To help people becoming resilient, we shall first have a look at the meaning of resilience.
Let’s see the etymology of the word as it is found on the Merriam-Webster:
1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
After witnessing or being a victim of a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, war, flood, fire, the loss of a dear relative or friend, an ordeal may begin for the person involved. In the months following the event, people may find themselves silent, stunned, they review the same terrifying images and feel unable to return to a normal life. Yet, after a relatively short time, one year for example, more than 50% of these people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feel better. Some individuals possess amazing abilities to overcome difficulties and return to their original, or even mentally stronger, status. This process can be defined as “resilience“.
Why are there people who are more resilient than others?
In some cases resilience is partly innate. The concentration of cortisol (the stress hormone) drops faster. It is estimated that 85% of the population has genetic predispositions to defend themselves from traumas. Another determining factor is the healthy environment in which they grew up. Emotional security during early childhood provides better self-esteem and helps to better overcome difficulties.
In addition, the support of family and friends is also crucial. Some studies on the state of memory after traumatic events revealed that when survivors were left on their own, the chances of reacting with resilience were lower, while when they were well surrounded, they had a good chance of overcoming the situation they were facing.
So how could you help the victims?
You could reassure them, speak to them with affection, as you would do with a child. In fact, just like children, survivors can no longer manage their emotions, and sometimes they can’t even speak! By protecting them, the stress generated by the traumatic event will gradually be reduced.
A first level of psychological help can be given by establishing a relationship with the person involved by actively listening to them.
However, for an appropriate psychological support it is important to advise the victim to contact a professional, who will be able to give a proper psychological first aid (PFA) by assessing the needs of the person, establish priorities, and decide on the follow-up to help them regain their vision of the world and ultimately their life.
Have you ever witnessed a traumatic event or helped any victims of traumatic events? How did you react?
Would you like to know more on overcoming stress? Please, visit my blog crisbiecoach!
14 thoughts on “Helping People Becoming Resilient”
Our Social Emotional Learning team at the Middle School I work in spends a lot of time supporting resiliency building in both our students and staff. One of the positive outgrowths of the pandemic has been a greater awareness of mental health supports in schools and of course society at large. Thank you for writing this piece Crisbiecoach.
Interesting experience at your school! Thank you for reading and commenting!
Yeah, the experience isn’t boring. You’re welcome!
I’ve witnessed several traumatic events and in my experience people are stronger than they think they are. It’s not pleasant but growth is often uncomfortable.
Yes, you are right, growth might be difficult and some people refuse changes.
Yes they do 🙂
In my way of seeing things, resilience requires that you actually want to be resilient. Some people hug their trauma tight and won’t let it go. It becomes a part of their identity. And then there are misguided efforts that short circuit the natural trauma recovery process.
Overcoming PTSD, which can be one consequence of trauma, is never easy and often painful. Frightening, even. Usually requires unlearning the PTSD response through gradually acclimating to “triggers” in a safe environment so that they no longer trigger one.
There is a book you may have read. If you haven’t, I think you’d enjoy it.
Thank you for the book recommendation! I have not read it, and will put it in my reading list!
I think the human brain has a protective feature in that sometimes it can take a relatively long time to process a trauma, such as, for example, when someone suddenly dies, it doesn’t sink in immediately.
I agree on that. Thank you for commenting!
I love the section you include here about how we can help. It seems like that is the wonderful work of being human – helping each other through life’s ups and also traumas. Thank you for this lovely post!
Thank you Wynne!
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger… provided that’s what we believe. Trauma is inevitable to some degree or another. Painting oneself as a victim is bit like scratching an itch. It feels good to begin with but makes everything worse later on. I think the real trick is embracing our trauma – using it to motivate us to help others who have suffered in the same/similar way. Certainly we all need a friend or family member to lean on from time to time. Great advice Cristiana 🙏
I agree with you AP2, thank you for commenting!