Protective Factors to Increase Resilience

By Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader

Resilience. We have heard this word a lot during the pandemic. I have marveled at the resilience of medical professionals, school administration and teachers, and so many others during this pandemic. The short definition of resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations.

Most often, though, the difficult situations have a limited duration of time, so our skills can be utilized to help us cope and move through the situation. The pandemic, however, continues, and our skills are being worn down and depleted.

In my professional life, we focus on protective factors to increase a child’s resilience to give them the best chance at handling adversity. The protective factors are attachment, initiative and self-regulation. In early childhood classrooms, we strive to provide activities, interactions and opportunities that can build these protective factors.

As I reflect on our current environment, I wonder how well some of us are doing in these areas. Attachment can be defined as the ability to promote and maintain mutual positive connections with others. When strong connections exist between people, we will exhibit more willingness and exercise more impulse control. The pandemic has limited our opportunities to connect with one another and that impact can be felt when viewing how we relate to one another.

Initiative can be defined as the ability to use independent thought and action to meet your own needs. During the pandemic the influence of social media, news channels and other national platforms has impacted our ability to form independent thought. With these influencing factors and high levels of emotions, it can be difficult to exercise rational thinking and reasoning. Our emotions will impact our thoughts, and our thoughts will impact our actions.

Self-regulation can be defined as the ability to express emotions and manage behavior in healthy ways. We have all experienced the roller coaster of emotions during this pandemic. We have all witnessed the effects of unhealthy management of emotions. Some of us have demonstrated unhealthy ways of managing emotions when in a conversation with someone or through a rant posted on social media.

As adults, how can we build our resilience?
  • Stay connected with others in meaningful ways. Maintain the positive relationships that you have created with friends, family and other professionals.
  • Acknowledge our feelings about experiences and situations. When we verbally connect the feeling with the situation, we decrease the intensity of the feeling and can manage it in healthy ways.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and stillness.
  • Practice healthy habits for eating, sleeping and physical movement. These steps in caring for yourself will support your physical well-being which supports your emotional well-being.
  • Identify your needs and create plans for meeting the needs. Consider what resources – time, finances, people, organizations – are available to support you in meeting the needs.
  • Practice gratitude. Focusing on what you are thankful for can help us maintain hope and a positive outlook.
As a community of Christian believers, we have an opportunity to be an example to others. I encourage you to practice some of these strategies to build your resiliency. I encourage you to reflect on your struggles during the pandemic and identify how you have overcome the challenges. I challenge you to be present for someone who may need support. I challenge you to pause before your speak or before you post, so you can review your words to see if they are helpful or hurtful.

My hope and prayer is that through our struggles we can still be the everyday living example of Christ in this world.