Saturday, February 23, 2013

Special Education Saturday - Building Resilience

Everyone faces challenges in their lives. Some problems can be so overwhelming that it seems impossible to survive the disaster.

We can prepare ourselves and our children with special needs to not just survive life's difficulties, but also to thrive.

Let's begin by describing resilience. In short, it's the ability to bounce back from a setback, to recover and move on with our lives.

Steven M Southwick and Dennis S. Charney are medical doctors who have spent considerable time studying resilience in those who have endured horrific trials. Their book, "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" has outlined a series of steps anyone can take to improve their coping abilities.

The first tool in your resilience toolbox is to be optimistic. You need more than just a generalized belief that everything will be OK. It can be best summed up in a phrase I've heard a lot lately:

"Everything will be OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end."

Southwick and Charney note that type of optimism includes restating your circumstances, coping through goals, and looking for the meaning behind events.

When you restate your circumstances, you have the opportunity to minimize the catastrophic nature of your situation. It's OK to accept that you are facing a challenge, but try to put in a little global perspective. Will this event matter tomorrow? In a year? In 10 years? Can you accept things as a potential for learning and growth?

Most situations can be bettered through a focus on goals. You can resolve to endure an illness without complaint. Challenges with a child's behavior can be faced with a resolution to collaborate with helpful professionals. The loss of a loved one may be better tolerated if you look to improve relationships with the rest of your family.

Looking for meaning can be done at any point during the trial's process. Seek out lessons to learn, qualities you can develop, or support systems to create. Discovering a meaning behind your obstacle can turn a terrible experience into an opportunity for growth.

How have you managed to remain optimistic despite challenges?

Next week: Ways to increase your optimism.