Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you really wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a major role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster, while others seem to fall apart? People that are able to keep their cool have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges, which may include job loss, financial problems, illness, natural disasters, medical emergencies, divorce or the death of a loved one.
Those who lack this resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with such challenges. Generally, these individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress as a result.
Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life’s difficulties. Instead, it gives people the strength to tackle problems head on, overcome adversity and move on with their lives. In the wake of traumas such as the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster, many individuals demonstrated the behaviors that typify resilience. Even in the face of events that seem utterly unimaginable, people are able to marshal the strength to not just survive, but to prosper.
Some individuals come by these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain unflappable in the face of challenge. However, these behaviors are not simply an inborn trait found in a select few individuals. According to many experts, resilience is actually quite common and people are very capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient.