Resilience is the ability to bounce back after the knock-backs of life, and stress is the physiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses to those knock-backs of life. If I were a cynical person I would perhaps be saying that “resilience” is the positive spin put on stress.
For me, however, they are two sides of the same coin. Living and life will inevitable involve feeling stress, and living and life are therefore also about how we manage these stressful challenges (resilience) and each of us will manage situations differently. However psychology, counselling and coaching are now preferring the term resilience and offer ways in how we can each make our own “forcefield” to protect us from these inevitable stressors.
Lets look at this “resilience” idea a little more closely: if 10 people are all exposed to the same stress (say a divorce) some will get through it perhaps feeling stronger, happier and healthier. Some may feel very depressed with possibly thoughts around “what’s the point of me being here” and some may find themselves in another relationship. Of course there are loads of different ways we might live/cope/survive a divorce (or any other stressful event) and I am generalising to illustrate how we all have different levels of resilience before the “big stuff” hits us.
So with the same stress 10 people will respond in different ways. WHY? Well, there are three theories:
- Resilience can be developed and cultivated. Exposure to difficult experiences “vaccinate” us (in technical terms it is called “stress inoculation”) to future stressful and difficult experiences.
- Genetics. Studies with twins separated at birth shows a genetic personality predisposition to stress or “hardiness”. Hardiness is about seeing life as meaningful and interesting; that you can influence events; and a willingness to learn and develop in response to experience.
- “Mental toughness” is a personality trait- persistence, focused and confident in their abilities. Able to cope with anxiety, and not prone to worrying.
OK so we cannot change our genetic makeup but we can learn to become more resilient and next time I shall explore how.