We all experience extreme stress at some point in time during our lives - sometimes from major events such as passing of a loved one, or loss of a job, or even from positive events such as the birth of a child. The pressures and challenges we experience include life change events, major life crises, traumas, and chronic conditions. Extreme stressors impact us in many ways - emotionally, physically, and socially. Our reactions and responses are influenced by our experiences, genetics, perceived social support, and environments. The ability to positively adapt or “bounce back” after significant stress and resume normal functioning soon after experiencing and managing the stressors is commonly called psychological resilience. Our perceptions of our failure or mistakes as well as major life crises, can also heighten our emotional distress. Resilience affects how we cope with daily life stressors and our experience of negative emotions in future stressful times.
Not all people who experience extreme stress, experience considerable distress; those who do not are said to be resilient. Resilience is defined as the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands. Resilience is dynamic and people tend to be resilient in specific areas, rather than in general.
Resilience is more than an individual’s characteristics or traits; it is facilitated by psychosocial factors in the environment. A number of factors contribute to how well people adapt to adversities and challenges, predominant among these factors are: (a) the ways in which individuals view and engage with the world, (b) the availability and quality of social resources, and (c) specific coping strategies. Resilience is also affected by our genetics, childhood experiences, culture, and the context.
Some people positively adapt, some emerge stronger, while others suffer from the serious setbacks and challenges when they encounter adversity. If individuals have not regained their normal functioning after a time, they frequently work with psychologists to cultivate the resources and skills associated resilience.