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Resilience matters in teens and young adults

Posted: May 10, 2018 - Blog, Research

Working with teens and young adults have been both challenging and inspiring. This group of clients made me appreciate how much we need connection with others. It is developmentally appropriate that adolescents and young adults seek to belonging and connecting yet in this era of online connection made more difficult. Adolescents and young adults who come though our doors for individual, family or group counseling share their struggles, hurts, rejections and joys. Some of these young clients struggle more than others with seemingly the same problems. Why some people able to easily brush off their errors, while others become burdened by them.  As I was pondering this question, the concept that came to mind was resiliency. Resiliency level is what made the difference. Why do some individuals demonstrate high levels of resilience and other individuals are more vulnerable? The way an individual handles adverse circumstances when they were younger correlates the way they handle hardships in later adulthood. Resiliency, or the ability to “bounce back”, is associated with managing adversity well. Sometimes it is easier to be a victim; pointing to other people as the cause of your troubles removes the need to change. And sympathy can feel sweet; the idea of resiliency can make some feel that no one is really appreciating exactly how much they have suffered.

Personality traits, coping skills, stress management skills, and the nature and number of negative life events experienced are some of the many factors that contribute to adversity responses.

Negative life events that impact people throughout the lifespan is adversity. Declining health, death of a loved one or family member, financial troubles, loss of driving privileges, being forced to relocate, and chronic life stressors are examples of adverse circumstances. As people age, the number of adverse events tends to increase. An individual’s personal health, subjective well-being, and life satisfaction are affected by the way in which adult’s cope with adversity. Resiliency enables an individual to experience life satisfaction by their ability to handle adversity. Below are 7 dimensions associated with resilience:

1.  Personality Factors: Open to Change, Kindness, and Extraversion

An individual will want to keep an open mind when facing adversity. Individuals get out of their own thinking and learn to take responsibility for the quality of their life. Individuals help themselves make choices that improve situations.

2.  Adaptive Coping Skills that Center on Solving Problems

Those who are less resilient, or whose resilience has worn, are more vulnerable to a cascade of undesirable events such as the complication of grief and loneliness, perceived loss of control and financial instability. It is important to find a safe space for exploring emotions and reactions to such events. Develop solution-focused coping skills that will contribute to feelings of mastery and control.

3.  Sense of Personal Control and Optimism

Change is possible and more effective ways of dealing with emotions, thoughts and behaviors can be reached. Keep a positive view and have confidence in your strengths and abilities.

4.  Religiosity/Spirituality

These connections can serve as sources of wisdom, community, health, and strength. Religiosity of is conceptualized as having more organizational and behavioral components whereas spirituality is oriented toward personal experiences that may be transcendent in nature. Research supports links between spirituality and having a positive mental well-being.

5.  Support from Family, Friends, and Community

Find out how readily someone can access support or make needed connections. Keep in mind those connections that may be toxic and lead someone to less positive outcomes and higher stress levels. Build an army of trusted family and friends in your community that can help support.

6.  Senses of Humor and Optimism

Unfortunately, there are circumstances that cannot be changed. Having a good sense of humor when facing adverse event allows an individual to take one step at a time. People grow when adversity is overcome, it is ok to look back and laugh.

7.  Cultural Influences

Culture impacts how an individual communicates feelings and deals with adversity; individuals and groups have greater access to numerous approaches to build resilience.

Developing resilience is a personal journey. Persevere and trust in the ability to navigate about obstacles that are important. Gain courage and insight while reaching out to others for support. This will be powerful and helpful. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, health problems or workplace and financial stressors.

Source: Gladding, S. T., & Newsome, D. W. (2014). Clinical mental health counseling in community and agency settings. NY, NY: Pearson.

Author Nicholas Marchand

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