Growing Resilience

By: Hannah Smith, M.S

Resilience is defined as the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress”-American Psychological Association. In these stressful times, resiliency can feel far away. Promoting resilience in your own life may look like:

  • Building Connections-Prioritizing your relationships and surrounding yourself with compassionate and empathetic people. Join a group at your place of worship, civic groups, or a local organization to fuel that connectedness to others.
  • Foster Wellness- Take care of your body through nutrition, prioritizing sleep, hydration, and regular exercise.
  • Find purpose- It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, but it’s also important to help foster self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If the problems seem too big to tackle, break them down into pieces.
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How we handle our stress now, will help us be more resilient in the future.

Stress. We’ve all experienced it in some capacity in our own lives. However, there are two distinct types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress are positive sources of stress such as awaiting a promotion, having children, a wedding, etc… Distress are negative sources of stress that enter your life such as a pandemic, loads of paperwork, a huge workload, etc…

With the current distress in our world, it is important to recognize it in order to avoid burnout.

Burnout is described as ““A syndrome of emotional exhaustion,

depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among

individuals who do people work.” (Maslach and Jackson, 1986, p. 1).

Symptoms of burnout are:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Irritability/Aggression
  • Physical/mental exhaustion
  • Problems in work relationships
  • Reduced work performance due to pessimism
  • Cynicism
  • Callousness
  • Hopelessness

Although feeling stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, there is hope.The coping strategies list can help you to avoid burnout by counteracting the effects of stress. The acknowledgment of your current stress levels is a good indicator to how your brain is responding to your environment. By creating a habit of positive coping skills, the less distress you may feel each day.

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Positive coping strategies may look different from person to person. It’s important to find ones that fit you.

‘Coping strategies’ has become a popular sentiment in many mental health circles. Some people confuse coping strategies with an automatic cure to their problems. However, coping strategies are ways that may help you to zero in on your strength, or the strength of a higher power, in order to combat the stress or problem(s) you are facing. Below are some easy coping strategies:

  • Practice Mindfulness- Try to create a habit of mindfulness each day by intentionally quieting your mind for a few minutes each day. Self-guided meditations are available on YouTube or check out the app list below.
  • Keep Things in Perspective- How you think affects how you feel. By re-evaluating your thoughts, you may change the way you see a certain situation or issue.
  • Learn to say no- Saying ‘no’ to prioritize your self care may not be a natural thing to you. Practice saying no in order to form healthy boundaries in your life.
  • Remaining hopeful- It’s hard to remain hopeful when life isn’t going how you planned. Try to visualize what you want or write it down as a goal that you can reach with small efforts everyday. Expect that good things are going to happen, good things are coming your way.
  • Sleep, exercise, and nutrition- The triple threat. By taking time to feed your body what it needs, it can be better equipped to respond to high levels of stress.
  • Do an activity you enjoy- Make time during your week to be fully present in an activity that you like. This can be anything from reading a book, playing or listening to music, visiting with friends, journaling, or anything else that is a positive outlet for you.
  • Reach out! If you feel that you are unable to cope or just need someone to listen, please reach out to your school counselors, administrators, or a trusted person in your life.
  • Smart Phone Apps for Wellness- WYSA, Calm Fear, Action for Happiness, Iona-Mind Guided Self Care, Calm App, Headspace for Educators, Mindfulness Coach, and Simple Habit.


Purpose. No, not the Justin Bieber album. The type of purpose I’m referring to is the type that wakes you up in the morning or gives you an endless supply of grit because you feel that you have a belonging in this world. The word purpose comes from the old french word purposer and was eventually adopted into the English language sometime in the early 1800s (history buffs, whaddup?). It’s a seven letter word that encompasses the search most people embark on during their lives. Some find their purpose in being a parent or having a thriving career (or balancing both!). Some, like myself, have searched for their purpose for years and thinking one thing was it to only realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I was put on this earth for. I find it both terrifying and exciting to realize that there is much more to discover and many more people to help.

Mission: Possible

See, my life hasn’t been the cookie-cutter life I had imagined as a young girl growing up as a military child. My timeline of finishing college at 22, marrying at 25, and having my kids before I’m 30 just didn’t pan out. I graduated college at 23, worked odd jobs, experienced devastating heartbreak, graduated graduate school at 28, and I’m single at 29 with no children or prospects for a husband. It’s taken me a couple of years to accept that my life didn’t go according to ‘my plan’. I hit a dark part of my life where I felt like a failure and I felt like I had let everyone down because I couldn’t live up to society’s expectations to find a husband and have the 2.5 kids before I’m “old”. In my own mind, I had failed to find purpose according to the serving size of the American recipe.

