Women and Resilience

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Western Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health

By Rose K. Gantner, EdD

Resilience is a scientific term that refers to materials that have the capacity to return to their original shape after being bent or stretched. But, resilience is also a term that applies to people as well – people who have the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, defeat, or other adversity and bounce back.

For many women, resilience is considered an essential strength. However, women are not always aware of the amount of resilience they do possess.

My friend, Gail M. Wagnild, R.N., Ph.D, is the founder the Resilience Center and a national expert on resilience, and she says that when you know your capacity for resilience, it gives you the confidence to deal with whatever life throws at you. Being resilient helps you to cope in a variety of different ways, be they personal, professional, or social.

Of course, all of us face challenges from time to time that seem overwhelming or that knock us back. That’s life. It’s the ability to get back up, and get back on track that matters most. In order to have the desire to get back into the game and actively manage your life, you need to have resilience.

The Five Core Characteristics of Resilience:

  1. A sense of purpose. Without a sense of your purpose in life, you lack a driving force. So, how do you know what your purpose is? Ask yourself: What do I do that others value? In what ways and by whom am I needed every day? What in my life has the most meaning? What are my strengths? The answers will reveal your purpose.
  2. Perseverance. Giving up is always the easy way out. Resilient people demonstrate the ability to stick to things and get them done. They find ways to go around, under, or over obstacles.
  3. Equanimity. Stay balanced. Understand that regardless of the situation it is never entirely bleak, nor entirely positive. There’s a middle ground that allows you to see all possibilities and will help to give you the hope and opti-mism you need to improve.
  4. Self-reliance. Your belief in yourself must be realistic to be helpful. Remember the challenges in the past that you have met successfully and those that were less successfully met. You can learn from both experiences and develop problem-solving skills that help to build self-reliance.
  5. Existential aloneness. To be truly resilient, you need to be able to live with yourself. You can also call this, “being comfortable in your own skin.” Truly resilient people need to have this ability.

You can measure your resilience with the resilience scale online tool and you can also see how you compare with others. It’s a quick test that takes less than five minutes. Regardless of your score you can feel positive about yourself and you can learn more about resilience.

Rose Gantner is Senior Director of Health Promotion for UPMC WorkPartners, which is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. For more information on UPMC WorkPartners, visit www.upmchealthplan.com.

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