Bad things happen. Maybe your mom was addicted to drugs. Maybe your dad abandoned you. Maybe you were abused by a family member. Or maybe you just didn’t have any friends when growing up.
Researchers have found that these adverse events, often called “trauma,” have profound and enduring effects on people throughout their lives.
But trauma is relative. One person may be traumatized after being mugged, while another seems to shake off the same experience. While psychologists are determining what traits seem to create resiliency from trauma, a few qualities seem to stand out.
- Social Support. Being alone is a high risk factor for being traumatized. Supportive family, friends, co-workers, church congregations and community organizations can help mitigate the effects of trauma. Having someone to confide in makes a huge difference.
- Few adverse events in your life. Interestingly, a person who experiences a large number of adverse events doesn’t become immune to the effects. Instead, the person often becomes more prone to being traumatized in the future. If you can be spared a plethora of adverse events, you can often withstand a traumatic event better than someone who is struggling under a mountain of setbacks. Here’s a special note: Some people appear “hardened” or “numb” to traumatic events. This is not to be confused with being resilient. “Shutting down” is not the same as actually being resilified.
- Coping skills. If you know some coping skills like replacing negative thoughts, prayer, journaling, envisioning, meditation, relaxation strategies, exercise, goal setting, and distraction with hobbies, you will cope better with the bad stuff.
- Good Health. If you have a generally healthy body that is well rested, you can endure more than someone who is physically stressed. So exercise, sleep and eat right in order to be more resilient.
- Find meaning in trials. Do you have a life philosophy that includes a meaningful way to put trials and trauma in some kind of perspective? People who can find meaning in suffering, often cope better than those for whom disaster seems arbitrary and pointless.
- Find a good cause. Turn your pain into passion and purpose. Find those that need your mentoring. Raise funds for good causes. Advocate for good policies in institutions. Blog, speak, write to raise consciousness. Assemble humanitarian kits for people in disasters that need comfort. Organize others to support your cause.
We will all suffer from some kind of profound setback in life. If we can incorporate as many resilience factors as possible, the odds we will prevail are greatly increased.
Please see my other blog on Post-Traumatic Growth. I mean, if bad things are going to happen, let’s at least limit the damage, right?