Resilience: How to Optimally Weather the Storm


Written By: Alana Karran

Everyone, at one time or another, will need to weather a storm. Be it a personal crisis, family emergency, natural disaster or other unexpected trauma, how you approach the situation will have an impact in the moment and potentially for years to come.

Some people crumble at the stress of a crisis, others show up in a superhuman way and seem unfazed. At both extremes, these people suffer – it just may not be apparent right away. According to a study of trauma victims, conducted by Dr. Spiegel, at Stanford University Medical School, “Many of the people who appear to be doing the best may be heading for the worst post-traumatic trouble down the road.”

Understanding the impact of trauma can help first responders and ongoing care teams optimize support and treatment. There are also things you can do personally, to help yourself and those you love cultivate the conditions for resilience.

Developmental psychologist Emmy Werner, in a thirty-two-year longitudinal study, found that resilient children tend to “meet the world on their own terms.” These children believe they affect their achievements, not their environment or circumstances. Because these children have an “internal locus of control,” or strong sense of self, they feel like they determine their own destiny.

Cultivating a strong sense of self is key to resilience. And, the good news is that it’s never too late to develop your sense of self and build resilience. Begin by understanding what you need and creating healthy strategies to take care of yourself:

Self-care is the practice of understanding your personal needs and learning how to provide for yourself in a way that causes you to feel cared for and secure.

Asking for help when you feel challenged and have reached the limits of your own problem-solving abilities, allows you to expand your sense of self by knowing others also care for you.

Self-awareness comes from reflecting on your life and circumstances and understanding your role and responsibility in creating them. It allows you to discover how you might handle things differently in the future, as a result of incorporating the learning from the past.

Surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive and that know how to step in and help when you need them, yet also encourage you to take risks and stretch your own abilities.

Practice compassion for yourself and others. Know that, in every given moment, you are doing your best, and it’s all a learning experience. And, extend this compassion to those around you. Choose compassion over judgment, and use kind words to encourage yourself and your community toward the higher good.

Listen to your inner voice and trust that you know what is best for you. Be brave and follow your own sense of knowing and take steps that support your own needs. And, practice listening to others – really being there for them. By understanding what others need, and respecting their choices, you also set the stage for them to respect your choices.

Accept the now, even if it isn’t ideal. By being present and seeing things for what they are, a path forward is possible. Know that you are not defined by your circumstances, and see the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Feel gratitude, even when things do not go as planned. Find simple things to be thankful for and don’t forget to let others know how much you appreciate them.

Choose hope and remember this is just a moment in time. Trust that you have the ability to take care of yourself, get the help you need and rebuild your life from this place of uncertainty. Look forward toward a vision of the future that sees you back on your feet and thriving.

By putting these practices in place, and helping your family and friends implement these practices, recovery is possible from the storms that come our way in life. From a positive place of self-care and understanding, you have the ability to reframe your circumstances and bounce back from a place of strength. While the path may not be easy, you have the resources within you to be and become resilient.