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Strategies for Fostering Resiliency

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word resiliency is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.”

Resiliency is not something we are born with, but instead, we grow to acquire resilience over time. In fact, being resilient is the development of specific skills that allow us to manage stress, respond to hardship, and overcome trauma.

 Resilience skills include . . .  

  • a developed sense of self such such as knowing our weaknesses and strengths
  • the ability to recognize signs of stress as they occur and how to respond 
  • being mindful of our thoughts and actions by living in the present moment
  • knowing how best to care for our physical, emotional and mental well-being
  • developing positive and supportive relationships for connection and belonging   
  • living a purposeful life to feel that we are part of something beyond ourselves 

There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to developing resiliency as it tends to be a very individual process. Some people are able to “bounce back” quickly when faced with adversity and others need more time to work through a situation and the impact it has had on their life. Furthermore, not every adverse experience will be as easy or challenging as the one before. Some people are more resilient when it comes to problems at work versus problems at home. Therefore, the more a person is able to strengthen their resilience skills the better. Think of it like having a toolbox full of tools. You never know what you might need when finding a crack in the foundation of your home. In this case, your home is you.

Research indicates that people who have a high level of resilience also tend to have a growth mindset, willingness to try new things, and an optimistic outlook on life. Being positive in nature can be very helpful when adversity strikes. Rather than seeing the worst possible scenario, optimism can lead to constructive solutions through effective coping.

Resilient people tend to experience optimal well-being and health, happiness and contentment in their work and relationships, and have a sense of purpose in their lives.

Fostering resiliency in the classroom must start with an assessment of your own level of resilience. For example, how do you see yourself in the world? Do you recognize signs of stress before feeling overwhelmed? What tools do you have to manage stress and cope with challenges in your life? How do you care for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being? Do you have positive and supportive relationships? And so forth.

Consider asking yourself the following questions (you can also use these questions or a simplified version of these questions with your students):
  1. Identify something that challenged you this past year. 
  2. How did you respond to the situation or circumstance? What “tools” did you use? 
  3. What do you feel worked well? What would you do differently? 
  4. How did that experience help you to learn about yourself? What did you learn? 
  5. What resilience skills were developed or strengthened through this experience?  
  6. How do you feel about the situation or circumstance now?

Developing resilience is about turning adversity into triumph, a negative into a positive, and seeing an obstacle as an opportunity. However, this requires the use of specific strategies to support self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and purposeful living. The following are simple strategies you can put into practice right away. 

  • Make the time to be physically active from gentle stretching to brisk walks. Find something that feels good to do so it becomes part of your routine.
  • Create space in the day for mindfulness exercises, meditation, journaling or even prayer. Allowing time for your mind to be quiet can settle worries and anxiety.
  • Practice speaking kindly to yourself by acknowledging what you most appreciate about who you are as a person and how you operate in the world.
  • Reflect on your experiences and learn from them. Know that there are lessons to be learned in every moment and encounter whether positive or negative.
  • Live with curiosity. Ask questions. Consider all possibilities and perspectives. See if you can reframe a negative to a positive. See the upside when feeling down.
  • Schedule time to play, laugh, and have fun! 

Traci L. Scheepstra, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Embodied Learnings. Want to know more about her work in education? Read here!


Reference

resiliency. 2021. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved August 11, 2021 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resiliency

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