Building resilience matters

Dr Mary Wren has worked in Sheffield for 20 years. She offers advice on health issues every Saturday.
Dr Mary Wren has worked in Sheffield for 20 years. She offers advice on health issues every Saturday.
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There is a lot of talk in health circles about something called resilience.

I think the American Psychological Association gives a great definition.

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

I attended a talk about mental health issues and a key message was that building resilience really matters for individual and community mental and physical health. It is also something we have discussed for our student doctors – how we build resilience so they can function well and long term in medicine.

There are some keys that can really help all of us build resilience in our lives. We can build connections with others – helping others and receiving help, community groups, charity groups etc. We can accept that change happens so we may need to change our goals. We can celebrate small achievements and choose to see good things in ourselves. We can keep a wider perspective so the problem is in proportion. We can remember that we can’t change the problem but we can change how we react to it. We can be kind to ourselves and get enough rest, exercise and eat well. We can look for ways to solve problems ourselves rather than always relying on others, and we can keep hope that tomorrow can be better than today.

Many schools are working to build resilience in children. Some children have more natural resilience than others and by watching them we learn what would help others. Resilient children have four basic skills – independence, problem-solving, optimism and social connection. So as parents we can start by developing resilience ourselves and then encouraging it in our children.

For example we can model a ‘you can do it’ attitude for our children when they meet problems. We can see problems as opportunities to learn. We can involve our children in family life – developing problem-solving skills and independence and we can teach them how to deal positively with stress.

The MIND website has some really helpful information as do many other websites. You can look up Sheffield IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies) or speak to your practice for a booklet.