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Exploring Resilience in Everyday Life

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April 19th, 2010
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Over the past year, many world leaders, businesses, and just regular folks needed to be resilient in the face of conflict, economic difficulties, job issues, health issues, devastating earthquakes, and other disasters of either personal or global significance. ' What is resilience? In short, it s the ability to move through conflict or trouble without negatively impacting either your physical well-being or your mental health; in other words, the ability to bounce back from adversity. An article I wrote in the November 2009 edition of the Erickson Tribune explored how two people moved through difficulty to find themselves happy and fulfilled despite their initial belief that their future would be grim. ' While researching that article, I happened upon a number of individuals whose stories were inspiring, funny, and interesting. In this blog space, I will share those stories with the hope that they will help readers see resilience in action. ' Maybe someone else s story will inspire you to leap over whatever hurdles you encounter. If you know someone whose resilience saw them through a tough time, send me their story and information on how to contact them and I ll try to include their story in a future blog post. ' Michele.Harris@Erickson.com

Here is the original article: Resilience key to a long, healthy life By Michele Harris THE ERICKSON TRIBUNE You ve no doubt heard the expression, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Throughout a lifetime, we receive hundreds of lemons. Believe it or not, how well you turn those lemons into lemonade could impact both your longevity and the quality of your life in later years. Numerous studies indicate that resilient people tend to lead longer and healthier lives. What is resilience? It s the ability to move through a time of stress without damaging either your mental or physical health. Says clinical psychologist and physical therapist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, The benefits of being resilient are many, including improved physical health, emotional health, problem solving, relationships, and overall quality of life. Resilience in the face of catastrophe When he was 16 years old, Dean Ragone of Haddonfield, N.J., dove into a swimming pool and broke his neck. Initially paralyzed, over time Ragone regained the use of his arms but has mostly been confined to a wheelchair. It was particularly difficult in the 1970s when Ragone had his accident because as he puts it, maybe 10% of buildings were accessible back then and medical technology was no where near what it is today. Young and athletic, suddenly Ragone had a decision to make. I could get on with my life and make something of myself, he says. Or I could take the other path and go into a nursing home at the age of 16 and be supported for the rest of my life. Ragone chose the former. Now in his 50s he says that despite his early setback he s met or exceeded his goals and feels blessed to have lived the life he s lived so far. As he gets older, he feels perhaps more prepared to deal with some of the difficult challenges that lie ahead of him because he knows he can. Everyone has choices in life, he says. It s how you want to live. As the president and CEO of allRisk, Inc., experts in property damage restoration, Ragone says his clients face terrible challenges as they face rebuilding after devastating fires or other catastrophes. His advice in the face of adversity, In life there are a lot of obstacles. It s all about how you approach them and how you overcome them. The only real obstacles you have are the ones inside your head. Resilient aging By the time people reach their later years, they have overcome countless obstacles personally, professionally, and perhaps even physically. But while everyone expects to grow older, the challenges of aging are often the hardest to accept. How to spend your time after retirement, or how to deal with diminished physical abilities and health issues, can confound even the most resilient among us. Such was the case with Dr. Lloyd Stewart, who describes himself as chronically employed. For more than 50 years, Stewart was a well-respected psychiatrist in Baltimore, Md. When Stewart accidentally drove into a tree, he says it was a wake up call. I didn t want to stop working, he says. The only thing injured in the accident was his pride and it wasn t long after the incident that he stopped driving and reluctantly retired. Stewart s daughter-in-law suggested he find a better living situation as well. She wanted him in a friendlier environment, where transportation would not be an issue. Stewart surveyed the local retirement communities and decided that Charlestown, in Catonsville, Md., was the place for him. Soon after moving in, Stewart paid a visit to Sherry Parrish, director of resident life at Charlestown. Describing their first meeting, Parrish says, A sad, forlorn, dejected, without purpose, but very handsome man walked into my office and introduced himself. We talked and he says, I have nothing to do. In a very short period of time, Parrish was able to hone in on Stewart s affable nature and ease with conversation. You need to be in the television studio, she told him and suggested he visit Charlestown s on-site community TV station. The station put Stewart on its weekly interview program. All of the skills he developed over the span of his career, says Parrish, he needs now and uses now. That new assignment was just was Stewart needed to kick start his life, and it should come as no surprise the man he is today is anything but forlorn or without purpose. Resilient as Stewart is, he misses working and driving. I would love to still be able to do many of the things I did before, says Stewart. However, I like what I m doing now and I never thought I would say that. Moving through a challenge and finding new ways to stay engaged and vibrant is what being resilient is all about.

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