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Recent disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the tragic shooting at the Las Vegas country-music festival, and personal traumatic events that inevitably occur in each of our lives, have unfortunately become all too commonplace in our society. The aftermath of these events can leave us feeling anxious, stressed, alone, overwhelmed, and uncertain. We can become paralyzed by an inability to process the depth and breadth of the outcomes of these events, and unable to figure out how to begin to move forward again.

But there is hope, and there are options. In the face of seemingly insurmountable tragedy, an opportunity exists to evidence personal and collective resilience, to focus on strengths rather than deficits. Resilience is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Psychology Today states, “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”

We are all born with the capacity for resilience. This is evidenced in the ability to acquire new skills as we move through the developmental stages of growth. With subsequent trials and failures, we innately and continuously strive to attain competencies and hallmarks that define mastery of each developmental stage. Our ability to withstand and persevere through early failed attempts is buoyed by our resilience, optimism, and ultimately, our desire to be successful.

Internal and external protective factors influence our level of resilience. Some intrinsic traits include an ability to problem-solve, open-mindedness, a generally positive outlook, self-awareness, empathy for self and others, sense of humor, and an ability to build and sustain healthy relationships. External factors include an environment that provides motivation for healthy behaviors and responses to adverse events, a spiritual connection or affiliation with a religious organization, ability to distance oneself from negative or destructive influences, and a sense of collective community and place where one feels unconditionally valued and recognized.

It is highly likely that at some point in a lifetime everyone will experience an event that he/she finds traumatic. How you are affected, deal with, and recover from that event is largely dependent on how resilient you are, how you are able to focus on and manifest your strengths, and how determined you are to “rise from the ashes.”

If you or someone you know is having difficulty or struggling to cope, there is help available. For more information, call Christian Health’s mental-health services at (201) 848-5500 or visit