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Resilience: the power of healing

There is no doubt that emotions can heal us. From love to hope to positivity – to resilience against what life may throw at us. If you have the power of resilience, you are able to withstand the headwinds of life – but also the hurt and damage of disease, and the often slow and sometimes frustrating recovery time.

Resilience and recovery are two sides of the same coin. Resilience is the mental reservoir of determination and positive thinking that gets us through bad times, pain and patient rebuilding.

The three tenets scientifically ascribed to resilience are Plasticity , Sociality and Meaning . All of these are mediated in humans via oxytocin circuitry.

How does resilience show itself?

There’s no doubt that people with resilience deal with adversity more positively than those who tend to fall apart easily when hit with the slings and arrows of life. This doesn’t mean that resilient people don’t feel a range of emotions such as grief or disappointment or despair as other people do, it means they approach the situation with a different mindset. How we deal with problems – particularly illness and injury – goes a long way to defining our personalities and our rate of recovery from setbacks, no matter what those might be.

Resilient people are able to utilise their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. Instead of falling into despair resilient people face life’s difficulties head-on. They handle such difficulties in ways that foster strength and growth. In many cases, they may emerge even stronger than they were before. Much of our psychological distress we experience under stress is due to the way we process our experience.

The dual power of resilience

Resilience has the extraordinary effect of adding clarity to a situation. This motivates determination to reach a positive way out, and a vision of a satisfactory outcome. So stress and difficulties are not eliminated, but confronted and built upon to reach goals and purpose moving forward. Resilient people can not only help themselves through adversity, but are also capable of helping others, thus adding meaning to the life of all parties involved.  Sometimes, under pressure, resilient people are at their best.

Some people are born with this type of inner strength – it comes as part of their particular personality package. While that may be so, it is possible to learn resilience when faced with unexpected trials. Factors that build resilience will include:

  • Being a good communicator
  • Being able to manage emotions positively
  • Being capable of making realistic plans and following through on them
  • Viewing yourself as a fighter rather than a victim
  • Developing an internal locus of control, so that you feel able to influence events that affect you.

How to build resilience

Reframe your thoughts: Resilient people don’t blame or brood. They are able to analyse what cannot be altered, and what is possible for successful change. They begin with small steps to reach goals, but are persistent. They heal more quickly when sick, because they are prepared to repeat exercises and follow care routines to the letter and regularly. In this way, they make the challenge almost enjoyable – and celebrate progress no matter how small. Moving away from negative emotions, they can even develop new skills.

Be happy to find support: A support system is integral to healing or facing a difficulty. Sharing your situation and your thoughts with an empathic listener is extremely beneficial to feelings of wellbeing – and the better you feel, the stronger your resilience.

Try to help others : acts of kindness help to add meaning to life situations .

Focus on what you are able to control: Often people lose heart when they try to do too much. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. One thing at a time. Take realistic steps to help improve the situation. No matter how small these steps may be, they can improve your sense of control – and once you feel in control, you are able to gain resilience as well.

Develop a healthy lifestyle: Exercise, diet and sleep are the cornerstones of resilience – remaining fit and healthy is a key factor in combatting stress and staying well.

Resilience and mental wellness

The more resilient you are, the more you will enjoy better moods – which is good for your health overall, including mental wellness, and any recovery programme. Positive emotions are not just window-dressing; they are intimately tied up with the efficiency of your immune function and your physical health. Mental health is a state of well-being which positively affects the normal stresses of life, work productivity, and the way in which we participate in our communities. Resilience is the attitude and mindset which keeps our mental health intact.

Dr Izolda Heydenrych

Dr Heydenrych has been involved in aesthetic medicine and dermatology teaching for over two decades. As the co-founder and director of the Cape Town Cosmetic Dermatology Centre, and currently in full-time private practice, she is able to fully realise her ideals in her own capacity. Due to her passion for teaching and sharing, she holds an Honorary Consultant post at Stellenbosch University (Division Dermatology) where she is involved in teaching both aesthetic medicine and dissection anatomy. She also heads the HeyEd Academy which offers training in Dermatology, Anatomy, Aesthetic medicine and presentation skills.

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