Resilience- What’s Missing From Your Life
The stress of our society is strong. We are faced with stressors daily: car trouble, childcare issues, financial strain, work stress, family problems… Stress is more than just a word. It is an actual chemical reaction in our brain and body. The consistent release of stress hormones can cause damaging health problems for us, and even for our children.
Children from young ages are experiencing more stress than others from generations past and stress levels are only increasing as they age. We are also seeing high numbers of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences. Many of these things are setting kids up for health, relational, and behavioral problems later in life. Not to mention the health problems stress is causing us adults.
But there is hope. Resilience: the thing we all need in our lives and yet many of us haven’t worked to develop it. We are strong enough to overcome stress by building resilience.
Resilience is our ability to recover from challenges. When we view a challenging experience as a learning or growing opportunity, we are better able to handle the situation and other stressful times. Resilience is something we must learn and practice, and as we do, we become better equipped to handle the challenge experiences of life.
The key is to understand that our negative emotions, like fear, stress, and anger, are not the problem and should not be our focus. How we respond to these emotions is crucial to well-being, way of life, and development of resilience. Stress says, “I can’t handle this. I don’t know what to do. I need to disconnect.” Resilience says, “We’ve been here before. We can get through this. It may be hard, it may be uncomfortable, but we got this!”
When we grow our resilience we are better able to:
- Accept change
- Handle stress
- Work through our fight or flight response effectively
- Overcome challenges
- Have discernment over our own actions and ability to handle stressful situations
- Be thankful
- Grow with integrity
- Set goals and work toward the future
- Find confidence in working through stressful situations
- Handle our emotions
- Build up and work on self-esteem
Living with chronic stress or not being able to effectively handle stressful situations can cause damage to our bodies. When we are in a constant stress our bodies are in a state of fight-or-flight and releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This causes us to have an unhealthy response to stress hormones when we do experience them and we are not able to escape being in fight-or-flight. Chronic stress causes us to not be able to regulate our stress hormones, which brings on inflammation. Basically, we are on constant red-alert. This YouTube video shows the effects of chronic stress on the brain.
This is especially true for young children and teens whose brains are developing. (Read more on ACEs here.) Chronic, unpredictable stress during childhood can cause serious changes to a child or teenager’s developing brain. These biophysical changes can cause inflammation of the brain and health issues as an adult. Damage is done, at the cellular level, to the developing brain, causing the cells to age, leaving us prone to diseases later in life. The US Department of Health and Human Services believes that when parents help children develop resilience the children are more likely to feel loved, important, valued, and that they can overcome hard parts of life.
As children grow, they develop resilience with their parent’s help and other resources within their cultural or family group. Raising children with multiple sources of support is most helpful, but when this isn’t possible, resilience skills can be taught. For adults who do not have the skills of resilience, remembering that these skills can be learned is important to our success. When we become aware of our stressors and challenges, we are in a better place to accept help, and/or grow our resilience to overcome these challenges and be better prepared for those we will face in the future.
Just as we can heal a pulled muscle, we can also heal a traumatized brain. Just as we build our muscles through exercise to make them resilient to physical activities, we can exercise and train our brains to be better resilient to stress. Taking steps to recognize past hurt and work through the pain can work wonders on our health.
These skills are beneficial for both children and adults as they help develop resilience, and they include:
- Find healthy ways to cope with and manage stress- including meditating, rest, music, exercise, etc. When we better manage our stress we are better equipped to handle stressful situations in the future.
- Understand emotions (anger, stress, fear) should not be the focus, but how we react to those emotions is what is important.
- Develop ability to turn stressful and hard situations into learning experiences- When we view a stressful experience or challenge as a learning opportunity, we set ourselves up to overcome and move forward. Additionally, we have developed resilience for future challenges.
- Have a plan for coping with stressful situations- When you are prepared for how you overcome stress, you will be better able to handle the situations as they arise.
- Reduce stress- What stresses you out the most? What action steps can you take to reduce the stress before it begins?
- Focus on goals and the future
- Work on and grow important relationships- Support and encourage one another. Find a community to help when stressful situations arise or additional support for your children.
- Find the positive in any situation, positive outlook- Make the choice to be optimistic, especially when things are hard. We can train our brains to be more positive. We can increase our susceptibility to catch happiness from others when we activate the reward system in our brain.
- Work on well-being- Take your thoughts captive. Focusing on the negative doesn’t do much to fix things. Focus on the good. Be thankful.
We may not realize how much of our stress we pass onto our children and how much stress is affecting our lives. Research has shown that kids pick up on everything, especially parental stress. Experiencing parental stress is thought to be one of the many factors leading to childhood and adult illnesses. Learning how to effectively manage stress not only can keep us healthy, but it models appropriate ways to manage stress for our children and protects them from the effects of our stress on their developing minds and bodies.
Take the time for you and your family to manage stress and build resilience.
What causes you the most stress?
What are effective coping strategies for managing stress?
What are areas of stress for your children?
What are ways to model managing stress to them?
How can you turn a stressful event into a learning experience for your child?
Follow Renewed Hope Parenting on Facebook to see our weekly support posts for parents!
This blog is written as an educational and general resource only. It should not be used to diagnose or as a substitute for parenting or relational therapy, advice, or counseling with a professional therapist or medical doctor. Renewed Hope Parenting is not responsible for results or use of the information provided in these pages if you choose to use them. Everything included in this blog and website is copyrighted to Renewed Hope Parenting and may not be used without permission.