By Ashley Dixon, Social Worker
Everyone is likely to experience a traumatic event at some point in their life. Unfortunately, it is almost unavoidable. The year 2020 has certainly provided its share of unique challenges and obstacles for many of us, to say the least. How we experience these traumas, and more importantly how we recover from these traumas, is different for everyone based on our “resiliency.” Per the Webster dictionary, resiliency is defined as, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change” or, as I like to describe it, “our ability to bounce back from a difficult experience.” Our resilient factors have been proven to be a protective factor against depression, stress, and even suicide.
The good news is there are ways to increase our resiliency. Each time you overcome a difficult event, you are building your resiliency by developing new skills, collecting new tools, or making new connections. The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights four areas we can focus on to build our resiliency, which will help us through those tough times. These four areas are building connections, fostering wellness, finding a purpose, and embracing healthy thoughts. Let’s take a look at each area, why it’s important, and examples of what we can do in that area.
- Build Connections: It’s important to focus on creating strong, healthy relationships with people you trust. This will help you not feel alone during difficult times. Some ways you can build these relationships may involve joining a group, going to church, spending time with friends and family, or finding a support group in the community.
- Foster Wellness: When we take care of our physical and mental health, we feel better overall. Ways to improve resiliency this way include practicing self-care, eating healthy, getting good sleep, and exercising. You could try a new hobby or activity that you’ve always wanted to try. Mindfulness is another great tool to help improve our mental health. This can be accomplished by journaling, practicing yoga, praying, and meditating.
- Find Purpose: Many of us have heard the term “pay it forward.” Find ways to help others, do a small act of kindness for someone, volunteer, or simply help a friend. It is also a great idea to engage in self-discovery. Think about your goals, what you want to accomplish, and how you want to grow. Counseling can be a great resource for helping you decide on your goals and how to accomplish them.
- Embrace Healthy Thoughts: When we are facing a difficult situation, it can be easy to engage in negative thoughts. Try to focus on positive thoughts. You can journal, talk to a friend, or say positive affirmations out loud such as “I can do this.” Another idea is to practice gratitude. Each day take time to think of three things you are grateful for and write them down.
So today I challenge each of you to find one way to build your resiliency. Engage in conversation to build a relationship with a friend, go for a walk, do a small act of kindness for someone, or practice gratitude. Which one will you choose today?
Ashley Dixon, MSW, CAPSW, Social Worker at the Southwest Behavioral Services Inpatient Unit. Ashley is an advanced practice social worker, trained as a generalist to provide quality mental health services to all age groups. She received her MSW from UW-Madison and her BSW from Clarke University. She currently provides individual and group therapy at the SBS inpatient geriatric psychiatry unit to provide coping skills, relaxation strategies, stress management, and effective communication skills. She has worked in a variety of social service settings, including child welfare, mental health, hospital settings, and geriatrics. Additionally, she is trained in motivational interviewing. Ashley uses strengths-based and family systems approaches to enhance sense of identity, self-esteem, confidence and help patients move forward.