Building a capacity to thrive after adversity

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Health and Well-Being Educator, Mary Metten


The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.

An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

At a recent workshop of an overview of Adverse Childhood Experiences, I was wrapping up the portion regarding history, definitions, risk and consequences.

ACEs are defined as experiences in childhood that threaten or harm physical or emotional integrity of a child or someone close to them, overwhelming the ability to respond and creating significant difficulty in functioning.

Research suggests childhood experiences have significant impact to future health and opportunity throughout the course of a person’s life.

At this point of the presentation, someone in the audience remarked how there better be some good news after what sounded like bad news heaped on more bad news.

It was as if I planted her there to provide a solid segue to discuss resilience and the crucial role it can play.

Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University said, “Resilience is not an innate characteristic; it is a skill to be taught, learned and practiced.”

The notion of resilience being a skill learned and honed allows everyone the ability to continue growth and development.

10 ways to build your resilience

The American Psychological Association details 10 ways to build resilience:

Make connections. Finding or forming good relationships with family, friends and other supports is important. Being able to accept help and support will strengthen resilience.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You may not be able to change stressful situations occurring, but you can change how you interpret and respond to events.

Accepting change is a part of living. Some goals may no longer be realistic after adverse situations; accepting that some things cannot be changed can help you focus on what can.

Move toward your goals. Make realistic plans and goals. Make incremental moves in the direction of your goal.

Take decisive actions. Act on situations as much as possible by taking action, rather than detaching from problems and stress.

Look for opportunities of self-discovery. You can learn about yourself and find how you have grown as result of struggle.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to problem solve and trust your instincts.

Keep things in perspective. Try to consider a situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective in mind.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. Optimism enables you to expect some good things will happen in life. Visualize outcomes you want.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your needs and feelings; taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body ready for situations that require resilience.

A wonderful trainer I once worked with commonly remarked, “One size fits one.”

These approaches are not an exhaustive or exclusive list of techniques; give yourself and others the grace of self-exploration to find the right mixture of methods to help build resilience.