We have all been touched in one way or another by the recent rash of violence in our communities. One tragedy seems like an anomaly and we tend to be able to put it in context as such. But when another occurs we start experiencing it as out of control and as a new norm. We start to carry a pervasive ill-ease. The experience of these tragedies may trigger a variety of stress reactions for different individuals. Some of these could be profound and require the need for professional help, be it medical or psychological. At the least, the general ill-ease most of us are experiencing may also compound the numerous other external stressors we encounter in our work and personal lives.

These stressors especially compounded by the senseless violence of recent shootings cannot help but affect us, in many ways, as well they should. In our modern world, stress is here to stay. We can learn to set more effective boundaries, we can better manage our time, we can shut out the painful images, but in most of our work and personal lives we will continue to be barraged by external demands and stressors. By focusing on stress, we often invite stress.

We offer a new approach. As we have learned in the Critical Incident Support Services (CISS) field, promoting emotional resilience gives those experiencing a specific trauma a more positive response than focusing on the trauma and stress. Emotional Resilience is our ability to “bounce back” from adversity and challenge. This does not mean we can remain unaffected by stress and setbacks. What it means is by strengthening our resilience we improve our ability to cope with set backs and recover more quickly. Emotional resilience traits can be learned and practiced. We would like to share some of the characteristics of emotionally resilient people as an invitation to practice – especially at this time of shared sorrow and tragedy. Some of the characteristics of emotionally resilient people are:

  • Emotional and Physical Awareness: They understand what they’re feeling and why. They understand how their emotions are affecting their behavior and performance. They understand the absolute connection between mind and body – emotions and physical health. They support physical health by practices such as exercise, relaxation, healthy nutrition, and increased mindfulness in the moment – awareness of emotional and physical states.
  • Perseverance: Whether they’re working toward outward goals or on inner coping strategies, they’re action-oriented – they trust in the process and don’t give up. They carry on in the face of setbacks and obstacles.
  • Internal Locus of Control: They believe that they, rather than outside forces, are in control of their own lives. They know the limits of control and focus on the areas of life they can control.
  • Optimism: They see the positives in most situations and believe in their own strength. They are able to view events as time-limited versus permanent. They are able to view events as specific and not pervasive. i.e. “all or none.” They are able to not personalize negative events by defining themselves by these negative events.
  • Support: While they tend to be strong individuals, they know the value of social support and are able to surround themselves with supportive friends and family.
  • Sense of Humor: They’re able to laugh in spite of life’s difficulties. They are able to respond to serious situations with appropriate seriousness, but not take themselves so seriously that they get in their own way.
  • Perspective: Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes (rather than deny them), see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make them stronger. They can also find meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing themselves as victims.
  • Sense of Mission: Being connected to your spiritual side has been connected with stronger emotional resilience. This has to do with being connected to a higher purpose than oneself, and could be a sense of purpose or mission.

 This is not an absolute list of Emotional Resilience traits. However, focusing on one or all of these traits and developing ways to practice them may be a positive way to help cope with the recent trauma that we all have experienced, as well as the common and extraordinary stresses we experience regularly. It may prove more effective to focus on strengthening one’s positive resilience than “combating” stress. Over the past couple years, BizPsych has offered emotional resilience programs in a large variety of settings and situations with very positive results and response. Please consider what you might need to enhance and exercise your resilience at this time.

Patrick Hiester MA, LPC,
Vice President of BizPsych
A division of MINES and Associates.