Mary Fuller, local columnist
Everyone will agree that we are living through some very hard times. A pandemic that is making many people sick and dying in our neighborhoods and all around the world. And, it is creating uncertainty in all facets of our life from health to social relationships to finances. Our nation is divided with a looming presidential election that makes many people feel if their candidate does not win, all will be lost. We watch violence happening across the nation by perpetrators who are citizens, “peace keepers” and angry masses. We see wildfires burning in the west and experience violent storms in the South and east leaving destruction in their paths. All this is a backdrop to the normal trials and tribulations of everyday life.
If you are at all like me, you have felt overwhelmed by this at some point over the past few weeks even months. This is normal for these kinds of times, right? But when you look around, you can see some people have persevered through these last months, and maybe even focused on the positives in life to excel, while others have not fared very well and have maybe even needed extra effort to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. How does that work? What makes us respond so differently to our common shared experience of “hard times”?
As a social worker for many years, I have always been fascinated by the concept of resiliency and how people who have gone through similar traumatic situations can react or respond in so many different ways. How can one child growing up in an abusive home become a successful business owner who regularly gives back to the community while another child from the same or other abusive home becomes a career criminal spending most of their life incarcerated? The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” So, we ask the question, how do we promote resiliency in our children, families, and community so that we can adapt to this ever-changing, stressful world?
When looking at the research done on resiliency, it quickly becomes apparent how important healthy, stable relationships are for both children and adults.
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult.
Experts agree that important things to focus on for children is ensuring that there is at least one supportive adult-child relationship, increasing knowledge of appropriate child development for caregivers, and helping children to build problem-solving and self-regulation skills. If we believe we are a community who supports children then we all have to take responsibility in developing the protective factors that build resiliency in our children.
Is it too late for us, the adults who have extended life experiences that have created some baggage we carry around with us throughout life? No, children are not the only ones who can build resilience, so its not too late for any of us, not even those of us who have really been struggling as 2020 continues to challenge us. If you are feeling like you need a little help in building your ability to face challenges and stress, here are some strategies that can help us all bounce back from these difficult times.
First, focus on relationships and connecting with people in a positive way; just like children, positive relationships can build our resilience. Don’t spend your free time on social media posting about how another group is wrong or putting down other people’s ideas.
Spend time with your best friend doing something you love or participate in a reading club, civic group, or faith-based ministry with others – in person or virtually. Take care of your body by just doing the best you can in the areas of sleep, eating, drinking and exercising. Be mindful by focusing on some spiritual practice through meditation, journaling, praying, and identifying and celebrating positives. Find purpose through helping others, problem-solving, and working towards goals - even small ones.
Now if you are like me, you can be overwhelmed by trying to help yourself but you really can start with little things. So, let me make it simple, just be kind to yourself and others. It is that simple, be kind to everyone. If we all just focus on kindness, we will all be more resilient and so will our community.
Mary Fuller is United Way’s Bryan County Area Director. She can be contacted at email@example.com