Resilience, Resistance, and Willingness

When stressful times occur, how do you respond?

Resilience, Resourcefulness, and Willingness

You can spend your energy agonizing over what you don’t have or you can spend that energy making what you have work for you. This is the challenge and goal of aging well: to be happy and vibrant given your current life circumstances. Resilience, resourcefulness, and willingness play a role in the pursuit of that goal.

Resilience

Psychology Today describes resilience as

the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.

The Mayo Clinic website offers great tips on how to improve resilience.

One tip is to build strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends. These relationships provide you with needed support in good and bad times. You can also establish important connections by volunteering or joining the local Community Center.

A second tip is to do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Setting goals provides meaning as you look toward the future.

Learning from experience is a third tip. Think of how you dealt with hardship in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you get through difficult times. You might even keep a journal to help you identify positive and negative patterns. This information can guide your future behavior.

A fourth tip is to remain hopeful. You can't change the past, but you can look toward the future. Accepting change makes it easier to view new challenges with less anxiety.

Next, take care of your needs and feelings. You know the drill!  Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques like  yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.

Finally, don't ignore your problems - figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action. Although it may take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event, or loss, know that your situation can improve if you work at it.

When you

  • believe that crises are surmountable, view situations as opportunities, accept circumstances that cannot be changed, and focus on ones that can,

  • ask yourself "What's one thing I can do today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

  • take decisive action rather than wishing stresses would go away, look for opportunities to self-discover, develop confidence in your ability to solve problems, and trust your instincts,

  • avoid blowing a situation out of proportion, maintain a hopeful outlook, and identify ways that are most likely to work,

Then you are better prepared for the emotional emergencies that inevitably arise. You will be more adept at accepting what comes with flexibility and you will be more able to consider the possibilities.

Resourcefulness

Another factor influencing your goal to age well is resourcefulness. Being resourceful means getting things done in the face of obstacles and barriers. The ability to act effectively or imaginatively in difficult situations is key. While it's one thing to have a great idea, it's another to execute it.

You may have noticed that life doesn't always hand you the solutions to problems; sometimes you must be creative. Resourceful people have an open mind. They are confident, proactive, persistent, positive, and prepared. Resourceful people also look for the common good, don’t apologize unnecessarily, and rely on previous experience.

Molly at Empowered coaching.com notes  

There are two things that will help you be more resourceful. First, find out what you think you need in order to create the success you want.

Second ask yourself ‘How can I solve or create the outcome I want even when...?’ Constantly fill in that blank. You have to take action and do it in real time, right now; not in the future.

Simple things you can do to be resourceful are to work on your relationships and develop a strong network of people you can trust, respect, and admire. Also, arm yourself with knowledge and be honest about your weaknesses. Then focus on getting things done and don’t take shortcuts. Finally, be realistic. To learn more, click here.

Willingness

Basically, willingness is the quality of being free from reluctance and being ready to do something. When it comes to behavior change, it usually means a readiness to engage in an action or series of actions that lead to a desired outcome and includes the ability to work towards the goal even though the process may not be fun, rewarding, or enjoyable.

Willingness plays a huge role in aging well. Think about it! To age well, you must be willing to change, to release outdated perceptions, beliefs, and habits, to accept what is true now, to look at excuses or rationalizations for what they are - AND - that is just the beginning.

Generally speaking: true change requires a willingness to commit to new actions and to simply notice your fears without trying to get rid of them. True change also requires a willingness to accept the truth. As Phillip McGraw, author and the host of the television show Dr. Phil, says “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

Annie

Let’s look at Annie’s story and her effort to develop resiliency, resourcefulness, and willingness when she became the primary care-giver for her husband who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Annie and Thomas met in grade school, married in their early twenties and shared a good life. Their lives changed irrevocably when Thomas had emergency surgery. At age 78, he was experiencing some memory loss but still worked full-time, exercised regularly, and took day trips with Annie. However, after a nine-day hospital stay, when he was given anesthesia and numerous medications, his memory loss was dramatic and it never recovered.

Thomas subsequently lost his job, was unable to remember family members, and couldn’t recall what was said from one minute to the next. He lacked the confidence to go out by himself and was very anxious whenever Annie went out without him. He could no longer drive because he got confused. In the past year, his memory loss became more pronounced, he became verbally abusive, he tried to run away, and his safety became a concern.

Annie never wanted to be a care provider, but it was the choice she ultimately made. This decision worked fairly well for a while, but the pandemic changed everything. Thomas could go nowhere, no one could visit, and she hadt no break from his demands. 

Soon, the interruptions, the constant questions, the arguing, and the constant worry became overwhelming. Thomas needed more help than Annie could provide. So, with great anguish, she found a memory care facility for him, where he contracted COVID, and died.

During that time Annie had to develop resilience, resourcefulness. She had to be willing to take on a variety of changes and challenges. This is how she coped.

Resilience – there were many times when Annie wanted to give up and wondered whether or not she wanted to live. She saw no hope. But each time – a word, a kindness, something she read inspired her to go on a bit longer. But then there was no choice - safety was an issue and her resilience came in the form of bouncing back from making the hardest decisions she would every make.

Resourcefulness – Annie had to think of ways to talk with Thomas, to keep him going, and to manage her own emotions around all the changes – from the anger at his asking the same thing 15-20 times an hour to her breaking heart as she watched his decline.

He would not go to a doctor, have an in-home provider or consider a memory care facility, so she had to be resourcefulness as she made doctor’s appointments, found a facility that would take him, and get him there - all with out his knowledge.

Willingness – Annie had to change her actions, her beliefs, and her habits. In truth that was the hardest part. After so many years of being together, they had many habits in place that no longer worked. He did the driving, he couldn’t drive. He took care of all the financial decisions and paperwork, she had no knowledge of what was involved.

First she had to be willing to accept or at least acknowledge his decline. She also had to change her beliefs about her role as a wife and what their marriage was about. They used to do everything together, but he didn’t want to go anywhere, so she had to go with others or on her own. She had to be willing to change many of her habits. In the end, she had to be willing to make a new life without him.

Today Annie is a very different person than she was a couple of years ago,. Her resilience and resourcefulness have been tested in so many ways. She had to be willing to make changes in every area of her life. She had to learn to believe in herself and what she could do. She had to make a new life for herself.