Sunday, August 12, 2012

Personal Resilience - How Is Your Bounce Back?

All of us experience setbacks.  We are let down or knocked over by people we trusted. We are disappointed in ourselves. We are clobbered by circumstances we never anticipated. Sometimes we handle these times well and bounce back quickly. Other times it seems impossible to get up after having fallen. It requires too much energy. All hope seems gone. We simply do not have the will to go on. 
The trouble with having Parkinson's disease is that on any given day we can wake up with that defeated feeling. It is a degenerative disease: it gets worse! The stiffness may have become overwhelming. The tremor has definitely gotten worse. Fatigue has penetrated every pore of your body.   And to top it all off, the pills are not helping as much as they once did. We know that it will take extraordinary amounts of energy, determination and creative thinking just to make it through the day. If we have the ability to face that reality, deal with it and even thrive through it (unimaginable as that may seem) it can make a huge difference in the quality of life for ourselves and those around us. Scientific studies suggest it also increases the length of life. 
Lately, I have been noticing the clouds of gloom and doom are demanding more prominence on the horizon of my daily living. Life just seems harder lately. Maybe the "honeymoon" phase of my PD is over. Regardless of the cause, I begin to wonder about my resilience, my ability to bounce back. So how do we retain or regain or obtain resilience? 
"Personal resilience" is defined by one writer, Sally Lever, as "… our ability to recover from setbacks, to embrace change and to soften, rather than fight, in the face of hardship". Others define it as, "a dynamic process whereby individuals exhibit positive behavioral adaptation when they encounter significant adversity… ". Whatever it is, this personal resilience or "bounce back" potential seems to depend on a few key factors. Scientific studies suggest that to improve our resilience we must:
 1.     Strengthen caring relationships, such as family and friends. Are we surrounded with positive people who love and care about us, are trustworthy, constructive and encouraging? Or are we slowly withdrawing from supportive relationships?
 2.     Decide to "respond" (having given it some thought) rather than "react" (letting our emotions "grab the wheel"). In other words, we must not permit our fear, anger, or sadness to force out planning and objective problem-solving. Do we worry or otherwise emotionally react when faced with adversity instead of working at responding to it?
 3.     Maintain a strong belief that life has a purpose beyond oneself. See life as having significance or spiritual meaning. Does living have a context, a foundation or a definition in which we are important but not central?
 4.     Build and maintain a positive attitude and approach to adversity. Look for what can be learned through tragedy, disappointment or defeat. Wisdom is found in failure. Strength only increases through focusing on weaknesses. Great character is constructed in times of great challenge. 
Most, if not all, of us have been, or will be out sometime, confronted by difficult times of adversity. Many of those dark days may be worse than any I have experienced. Since we don't know the future all we can do is be prepared. Take a personal resilience self-test. How good is your "bounce back"? For me, focusing on the four factors above has served me well. What other ones have helped you?  Let me know your thoughts.

Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong. Mohammed Ali

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog today Bob. Your comments always seem so timely to my life......