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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2012

Strength in adversity

By Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen Air Force District of Washington

(October is Suicide Prevention Month. This story on Resiliency, is the third in a series of three dedicated to this cause.)

Bad things happen to all of us. Sometimes it is just a minor irritant, but at other times, it is a major hurt. How we deal with these setbacks is the key to our resilience.

Resilience is a current buzzword a lot of folks are using, but what does it mean? It comes from Latin and is derived from the present participle form of the verb resilīre meaning to spring back or rebound. The present participle gives a verb the sense of a continuing action like jumping and running. Of course you already knew all of that from your high-school grammar and etymology courses, right?

According to the American Psychological Association,, "resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress." These stressors can come from disparate sources, but some of the most common ones are family and relationship problems, serious health issues, or negative financial or workplace situations. The good news is resiliency can be built through positive actions, thoughts and behaviors.

There is no resiliency technical order or easy checklist to follow. What works for one person may not work for another. There are, however, a basket of tools and techniques that every one of us can choose from to help us bounce back after an incident instead of psychologically languishing in the midst of life's negative events.

The APA offers these 10 tips for resilience in a time of war:

1. Make connections by keeping in touch with family and friends and seriously   
    considering your spiritual health as well.
2. Help yourself by helping others. Volunteer work with community organizations can be empowering and give you a sense of purpose.
3. Maintain a daily routine to help give you a sense of stability when the world feels chaotic.
4. Take care of your body; as well as taking time to enjoy leisure activities.
5. Take a break from the news, especially right before going to bed when you need to wind down to go to sleep.
6. Have an emergency plan in place to help you feel in control and prepared when the unexpected inevitably occurs.
7. Put together an emergency kit including the phone numbers of loved ones so you can reconnect as soon as possible.
8. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Recall the times in your past when you overcame adversity and draw on those skills as you face the current challenge.
9. The APA reminds us to keep things in perspective by seeing things in a broader context and with a longer time frame. Many people have successfully faced similar issues and you can too.
10. Finally, maintain an optimistic and positive outlook by considering the positive things in your life even in the midst of hardship. Read more here.

These and other tips can help strengthen you and prepare you for the bad times. The time to build these skills is when the waters are calm, not in the middle of the storm. Prepare your resiliency toolbox now.