Life, as we know, is not a bed of roses. Adversities, difficult circumstances and hopeless situations are all a part of life. There are some people who come out of their hardships stronger than before, and then there are some who break under the pressures of life. Studies have found communities where despite favourable socio-economic conditions, genetics, environment, and material resources, instances of drug and alcohol abuse have been found to be higher whereas individuals in poorer circumstances have been found to have better outcomes. What quality sets these two kinds of individuals apart?
It is resilience.
Resilience is the ability of a person to endure and cope with adversities and challenging situations in life, such as the death of a loved one, relationship stresses, illnesses and disorders, accidents, trauma, loss of job. Being resilient does not actually end a person’s problems, but it prevents him from being a passive victim of his circumstances.
A non-resilient person might succumb to mental illnesses such as depression, nervous breakdown, and anxiety disorders. He might lose himself to substance abuse to avoid reality, but resilience enables him to see the good in everyday, to look beyond his misfortunes and find new reasons to live and move on.
Mental health and resilience
Mental health has been defined by WHO (2003) as “a state of wellbeing whereby individuals recognize their abilities, are able to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully , and make a contribution to their communities.” Mental health affects an individual’s lifestyle, productivity, education, employment, health, relationships and quality of life.
Positive mental health depends on resilience, and ability of a person for positive adaptation to enable him to overcome hardships and achieve his full potential in life. Good mental health in turn increases resilience. Studies show that resilience provides an individual or communities with positive assets that decrease the negative impact of risk factors (adversities) on outcomes (standard of living, health, education, mental health).
Effects of resilience
1. Children who are resilient and emotionally well-adjusted show greater learning capacity and lesser rates of crime as adults.
2. Resilient adults undertake marriage and parenthood as responsibilities at proper times and are better equipped to handle the associated stresses.
3. People who have strong social connections have a better hold over their lives and are more resilient. Communities with more social participation and mutual trust are beneficial to the mental health of individuals.
Individuals who are optimistic, have confidence to plan their lives well, and can manage strong emotions are generally resilient individuals. Resilience can be developed through-
- Having a strong social support system
- Accepting changes and moving on in life
- Being optimistic and hopeful for the future
- Looking after oneself and learning new skills
Resilience is more related to the emotional and social dimensions of our lives.Developing resilience takes different strategies for different communities. Studies by Bartley et al show that good diet and cooking skills play an important part in increasing resilience of low income communities in Mediterranean countries. A qualified psychologist can be consulted to help individuals develop resilience.