Resiliency when coping with crisis

Resilience—The ability to adapt well in the face of hard times.

Below are some things you can do to build your own resilience as you face any sort of crisis.

  • Make connections—Keep in touch with family, friends, a faith community and others.  Don't be afraid to express your thoughts and feelings.  If talking isn't enough, do something else to address your emotions, like journaling, praying, creating art or exercising.
  • Find a productive way to help if you can—Look for service organizations that provide financial or other aid to victims and families. Contributing in some way can be a way to gain some “control" over the event.
  • Maintain a daily routine—School, work, errands, household chores, and hobbies provide you with a feeling of stability when the world around you seems chaotic. Don't forget the routines that give you comfort, whether it's the things you do before class, going out to lunch, or a nightly phone call with a friend or family member.
  • Take care of yourself—Some feelings when witnessing a crisis from afar may be difficult for you to accept. You may feel relief that the crisis didn’t happen to you, or you may feel guilt that you were left untouched when so many were affected. Both feelings are common. Whatever your reaction, make sure to take care of yourself - physically, mentally and spiritually. Maintaining healthy diet, sleep, and exercise routines is even more important in times of high stress.
  • Give yourself a "news" break” —Although it's natural to seek out the news to keep informed, too much news can make you more anxious.  Watching a news report once informs you; watching it over and over again just adds to the stress and contributes no new knowledge.  Allow yourself to focus on non-crisis related things.Nurture a positive view of yourself—Recall the ways you have successfully handled hardships in the past, such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce or major illness. Draw on these skills to meet current challenges. Trust your abilities to solve problems and make appropriate decisions.
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself—Recall the ways you have successfully handled hardships in the past, such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce or major illness. Draw on these skills to meet current challenges. Trust your abilities to solve problems and make appropriate decisions.
  • Keep things in perspective—Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Think about the important things that have stayed the same, even while the outside world is changing. When you talk about bad times, make sure you talk about good times as well.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook—An optimistic and positive outlook enables you to see the good things in your life and can keep you going even in the hardest times. There are positive things in everyone's life such as good health, a comfortable home and strong friendships. Taking the time to identify and appreciate them will enhance your outlook and help you persevere.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery—People often learn something about themselves and grow in positive ways as a result of persevering through hardship. Many people who have experienced tragedy and adversity have reported better relationships, greater sense of personal strength, increased sense of self-worth, deeper spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.
  • Seek help if needed—Many people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands brought about by crisis by using their own support systems. It is not unusual, however, to find that serious problems persist and continue to interfere with daily living. For example, some may feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness that adversely affects job performance and interpersonal relationships. Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Counseling and referral services are available through the Counseling Center.

This document contains information adapted from materials prepared by the American Psychological Association, 2003/04. www.apahelpcenter.org/