Resilience and Disability

II. Ten Skills and Attitudes that can Increase Resilience

  1. Being connected to others and being able to communicate well with others and problem solve both individually and as a team is one of the most important skills of resilience. Relationships that can provide support and caring are one of the primary factors in resilience. Having a number of these relationships both within and outside of the family that offer love, encouragement and reassurance can build and support resilience. Being able to communicate well with others and to listen and problem solve as part of a team is part of this factor. Developing new friendships and working as a team member within your community are two ways to build your resilience.
  2. Being flexible. By definition it is a key component of resilience and one of the primary factors in emotional adjustment and maturity.  This requires that an individual be flexible in his thinking and his actions, e.g., trying something new, e.g., a new treatment, routine.
  3. Being able to make realistic plans and take action to carry them out. Being able to see what is, rather than what you would like is a part of this skill.  Being proactive rather than reactive, assertive rather than aggressive or passive are all components of this skill, e.g., taking a Red Cross course in CPR and First Aid.
  4. Being able to manage strong feelings. It is "normal" to have a lot of different feeling about having a disability, ranging from rage to depression to gratitude. It is important to recognize these feeling and find a way of expressing them. Being impulsive or acting completely out of emotion is usually not a good idea. You need to learn to put emotion to the side when clear thinking and action are required. Being able to use your thinking as a way of managing your emotions is a key component of this skill, e.g., when angry, think before acting.
  5. Being self-confident. Having a positive self-image is critical if a person is to be able to confront and manage fear and anxiety in his/her life, e.g., helping someone else.
  6. Being able to find purpose and meaning.  Being able to make sense out of what is happening and to find meaning in it is critical if one is to be able to manage the feelings that are aroused in a crisis.  Spiritual and religious practices are often a component of this factor, e.g., acting on your values and beliefs.
  7. Being able to see the big picture. This skill is often closely aligned with Number 5 and Number 6. Optimism. No, this is not the rose-colored glasses type of optimism.  We’ll have more to say about this later in this program. Being optimistic about what others, such as the federal government may refer to as a “permanent disability,” may be difficult.  Very few things in life are permanent.  Even “permanent disabilities” change over time. Optimists are more likely to see good and bad events occurring in their lives being temporary rather than permanent. No, a disability may not pass, but how you deal with it may change as you get better at managing it. Optimists are also more likely to see events having a specific impact on certain areas of their lives, rather than having a pervasive impact on their entire lives or their entire future. A disability can change a lot, but not everything. And last of all, and perhaps most important, optimists are less likely to blame themselves or someone else for the hard times. Optimists avoid the blame game. They may hold themselves and others accountable for their actions, but don’t waste their energy on blaming themselves or other people.
  8. Being able to appreciate and use humor appropriately. Whether humor is “sick” or “dark” often depends on the setting. Laughter may have healing powers, e.g., if you’re not feeling well; watch a funny movie.
  9. Being able to take care of yourself, e.g., diet, exercise, financial “health,” etc. Being able to take care of yourself, e.g., diet, exercise, financial health, etc. If you have a disability, much of your focus may be on doing just this. Unfortunately, most of it may be defined in terms of the medical system and medical care and treatment and may have very little to do with “health.” Focusing our energy on setting goals and making a plan for a good diet, exercise and managing your weight can be just as important as following through with the prescriptions given to us by the medical profession.
  10. Being able to care for others physically and emotionally. Occupations and volunteer activities that involve caring for others can often build resilience, e.g., volunteer in a shelter or a food bank.

From “Duct Tape Isn’t Enough”: Survival Skills for the 21st Century, Module I, pages 4 and 5.

If you would like to learn more about these skills and attitudes, watch this video.


Learn More

Learn even more about skills and attitudes that can increase your resilience by visiting our companion website


< Previous pageNext page >