Resilience: What is it, and why is it important?
For those interested in APA's steps to building resilience: https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience
Hello everyone and welcome back to our weekly blog post. I’m very excited to start writing these again, and I want to mention my appreciation for some co-workers that helped me with some new topic ideas. One of their suggestions was this week’s topic, resilience! Some of you may know that we just recently hosted our first ever conference, Sowing the Seeds of Resilience. It was originally planned as an in-person conference, but I think everyone at Saffron and our speakers showed adaptability and their own resilience as we shifted to an online platform. Funny how things work out! A huge shout-out to everyone at Saffron, our speakers and our attendees for making our new and sometimes daunting experience with an online conference a huge success. I really enjoyed the work I did with our conference, and I think talking about resilience will continue to be important for a long time. So, let’s talk about it now!
First, as always, I asked our lovely social media followers “do you think you are resilient?” 8 people said yes, and one person said no. It’s good to see that most people see themselves as resilient, and I hope learning more about it can help those who don’t! I also asked “what does resilience mean to you” and received answers such as “growth, strength, patience, acceptance” and “persevering through and coming out on the other side.” I think this shows how resilience can be defined as being many different qualities, or as an action we can take.
But what is the definition of resilience? According to psychologists, process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. The American Psychological Association also notes that: “As much as resilience involves "bouncing back" from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth” (Source 1). When we are affected individually, or as a group, by a difficult situation, resilience helps us to recover. The entire world is going through a difficult situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we all need resilience to get through it together. We rely on the support of networks and people. “Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way” (Source 1).
One question I had about resilience was why do kids seem more resilient than adults?
This was really interesting to me, because I’ve also thought that children are very resilient, but without any concrete reason behind it. From what I found, there are two opposing opinions: some experts say that children are tremendously resilient, more than adults, while others say they are more likely to be traumatized than adults. Two articles even cited the same quality as potentially having different effects on children.
One article said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that because children’s brains are more plastic and developing rapidly, it is a time of great vulnerability, but that growth can help them overcome adversity in the right circumstances (Source 2). The other said that because “[children’s] brains are still developing . . . trauma can have a greater effect on their malleable brains than an adult’s brain that is no longer developing” (Source 3). I wasn’t able to find a clear answer to the question, although more sources seemed to be in favour of children’s increased resilience because they seemed to exhibit less mental health/behavioural issues as adults. The one common thread across all the articles I found was the support from caregivers, parents, and the community was essential for children’s ability to ‘bounce back’.
How to build resilience in children, according to Dr. Ann Masten, professor in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota: “Parents are always trying to strike a balance between providing protection and the freedom to learn and grow so that kids get ready for life. On the one hand, the parents want to support their children, particularly in dangerous situations. Our urge is to protect, but children also need experience with adapting and learning how to get up after they fall down . . . In the case of very dangerous situations, of course, we step in as parents, but we're all striking a balance, and it's important for parents to appreciate that they know their children best. They know what their children are capable of, they can pay attention, when do my children need support, and when do they need to build the confidence of doing something on their own” (Source 4).
Resilience can also be used to describe the strength of marginalized communities. For example, black communities in America and around the world, many of whom are protesting and demanding change after years of injustice, the resilience of Indigenous peoples around the world after colonization and destruction of their culture, and resilience of the LGBTQ2S+ community, especially as their identities intersect with other marginalized groups.
Another quote from Dr. Masten, who talks about resilience as a bank account. “We all store up resilience, but under dire circumstances, we use up that capacity, and it can get depleted. [A colleague of hers] likes to recommend practices ranging from mindfulness or gratitude practice to other habits of health and well-being, like getting enough sleep and eating well and staying in touch with people that you care about, all in an effort to try to keep your stores, your bank account of resilience full as needed” (Source 4).
These groups have all faced added challenges because of their identity, and thus likely have depleted their resilience bank accounts. Recently, I’ve seen a number of posts online about ‘self care for activists, protesters, the black community, etc’ which is very important. We need to take care of ourselves if we want to continue to be resilient. It’s okay to take breaks, from protesting, social media, etc. and focus on your own emotions and mental health. With that in mind, I have included mental health resources specific to the black, LGBTQ2S+ and Indigenous communities below.
Building resilience: Dr. Masten also mentions resilience in humans is a “combination of the capacity that human beings have as part of their heritage, but also what they learn through experience and education and good nurturing” (Source 4). So, as the American Psychological Association puts it “while certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that anyone can learn and develop . . . Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components — connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning — can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences” (Source 1).
The American Psychological Association recommends building connections, fostering wellness, finding purpose, embracing healthy thoughts and seeking professional help when needed. Their article on resilience offers a much more detailed breakdown about what you can do specifically for each of these four topics, but I won’t take up too much of your time by reading through the whole list right now. If you’re interested in reading the article, check out the link at the top.
I hope you enjoyed the topics that ranged from children’s resilience to the resilience of marginalized groups, as well as what we can do to build resilience in ourselves and others.
I want to end with my moment of gratitude for this week. I am grateful for everyone who is using their voice to create change right now. Whether that’s raising awareness, starting petitions, signing petitions, donating to different causes… it’s a great example of communities coming together to help build resilience and help others.
Mental Health Resources for the Black Community
Black Emotional and Mental Health: https://www.beam.community/theconversation
Black Mental Wellness: https://www.blackmentalwellness.com/
Black Female Therapists Podcast: https://www.blackfemaletherapists.com/podcast
Mental Health Resources for LGBTQ2S+ Folks
It Gets Better Campaign – https://itgetsbetter.org/
Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868
Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans Youthline – 1-800-268-9688 (free peer support for youth aged 26 and under).
Parents, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) – http://pflagcanada.ca/
Mental Health Resources for Indigenous Peoples
Bipolar Disorder: A guide for the Aboriginal community – https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/infosheet/bipolar-disorder-a-guide-for-aboriginal-people
Depression: A guide for the Aboriginal community – https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/infosheet/depression-a-guide-for-aboriginal-people
Indigenous Foundations - https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/
National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health: https://www.nccih.ca/en/
First Nations Health Authority: https://www.fnha.ca/
“One Focus; Many Perspectives:” A Curriculum for Cultural Safety and Cultural Competence Education: https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/media/3228
Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research: http://www.namhr.ca/
Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mhfa.ca/