How CoVID-19, among other unforeseen challenges and factors, put Resilience on the ‘ageing and wellbeing radar’ locally and globally as a ‘must have’ tool for managing unprecedented change.
Background: Resilience in the making
In 2019 The Selwyn Foundation (“Selwyn”) developed a series of resources directed at understanding more fully how resilience was an important part of skill development for those seeking to age well. Selwyn, focused on Resilience in the context of ageing and wellbeing. Little did anyone know that early in 2020, with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, that the learnings would be so relevant and useful.
Given the importance of resilience at that time—particularly for older people, caregivers, people in lockdown and those doing their utmost to keep positive at this challenging time.
Fast forward to 2023 and the lessons learned at the beginning of the pandemic still apply. Not just for dealing with the continuation of CoVID-19 but the raft of other natural (and unnatural) events that have been part of living in challenging times.
The definition itself is empowering
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health issues or workplace and financial stressors. It is often described as "bouncing back" from difficult experiences. It also means tapping into “the well” or the resolve to remain upbeat and connected.
The American Psychologists Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. These sources of threat can be mental, physical, social, as well as spiritual. When it comes to the power of resilience in older people, often ‘their carers’ - such as family/whānau, friends or health professionals ‘hold’ the resilience when a person is particularly frail. Resilience building techniques come from the ability to share experiences and results. Stories, it seems, have both an empowering and therapeutic effect in guiding oneself or others to a point of recovery and re-engagement.
Kindness is part of the equation
Kindness, compassion, and giving are known to boost mental well-being and resilience. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end there are shared benefits and opportunities to consider. Kindness also applies to how you treat yourself as well as others. Stressful times produce commensurate anxiety and frustration.
One of the contributors to Selwyn’s information sharing initiative on resilience was expert Dr Lucy Hone. An internationally sought-after professional speaker and award-winning academic, her refreshing approach to bereavement is informed by the death of her 12-year-old daughter in a motor vehicle crash, and is available online via Coping With Loss courses and her best-selling book, Resilient Grieving. Her work is regularly featured in global media, including Ted Talks; The Guardian, The Washington Post and the BBC.
She says resilience is helpful to:
- Overcome the obstacles of childhood (poverty, abuse, neglect)
- Steer through everyday stresses (injury, bullying, rage, anxiety)
- Adapt to major life changes/loss (death, divorce, illness)
- Reach out (take on new challenges)
She recommends taking the time to choose where you focus your energy and attention. Particularly at a times of uncertainty. She recommends being mindful to understand that struggle is part of life.
This includes being:
- Focused on what you hope to happen, or achieve, each day.
- Kind and helping and avoid harmful thoughts, actions or experiences.
Gratitude leads to resilience.
Three mind sets, Dr Lucy says, help to hone into the benefits of stopping to acknowledge reasons to be thankful. She recommends taking the time each day working with these formulas.
3GT = 3 Good Things
HTGS = Hunt the Good Stuff
ATG = Accept the good.
Of late Dr Lucy has used her vast knowledge of resilience to focus on ‘better’ ways to grieve with the aim of helping people through the grieving process but still allowing people to live.
Resilience can be channelled to address situations where grieving gets in the way and:
- You're desperate to get your life back on track while continuing to honour your loved ones.
- You're done with feeling judged, helpless, and lonely, and are sick of people telling you you're not grieving 'properly'!
- You're determined to do everything you can to protect your family, key relationships, your career and even your sanity.