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Command chief highlights need for resilience

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- Resilience provides the capacity to "bounce back" from a difficult experience. It enables Airmen to keep going when the going gets tough. Therefore, it is important to build resilience into our lives.

The four pillars of resilience are physical, emotional, social and spiritual.

Physical relates to exercise, eating healthy and getting enough sleep.

Emotional refers to managing emotions in a healthy manner; having someone to talk with, esteem doing things that make us feel better about ourselves and engaging with learning such as studying, learning new things, creative thinking, analyzing.

Social relates to family, friends and fun activities.

Spiritual refers to character, connection with others and contributes to the total wellness of a person.

Of the four dimensions of wellness, the spiritual component is the most controversial and most misunderstood, and therefore, often neglected. The reason is that people often confuse spirituality with religion. Therefore, it is important to realize that the spiritual component of resilience does not necessarily refer to one's religion or practice of faith. Instead, it refers to the very heart of our being, the part of us that seeks meaning, purpose, and total wellness in life. However, if a person is religious, then most likely, religious practices and beliefs play a key role in that person's spiritual resilience. People can draw upon their religious beliefs and practices to nurture and strengthen their spiritual resilience. However, not everyone is religious; nor does everyone follow the same faith traditions and rituals.

The question then becomes, "How does the spiritual component of resilience apply to both religious and non-religious people?" The answer lies in understanding some of the facets of spirituality. For example, spirituality relates to the following:

Depth is recognizing that there is more to life than meets the eye. In people and situations, there are always things going on below the surface. Intuitively, we know this is true. There is a depth to life. We might say that our spirituality is that part of us that longs for a deeper understanding of life.

Meaning is the part of us that wants a sense of purpose and significance in life. We want our lives to matter. Spirituality is doing things that add meaning and purpose to our life.

Values are familiar to us because the Air Force expects us to live by them. We are connecting with our spiritual side when we live out our core values: service before self, integrity, and excellence in all we do.

Imagination is drawing from the spiritual to envision new possibilities, especially when things seem bleak. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a good of example of someone who was able to draw from his spiritual strength to dream and inspire others.

Intentionality is doing something deliberately and consciously with the purpose to make something more meaningful. In other words, approach a situation with a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn or with a desire and openness to experience something more fully.

Awareness is to be mindful and appreciative of the present moment and to live with a sense of wonder and awe, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Awareness also refers to recognizing how my experiences of the past have helped to shape and inform who I am today. It is also realizing that my current decisions and actions will indeed affect my future.

Gratitude is to be grateful for the gift of life, to give thanks for blessings and to express appreciation to others.

Community is finding support and fulfillment in belonging with family and friends, being a part of a group and making connections with others.

Kindness is showing care and concern for others.

Celebration is marking the milestones of life such as birthdays, graduations, retirements, and promotions. When we celebrate an event, it adds meaning to it, thus making it a "spiritual" practice.

Laughter is good medicine for the soul and helps us not to take ourselves too seriously.

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can inspire, encourage, and challenge us. It can also help us to reflect on life and acquire wisdom and guidance for living.

Worshipping can be in a traditional sense such as going to a place of worship on a particular day of the week or non-traditional ways such as being outdoors and having a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty and expanse of nature.

Solitude can include quiet reflection, sitting in silence, prayer, or taking time to be still for the purpose of refocusing and centering ourselves.

It is important to remember that everyone's spirituality will not look the same. Some people will draw upon their religious beliefs and practices to build up their spiritual resilience while others will do so in ways that are more non-traditional. The key is to find ways to add meaning and purpose to your life and to connect with others through positive, healthy relationships.

Another important thing to remember is that the dimensions of wellness are intertwined and inseparable. For example, a person could go for a walk (physical) through the park with a friend (social). While walking together they could discuss their lives and encourage each another, perhaps even discuss a book they have been reading (emotional/mental), and in the process feel a deep sense of gratitude for their friendship as well as a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of nature around them (spiritual).

One definition of resilience is to "bounce back" after a difficult experience. An even better metaphor is "bouncing forward."

A life-changing event may be so difficult that we are unable to bounce back to where we were before, so we have to bounce forward. How are we going to do bounce forward? We have to build things into our lives that make us resilient.

We have to take care of the physical, emotional/mental, social--and however it looks for you--and it will not be the same for everyone, let us not forget the spiritual.