – what works for you may not work for your friends.
- Get Together. Talk with your friends and, yes, even with your parents. Understand that your parents may have more life experience than you do, even if it seems they never were your age. They may be afraid for you if you’re going through really tough times and it may be harder for them to talk about it than it is for you! Don’t be afraid to express your opinion, even if your parent or friend takes the opposite view. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Get connected to your community, whether it’s as part of a church group or a high school group.
- Cut Yourself Some Slack. When something bad happens in your life, the stresses of whatever you’re going through may heighten daily stresses. Your emotions might already be all over the map because of hormones and physical changes; the uncertainty during a tragedy or trauma can make these shifts seem more extreme. Be prepared for this and go a little easy on yourself, and on your friends.
- Create A Hassle-Free Zone. Make your room or apartment a “hassle-free zone” – not that you keep everyone out, but home should be a haven free from stress and anxieties. But understand that your parents and siblings may have their own stresses if something serious has just happened in your life and may want to spend a little more time than usual with you.
- Stick To The Program. Spending time in high school or on a college campus means more choices; so let home be your constant. During a time of major stress, map out a routine and stick to it. You may be doing all kinds of new things, but don’t forget the routines that give you comfort, whether it’s the things you do before class, going out to lunch, or have a nightly phone call with a friend.
- Take Care Of Yourself. Be sure to take care of yourself – physically, mentally and spiritually. And get sleep. If you don’t, you may be more grouchy and nervous at a time when you have to stay sharp. There’s a lot going on, and it’s going to be tough to face if you’re falling asleep on your feet.
- Take Control. Even in the midst of tragedy, you can move toward goals one small step at a time. During a really hard time, just getting out of bed and going to school may be all you can handle, but even accomplishing that can help. Bad times make us feel out of control – grab some of that control back by taking decisive action.
- Express Yourself. Tragedy can bring up a bunch of conflicting emotions, but sometimes, it’s just too hard to talk to someone about what you’re feeling. If talking isn’t working, do something else to capture your emotions like start a journal, or create art.
- Help Somebody. Nothing gets your mind off your own problems like solving someone else’s. Try volunteering in your community or at your school, cleaning-up around the house or apartment, or helping a friend with his or her homework.
- Put Things In Perspective. The very thing that has you stressed out may be all anyone is talking about now. But eventually, things change and bad times end. If you’re worried about whether you’ve got what it takes to get through this, think back on a time when you faced up to your fears, whether it was asking someone on a date or applying for a job. Learn some relaxation techniques, whether it’s thinking of a particular song in times of stress, or just taking a deep breath to calm down. Think about the important things that have stayed the same, even while the outside world is changing. When you talk about bad times, make sure you talk about good times as well.
- Turn It Off. You want to stay informed – you may even have homework that requires you to watch the news. But sometimes, the news, with its focus on the sensational, can add to the feeling that nothing is going right. Try to limit the amount of news you take in, whether it’s from television, newspapers or magazines, or the Internet. Watching a news report once informs you; watching it over and over again just adds to the stress and contributes no new knowledge.
You can learn resilience. But just because you learn resilience doesn’t mean you won’t feel stressed or anxious. You might have times when you aren’t happy – and that’s OK. Resilience is a journey, and each person will take his or her own time along the way. You may benefit from some of the resilience tips above, while some of your friends may benefit from others. The skills of resilience you learn during really bad times will be useful even after the bad times end, and they are good skills to have every day. Resilience can help you be one of the people who’ve “got bounce.”