Friday, May 1, 2015

Feelings Friday: Thriving through challenging times

The thriving "Survivor Tree" OKC
h/t Flickr 2008
There is a big difference between surviving and thriving.  We all know people who have experienced crisis or trauma, and relive it every day.  They have survived, but their identity is consumed by the event.  Thrivers have their identity shaped by the event.  They are forever changed, but stronger.  The difference is resilience.  Resilience is a learnable skill, it is NOT a character trait.  Psychologists have been able to identify certain protective factors that all of us can develop to build the skill of resilience.

Create Support.  Having healthy and supportive networks within and outside of your family is invaluable.  The “sweet spot” of how many friends are necessary to provide buoyancy during turbulent times is unique to the individual.  Find your magic number intentionally developing, investing, and nurturing solid relationships starting today. 

Foster Flexibility.  Rigidity does not work well when change happens.  Practice being “bendy” with the little things, like scaling back on your to do list when you have a hectic day.  The more experience you have of developing a Plan B the easier it will be to transition when unwanted change (Job loss, health problem, or crisis) knocks on your door.

Practice Decisiveness. Two habits are debilitating during crisis: passivity and avoidance.  When disaster strikes, action is required.  Passivity can lead to depression, and avoidance transforms into anxiety.  Practice in   decision making and following through with action is empowering and helps you to lead yourself in uncertain times.

Find Perspective. Be realistic in evaluating current obstacles. Have you successfully resolved other challenges in the past?  Is there reason to believe that circumstances can improve?  Seeking hopefulness within a crisis is well worth the effort.  Realism and resilience are great partners in recovery.

I am continually inspired by the stories I hear every day in my work as a psychologist.  Thrivers use their existing resources and develop new skills to navigate through the hard times and come out ahead. Work on your ability to thrive- watch your resilience grow!

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."