A vicious circle
We want to help people build resilience so they can manage difficult times in life without becoming overwhelmed and possibly mentally and physically unwell. Why would a lack of resilience cause people to become mentally and physically unwell?
The reason is that, without resilience, people respond to difficult situations in life by becoming stressed; and we know that stress can lead to many psychological, emotional and physical symptoms that can be very unpleasant and even dangerous to health. We will look at this in much greater detail later. For now we’ll just make the general point that it takes energy and well-being to maintain resilience. When people are stressed they become exhausted and ill. So, the effects of stress undermine people’s resilience.
When people’s resilience is lowered by the effects of stress, they are likely to respond to further challenges by becoming even more stressed. That lowers resilience more, which leads to more stress, which leads to even lower resilience, which leads to more stress… and so on… in a vicious circle, something like this:
Whether this circle starts with low resilience or with high stress depends on the individual person. You might be a person who is generally quite resilient, but a period of severe difficulty could cause even you to become stressed. The effects of this stress will undermine your natural resilience. Then you’ll have less resilience to respond to future events, which will lead to even higher levels of stress… which will lower your resilience even further… etc. In this case your ‘vicious circle’ starts with stress.
Or, you might be a person whose resilience is low to begin with. This means that you become stressed quite easily. Every time you become stressed, the effects of this will lower your resilience levels even further and this will make you more and more vulnerable to stress. In this case your ‘vicious circle’ starts with low resilience.
How to avoid or get out of the vicious circle
There are two possible ways we could approach this.
1 Increase your resilience
One approach is for us to try to give you more resilience. If we could do that you would be able to keep out of the circle simply by having extremely high levels of resilience and not getting stressed.
Resilience is a ‘quality’. It is part of a person’s personality. Resilience isn’t something that people ‘do’; it is something that they ‘are’. Where do people who are resilient get that quality from? Are they born with it? Do they develop it through experience? Does it grow through their relationships with others over time? Could it be that it comes from a combination of all of these? Whatever the answer, it is not possible for us to give you these things in a book. We can’t ‘make’ you born with it, and we can’t give you the experiences or the relationships that you need to learn it over time.
So what can we do to help you build and maintain your resilience?
2 Lower your stress
The other approach is to show you how to prevent your resilience from being undermined by stress; that is, to show you how to keep your stress levels as low as possible. If we could do that you would be able to keep out of the circle by making sure that you suffer as little as possible from stress and its damaging effects. The good news is that we can do this. That’s because to be able to manage stress isn’t a ‘quality’ like resilience. Rather, it is an ‘ability’. Unlike resilience, managing stress is not something that people ‘are’; it is something that they ‘do’. Even if someone is so good at managing stress that it appears to be a natural gift, the truth is that they are doing something that enables them to avoid stress when they are confronted with difficulties. We believe we know what they are doing. We believe we can show you how to do it, and that you can get good at it too, by practising the right techniques and strategies.
So this is the approach we will take. You need to keep your stress levels low, no matter what challenges or difficulties you might have to face. That way, if you are a naturally resilient person you’ll be able to maintain the resilience you already have. You might even be able to build it up even more. If you lack resilience at the moment, you’ll be able to build that up over time as it won’t be constantly undermined by stress that you currently find difficult to manage.
The author of the aboved writing: Adrienne Green