Building Personal + Community Resilience

Hello neighbors!

How are you doing? Like, really doing? I haven’t done this in a long time, but let’s take a minute to breathe and let go of any worries we have just for a minute. I know I need it, and you probably do too. So take a long breath in (it doesn’t have to be deep, just long and slow) and then out. And do that one more time. One thing about podcasting is that I get to talk to listeners, but I don’t get immediate feedback on how you’re doing. It’s tough out there, so in this episode, I want to talk about building personal and community resilience so we can work together to face life’s challenges. That way, even if I can’t be with you IRL, at least I know you’ve got some tools to cope.

What is resilience?

Resilience is a word that’s often used in emergency response and disaster recovery. But what does it mean? Resilience is the dynamic process of recovering or bouncing back quickly from difficult situations like trauma, tragedy, or threats, overcoming obstacles, adapting to change, and thriving despite adversity. There are two kinds of resilience: personal resilience and community resilience.

Personal resilience

Personal resilience is an individual’s ability to carry out goal-directed behavior in the face of obstacles and stress. This can depend on a person’s biology, actions, relationships, environment, and sense of control and purpose.

Resilient individuals have the ability to maintain positive emotions, flexibility, confidence, and good relationships even in difficult situations. They are insightful of others’ perspectives. Their beliefs about themselves and their abilities to succeed persist through changing circumstances, whether positive or negative (this is known as self-efficacy).

As a result, resilient people can cope with change while remaining optimistic about their futures — they think positively about what they can do, even if it seems impossible at first glance.

Risk Factors

Does this sound like you? If not, it’s okay! There’s a lot that can affect your personal resilience. Risk factors that could be affecting your resiliency include

  • Childhood trauma
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poverty
  • Social or cultural discrimination
  • Lack of social support systems
  • Lack of access to health care/treatment services
  • Poor health and nutrition.

Just to name a few. Hey – the human experience isn’t easy. It might seem like the people who need to develop resilience are most likely the ones who mentally nodded their heads as I named off one or more of those barriers or risks of not being resilient. But if you can take a step back and realize what might be affecting your ability to bounce back and overcome obstacles – you can start to heal and grow. Resilience involves understanding the role that both risk and protective factors play in your life.

Protective Factors

The protective factors are factors that can make someone more resilient, such as:

  • A secure, stable, and supportive household and family
  • A sense of belonging
  • Good social connections
  • Access to opportunities
  • Access to support services, healthcare, and good schooling
  • A strong cultural identity
  • And strong attachment, participation, and commitment to a community (that one’s important)

You may notice that some of the benefits of being part of a community and community well-being are the same protective factors for personal resiliency.

So if you want to build your resilience, one of the best solutions is – you guessed it – developing your community! A community can help you build social connections and systems that uplift, support, help, and keep you accountable. 

Also, focusing on your strengths is another significant part of building personal resilience. Think about how you can build resilience by focusing on your personal health, your social connections, your work, your neighborhood, and more. Shift from emotional thinking to problem-solving, ideally preparing for adversity and challenges before they come so that you know how to take action and have a support system when they do happen.

Just as people can be taught to be more resilient, so can communities.

Community Resilience

Similar to personal resilience, a resilient community can respond to crises, such as disasters, emergencies, and significant changes, in ways that strengthen community bonds, resources, and the community’s capacity to cope. According to The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, community resilience is the individual and collective capacity to respond to adversity and change.

Community resilience is the ability of a community to adapt to change, respond to stresses and shocks, and recover from them. It means that when something bad happens, the community won’t be broken by it—instead, they’ll have the ability to problem solve and bounce back stronger than ever.

Resilient communities prioritize community well-being, personal resilience within the community, and empower people to use their strengths to thrive. This means that the community is engaged in supporting themselves and each other, so everyone can live the best life possible. It’s about having a sense of belonging, connectedness, and shared responsibility for the well-being of all members of an area or region.

But since all communities are unique – their vulnerabilities and ability to build resiliency will differ. For instance, the vulnerabilities, hazards, and resilience to climate change will vary quite a bit from, say, a rural community in Missouri to an urban community on the coast of California. Community leaders and members must build resilience strategies specific to the location and the issue.

Building community resilience involves developing and implementing policies that lead to public awareness and community participation which leads to less vulnerability and enhanced resilience to disaster. (Go back and listen to 10 Ingredients for Successful Sustainable Communities to see how this can be done).

Building community builds personal + community resilience. It opens the door for commitment, communication, participation, growth, support, empathy, planning, reflection, skill, and resource building, which helps the individual and the community grow as a whole.

American Author bell hooks said,

“When we talk about that which will sustain and nurture our (spiritual) growth as a people, we must once again talk about the importance of community. For one of the most vital ways we sustain ourselves is by building communities of resistance, places where we know we are not alone.”

Something to grow on

I’ll wrap this up on our Something to Grow on segment by saying this. When we think about resilience, it’s important to remember that we all have the potential to be resilient. We just need to understand the role of risk and protective factors in our lives and then start taking action and strengthening connections. By building personal and community resilience, we can help ourselves, and each other grow through difficult times, find meaning in life, and even solve the world’s most challenging problems.

You can make a difference by actively building your personal resilience, which will build community resilience. Think about all of the opportunities you have every day to strengthen connections with those around you—with friends or neighbors, at work or school, or even at the grocery store or post office! By connecting with others outside of crisis periods, we build our social networks and strengthen our communities so they can become more resilient when resilience is needed.

So let’s continue to work for a more resilient future – for ourselves, and our communities – today.

Until next time, thanks for joining me, neighbor.

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