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Keys to Resilience


Written by Tara Koch

My first thought when approaching this blog with the title ‘Keys to Resilience’: was do I dare use my keys as an analogy? I am sure I could ask to change the title right Claire? Maybe…‘Tools for Resilience’, and yet keys are essential for access, opening doors and driving. And of all the technology we use on a daily basis, we probably pay the least attention to the mechanical miracles that keep our home, vehicles and important items secure, for the exception of when we misplace them.  Locks and keys have been around for millennia and they are undergoing one of their rare historic shifts – from mechanical to electronic, from isolated to interconnected.  Yes, I think I will use this title to guide this blog on resilience!

The concept of resilience, or the ability to bounce back after a stressor or hardship, has been popping up a lot lately, especially with regard to happiness. And although ‘resilience’ can also be seen as a buzzword, it is more than a trendy idea – it is a key factor in how individuals cope with their environment. 

By the definition alone, resilience is as much a part of who we are as it is the ecosystem. It is the capacity or ability to successfully cope with adversity and is essential to the progress and prosperity of any individual, community and/or society. So how does one know when their resilience is low? While resilience can be a trait many of us are born with, it is also a state of being and can fluctuate depending on our life situation at any point in time. And much like the historical shifts of ‘keys and locks’ that are advancing our security toward an interconnected app or device, in the last 30+ years it’s been discovered that trauma can be used as a catalyst to change us for the better, if individuals have access to a ‘interconnected’ community that is safe and supportive.  When a broad range of individual needs for relationship are met; such as, healthy interactions for individuals to social, cultural, economic, and biophysical environment, this interconnectedness allows for individuals to unlock their skills to discover how they may define each key that can build resiliency. 

We must keep in mind, that not everyone has access to essential ‘keys’ to aide them in their journey, and that horrific trauma happens to individuals that can be harmed throughout their life.  I do not have a clinical background, and as much as I have advanced my knowledge about ACEs, trauma theory, epigenetics, and the brain and violence, I am not stating that unfortunate or traumatic events are necessary for building character or developing coping skills. I am not intending to focus on any clinical aspects to trauma or resilience. I am writing from my experience and the lens of a white, privileged woman.

With that in mind, here are 3 of my 10 essential keys to resilience I have created and committed to in 2018:

Skill Development: Honing my skills to become more aware of my strengths and how I can work toward improving them. 

Key: Allowing for an open path to self-discovery, with trusted feedback, to move from missteps and setbacks to reinforcing self-efficacy, creating a powerful loop for growth and change for personal resilience.

Vulnerability:  Managing emotions during losses and wins is difficult for me. My resilience may erode slowly over time and/or it can drop quickly after experiencing a significant emotional event or a particularly stressful period, and if I am not bouncing back from stress and pressure, I am not intentionally building resilience.  My body language exposes my disappointment and my screech defines my joy and excitement. Those individuals that are most important in my life, family/staff/friends will attest to the vast canyon that often separates my equilibrium. 

Key: Knowing my current state of resilience has helped me determine my level of emotional intelligence and whether to carve out extra time for resilience exchanging activities.

Wholeheartedness: Continuing to build my capacity and/or agency to engage in relationship with authenticity to cultivate a deep, profound way to share who I am with others.  

Key: By letting go of who I thought people wanted me to be and by allowing my imperfections of who I am to be experienced without shame; I have allowed myself to be seen, really seen – and this has allowed for a greater opportunity for open communication and authentic growth toward resilience. (yep, pretty much all ‘Brene’ Brown).

So how do we become more resilient? How can we assist others less connected, and who are marginalized, to build resilience? The most important factor and key condition is relationships.  Over and over, in research and in life experience, it has been shown that human interconnectedness promotes healing.  I challenge you to find ways to give back to your community by seeking individuals that may be isolated and with consent, be a key to building resilience!!