After A Disaster
devastation a disaster leaves behind can leave people with strong emotions and
a strong sense of uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing
situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience,
an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking
a number of steps.
is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats,
or even significant sources of stress -- such as family and relationship problems,
serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing
back" from difficult experiences.
Research has shown that resilience is
ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. Examples
of resilience in the face of the hurricanes abound. One woman, looking over the
wreckage of what used to be her home, told news crews that she was tough and that
the only thing that mattered was the lives of her loved ones.
does not mean that a person doesn't experience difficulty or distress. Emotional
pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma
in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable
Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do
not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and
developed in anyone.
FACTORS & STRATEGIES
combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary
factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and
outside the family.
Relationships that create love and trust, provide role
models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person's resilience.
additional factors are associated with resilience, including:
capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
|| Skills in communication and problem solving
capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
All of these are factors that
people can develop in themselves
For Building Resilience
resilience is a personal journey. People do not all react the same to traumatic
and stressful life events. An approach to building resilience that works for one
person might not work for another. People use varying strategies.
variation may reflect cultural differences. A person's culture might have an impact
on how he or she communicates feelings and deals with adversity -- for example,
whether and how a person connects with significant others, including extended
family members and community resources. The hurricanes cut a wide enough swath
that several different distinct cultures felt the impact.
The good news
about resilience is that it can be built using approaches that make sense within
Some or many of the ways to build resilience that follow
may be appropriate to consider in developing your personal strategy.
WAYS TO BUILD RESILIENCE
relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Even
for those separated from their families, connections can be built among new acquaintances.
There are several tales, for instance, of people evacuating from New Orleans accompanied
by – and emotionally attached to – fellow evacuees whom they had just
met during the flood. Accepting help and support from those who care about you
and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that even though
they themselves have suffered losses during Katrina and Rita, helping others makes
them feel good about themselves.
seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
can't undo the waters or winds of the hurricanes, but you can change how you interpret
the hurricanes. Try to see beyond the current crisis to how future circumstances
may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat
better as you deal with difficult situations.
that change is a part of living.
goals may no longer be attainable as a result of the hurricanes. Accepting circumstances
that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
toward your goals.
some realistic goals. Do something regularly -- even if it seems like a small
accomplishment -- that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing
on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I
can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching
completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away. Although
the hurricanes uprooted people from their normal routines, establish new routines
as soon as you can, even if they may have to change again if you are moved.
for opportunities for self-discovery.
often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some
respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced
tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength
even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed
spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.
a positive view of yourself
how you think about yourself. If you were in the hurricanes, you are a survivor,
not a victim of the hurricanes. Acknowledging your own strength and resourcefulness
in dealing with difficult conditions can help you develop confidence in yourself.
things in perspective.
when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a
broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
a hopeful outlook
optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your
life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
care of yourself.
attention to your own needs and feelings. Although you may not be up to your usual
level of activity, try to get some exercise and try to find something to do that
will relax you, whether it be telling a story to your child or meditating. Taking
care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations
that require resilience.
ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful
example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to
trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices
help some people build connections and restore hope.
The key is to identify
ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy
for fostering resilience.
FROM YOUR PAST
to Ask Yourself
Focusing on past experiences
and sources of personal strength can help you learn about what strategies for
building resilience might work for you. By exploring answers to the following
questions about yourself and your reactions to challenging life events, you may
discover how you can respond effectively to difficult situations in your life.
kinds of events have been most stressful for me?
have those events typically affected me?
|| Have I found it helpful to think of important people in my life when I am distressed?
whom have I reached out for support in working through a traumatic or stressful
have I learned about myself and my interactions with others during difficult times?
it been helpful for me to assist someone else going through a similar experience?
I been able to overcome obstacles, and if so, how?
has helped make me feel more hopeful about the future?
involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful
circumstances and traumatic events. This happens in several ways, including:
yourself experience strong emotions, and also realizing when you may need to avoid
experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning
forward and taking action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily
living, and also stepping back to rest and reenergize yourself
|| Spending time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and also nurturing
on others, and also relying on yourself
TO LOOK FOR HELP
help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience. Beyond caring family
members and friends, people often find it helpful to turn to:
and support group
community groups can aid people struggling with hardships such as the death of
a loved one. By sharing information, ideas, and emotions, group participants can
assist one another and find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in experiencing
and other publications
people who have successfully managed adverse situations such as surviving cancer.
These stories can motivate readers to find a strategy that might work for them
on the web can be a helpful source of ideas, though the quality of information
varies among sources.
For many people, using their own resources and the
kinds of help listed above may be sufficient for building resilience. At times,
however, an individual might get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the
road to resilience.
licensed mental health professional
as a psychologist can assist people in developing an appropriate strategy for
moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you
are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living as a result
of the hurricane or other traumatic or other stressful life experience.
people tend to be comfortable with somewhat different styles of interaction. A
person should feel at ease and have good rapport in working with a mental health
professional or participating in a support group.