Building Resilience

-Minori Nagatomo, School Counselor

2020 has been a grueling year for many of us. Covid-19 continues to impact us daily, and we must learn to adapt as the situation continues to change. It’s not just the pandemic: global issues like systemic racism, civil unrest, and natural disasters also demand our attention and response. How do we acknowledge and overcome the real challenges of our day without dismissing the hardships? How do we find hope and build the resilience in us that will withstand the trials of 2020 and beyond?  

At CAJ, we have strengthened our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) initiatives this year. SEL is an integral part of the holistic development of each child, and it is becoming even more important with the stresses of this year. The new curriculum we have put in place aims to nurture students’ relational and emotional development, and it features not only resilience but other key topics such as diversity, empathy, and stress management. Here, we will focus on resilience and look at one simple tip for more resilient thinking. Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman encourages us to avoid three P’s - personal, pervasive, and permanent - for a healthier thought life. 

Personal - This is the belief that we are personally at fault for something that has occurred.  For example, if we believe that a particular project is tough because we are “inadequate,” we have placed a personal and yet vague and inaccurate label on ourselves.  But when we examine the reality of the situation, we discover that it’s a challenging project for anyone; it takes time and effort to learn new things, and we can work on specific skills to remove many of the obstacles.  Constructive thinking reduces unnecessary self-blame and often helps us take responsibility for more specific solutions to resolve the real issues at hand.  

Pervasive thinking assumes that a bad situation in one area of life will impact all areas of life.  Many of us thought, "Everything is cancelled!" when events, parties, and trips seemed to be cancelled one after another. It is healthy to acknowledge and grieve losses in our lives, but, as we do, we can find hope in God who is still good and sovereign over our lives. We begin to find encouragement in the non-pervasive nature of most of our challenges in life.  Conversations are not cancelled, relationships are not cancelled, and fun is certainly not cancelled. Don’t let all-or-nothing thinking rob you of the good that is still there to enjoy.  

Permanent - People who understand life’s setbacks to be temporary are better able to accept what has happened and adapt for the future. The saying “this too shall pass” is not from the Bible, but it does resonate with what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4: 17 about his “light and momentary afflictions.”  I think, “How dare anyone call my suffering light and momentary!” But then I remember that Paul experienced prison, violence, and death as a martyr.  He wrote these words, not because suffering feels light and momentary by any means, but to remind us of the truly incomparable glory we will experience in eternal life and to exhort us to focus on unseen things of eternal value.

As you can see, building resilience isn’t about ignoring our pain or faking positivity.  Combined with other resilience-building habits like staying healthy, staying connected with others, and seeking help when needed, steering away from these three P’s helps us do what God calls us to do each day - be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) and live a grounded, resilient life in the midst of all that life throws at us. 

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