What’s the name of the recipe? Asking for a friend

    Sigh. I don’t know how many people feel this same way or have before, but there seems to be this unbridled pressure to acquire the perfect career, perfect family, and to never, ever get old. You’ll be happy if you have the facebook-perfect marriage and you’re the Pinterest-perfect spouse, have an amazing career, and your child is instafamous all before they’ve even said their first word. I often wonder what social media has done to our purpose as human beings and what exactly we are teaching the younger generation. It elicits concern due to the overwhelming data of depression and anxiety rates throughout the U.S. Are we better to be virtually ‘connected’ all the time? 

The particular unchecked box of purpose in my life and yours may look differently and leave us questioning our questions and sometimes, the answers. I think sometimes the idea that we have to have one purpose is a product of what is preached to us from a young age. We strive to find a single denominator in this world that can bring us happiness, joy, and an endless supply of excitement everyday. Looking at the Bible, we see the lives of so many who are highlighted to show their purpose that Jesus assigned them. However, it often crosses my mind that Noah’s purpose was to build the ark, but also to be a father and a husband, a carpenter, and an example of who God is. Mary found her ultimate purpose through giving birth to Jesus but she was more than a mother; she was a wife, a Christ-follower, a homemaker, a woman. A woman who made dinner for her family and had multiple children to raise into functional human beings and a woman who fought with her husband and didn’t have a Target or farmhouse decor.

Before (and after) google maps

Look at Rahab, one of the most (in my opinion) surprising characters we see throughout the Bible. She was a prostitute and someone that everyone in society looked down upon given her profession. She, however, was a survivor and her heart was kept soft and vulnerable. Her single most exemplary deed in the Bible was being a good liar. Yes, a good liar. I’ll try to sum it up, but basically there were spies that were sent by Joshua to examine the fighting force of Jericho (cue veggies tales) in order to gauge what they needed to prepare for. The spies were found out and Rahab hid them in her house. When the Jericho authorities came to her house to get them, Rahab hid the spies under bunches of flax on the roof which protected them from capture. She lied to the Jericho authorities in order to keep them safe. Later, she begged that the spies show her and her family mercy due to her unbridled kindness; she knew who was going to win. They instructed her to place a red cord out the window when the city was conquered to spare her and her family. When Jericho fell, her whole family survived. However, let’s dive into history for a bit. Why was this so unusual? Back then women didn’t have many rights and were expected to marry from a young age, but the reason she was a perfect candidate for the task? She was a harlot, people were used to seeing men come and go from her house so it was business as usual for her neighbors. So what was so good about her? She had faith. She had a soft heart and she knew who God was. She had faith that she had a purpose and that she was a daughter of the King.

We never hear anything else about Rahab until we get to the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, yes, God included Rahab in Jesus’ ancestral line. That means, Jesus and Rahab became humanly related. God included her into his ultimate plan, just as he includes all his children. Wow. What hope that gives to us today when we think we’ve messed up our purpose or somehow think we aren’t good enough to be used for the glory of his plan. Jesus called himself the ‘friend of sinners’ and his 33 years on this earth was marked with leading that example. I’m never going to have it all together nor will I ever be the perfect Christian, but I want to strive to change my response to my purpose. I want to try and change how I view the world and make it better align with what Jesus’ was. How he saw people and how he loved people. How he viewed his purpose. I want that. Maybe you’ve never heard that story or maybe you’re not a Christian, I would encourage you to just read about who Jesus was (check out the New Testament first) and dive into who He is. I sometimes wish I could have conversations with these influential women in the Bible to hear their faith, to feel their passion, and to learn from their experiences. I’m thankful I have the ability to at least read the stories of their lives and impact.

Purpose. Purpose isn’t found in materialistic things scattered throughout a huge house or rather or not your life (er, my life) goes according to plan. Purpose can be many different things in your life that may or may not be that exciting. Maybe purpose is making dinner for your family or being there for your coworkers during a stressful day. Maybe your purpose includes the small moments in life that we overlook as mundane but that is all God’s plan to lead you to that “a ha okay, I see you God” moment. Maybe he’s planted you in those moments to lead you to become more reliant on him. Maybe the reasons we feel we have no purpose is because we want to skip the mundane parts and get to our big “aha okay, I see you God” moment a bit too quickly. Maybe we need to be faithful in the mundane to be given the responsibility of those big moments. Maybe we need to be more like Rahab and strive to have faith despite our circumstances, or Noah and have faith despite our friends and family telling us we’re crazy every day. Maybe we need to stop seeking validation from everyone else or trying to perform for the audience that lies behind screens and start seeking Jesus. Yeah, let’s unplan our plans and revel in what Jesus has for us.



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