Resilience: Bouncing Back When Faced with Adversity

by Beth Simon

The one constant in life is change. Change can be a positive experience like when you have a snow day, when a test is cancelled, or you get a new job. But there is also negative change that we experience such as divorce, not getting the promotion you were hoping for or losing a loved one. Change affects us all and we all deal with change differently, and some deal with it better than others.

Positive change doesn’t usually require resilience. What do you have to recover from when there’s a snow day? Get in your jammies, pop some popcorn and turn on Netflix – right? But dealing with negative change is what can be a struggle. Negative change can impact your emotional, behavioral, and even physical health if you don’t have a strategy in place to handle it. Have you ever been at the airport when a flight has been cancelled? Why do some people react to the news with anger and rage maybe causing a scene while others react to the news calmly by simply taking the seat on the next flight out?

Why can some people when faced with negative change or adversity process and recover from it so quickly while it takes others more time? It’s not because they’re thick skinned or good at compartmentalizing or that they’re tougher. It’s because they’re resilient. The ability to adapt to negative change and recover from it quickly is also called bouncing back. Think of your resilience as a rubber band. Sometimes we get stretched to the limit but come back into shape over a period of time. What if you stretch that rubber band beyond its limits? It’ll break – right? When it comes to resilience, we want to look for strategies that when we are stretched help us get back into shape and do it as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. We want to avoid getting to the breaking point.

Why if change is the only thing we can rely on aren’t we more prepared for it? Why don’t we have strategies ready to use when we encounter a problem? Maybe you do have strategies that you use, but are they working? I encourage you to consider the ways that you handle negative stressors in your life. Reflect. Are you the angry guy at the airport or are you the one who books a hotel, finds a cool new restaurant to try, explores a different city and makes the most of the layover, then takes the flight out tomorrow morning?

It’s true that some people may be innately better at bouncing back than others. But that doesn’t mean that if you aren’t good at it now, that you can’t get better. We’ve all heard the saying “Practice makes perfect” but I prefer “Practice makes progress.” Just because you practice strategies to cope with adversity doesn’t mean you’ll do it perfectly or hit the mark each time. It doesn’t mean the way that your friend handles negative change is better than your way; you’ll need to find what works for you. Finding what works for you requires intentional reflection and practice to bounce back and develop your own resilience.

A good way to reflect is to take inventory of your resilience. You can do that through the Devereux Adult Resilience Survey or DARS for short. The DARS is a 23-question checklist that will help you identify your personal strengths and areas of growth related to building your resilience. The survey looks at four areas: relationships, internal beliefs, initiative and self-control. The survey provides simple statements such as “I am open to new ideas” or “I set limits for myself.” You would answer with “not yet,” “sometimes,” or “almost always.” This will help you to pinpoint the areas where your strengths lie and where you could use some growth.

The DARS is related to a book, Building Your Bounce, also published by the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. Building Your Bounce provides you with strategies to improve the areas that you noticed in the survey where you were lacking. Resilient adults help to create resilient children. The ways that you model resilience for children will in turn build their resilience as well. If you’re interested in learning more about Building Your Bounce watch the short YouTube video linked below that describes the concept of building your bounce and take a peek at the book also linked below. If these resources pique your interest and you’d like to learn more about how to bounce back when faced with adversity, you can log into the Pennsylvania Key PD Registry for “Building Your Bounce” professional development opportunities that are available.

Remembering that change is the only constant in life that we can rely on, I urge you to take time to learn more about your own resilience. Life is easier when you’re prepared. Now, I don’t want you living your life hesitantly, constantly wondering when the next shoe will drop, but having some helpful strategies you know work for you when you encounter stressful situations can alleviate the impacts of negative change. Discover and celebrate the strategies you are already implementing in your personal and professional life and your work with children and take steps to make progress on the areas where you may be struggling. The goal is to bounce back and share that resilience with the children in your care.

Please join us for the Let’s Talk Quality Webinar scheduled for Thursday, February 9, 2023, at 1 pm to talk more about resilience and bouncing back when faced with adversity.

Devereux Adult Resilience Survey (DARS)

What is Building Your Bounce?

Building Your Bounce

What Trauma Taught Me About Resilience | Charles Hunt | TEDxCharlotte

What Does Resilience Mean? Definition, Qualities, & Examples

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