• we stand at the threshold
  • learning how to be
  • hard and soft at the same time
  • how to hold ourselves
  • and still keep our arms open
  • ~Lisa Kagan
Much of the time, we talk about stress management and how the lack of it is at the root of so much of what ails modern societies as well as individual health.  I used to talk about building health, but now I find myself talking about building resiliency.  And perhaps we should start calling it “resiliency training”, not “stress management”, cause you can’t really manage the stress in your life.  The stress happens–the ugly, frightening, frustrating stuff just happens.  Our reaction to it is all we can really manage….which is actually a sign of resiliency.  
So how do we build resiliency?  First, by managing our emotions.  That starts with the simple realization that we can’t plan everything, we can’t control everything, and we need to be able to roll with the punches.  I’m amazed at how few people can do this anymore.  Maybe it’s a illusion our society fosters:  if you have access to information, then maybe it feels as though you should also be able to have a say in what happens.  NOT!  As they say, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”.  How do we know that what we think is best actually is best?  Maybe when we let go and let things happen, we’ll be surprised at what we discover.  Of course, it means we also have to be paying attention (which is a topic for another day).  
How we feed our bodies and how we move them also contribute to resiliency.  Bad food in, bad reactions out.  No movement physically leads to no movement mentally or emotionally.  Here’s a really great quiz that I’ve taken from experiencelife.com:

Resilience is the process of adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, says the late Al Siebert, PhD, founder of The Resiliency Center in Portland, Ore. Curious to know how your own resilience rates? Take this quiz, adapted from Siebert’s book The Resiliency Advantage.

Rate yourself from 1 to 5 (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree):

  • I’m usually optimistic. I see difficulties as temporary and expect to overcome them.
  • Feelings of anger, loss and discouragement don’t last long.
  • I can tolerate high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty about situations.
  • I adapt quickly to new developments. I’m curious. I ask questions.
  • I’m playful. I find the humor in rough situations, and can laugh at myself.
  • I learn valuable lessons from my experiences and from the experiences of others.
  • I’m good at solving problems. I’m good at making things work well.
  • I’m strong and durable. I hold up well during tough times.
  • I’ve converted misfortune into good luck and found benefits in bad experiences.

Less than 20: Low Resilience — You may have trouble handling pressure or setbacks, and may feel deeply hurt by any criticism. When things don’t go well, you may feel helpless and without hope. Consider seeking some professional counsel or support in developing your resiliency skills. Connect with others who share your developmental goals.

20–30: Some Resilience — You have some valuable pro-resiliency skills, but also plenty of room for improvement. Strive to strengthen the characteristics you already have and to cultivate the characteristics you lack. You may also wish to seek some outside coaching or support.

30–35: Adequate Resilience — You are a self-motivated learner who recovers well from most challenges. Learning more about resilience, and consciously building your resiliency skills, will empower you to find more joy in life, even in the face of adversity.

35–45: Highly Resilient — You bounce back well from life’s setbacks and can thrive even under pressure. You could be of service to others who are trying to cope better with adversity.

Used by permission. © Copyright 2005 Practical Psychology Press, adapted from Chapter 2 in TheResiliency Advantage (Berrett-Koehler) by Al Siebert, PhD. All rights reserved.