On December 4th, 1993, my wife and I welcomed our daughter, Kaitlyn, into this world. Truthfully, we were terrified. Kaitlyn was born three months early, at 26-weeks of gestation, weighing only 1 lb. 12 ounces. As new parents, we didn’t know what to expect.
Would she survive? If she lived, how long would she be in the hospital? Would she have disabilities that we’d have to learn about and support? Did we have the strength to handle this situation emotionally? Did we need other help from our families? We had so many questions and no answers.
Doctors and nurses managed her case at the only neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the area. The NICU was an intimidating experience. The newborns were in incubators, which were attached to many different monitors that provided vital health-related information.
I can still hear the sounds of the monitor's alarms that alerted us when Kaitlyn’s heart rate slowed or her breathing was too shallow. When I still hear those alarms today, the same level of anxiety immediately comes back.
Kaitlyn was in the hospital for 67 days. She demonstrated a level of resiliency that has continued to serve her throughout her life. You see, Kaitlyn’s story is a happy one.
Two weeks ago, I had the great honor of walking her down the aisle at her wedding. Now at 27 years old, she’s a pediatric nurse. She helps children and their families who are facing a range of medical diagnoses.
Much is written about resiliency already, but being resilient can mean different things to people depending on their situation. With Kaitlyn, she taught me that being resilient means facing life’s challenges head-on and never giving up.
To be resilient is to be a fighter and not fall into a level of despair that becomes overwhelming. It’s about having the mental and emotional strength to handle the hardship that life brings.
Of course, we all have good days and bad days. There are moments when we may feel overwhelmed. That is normal. However, when we are resilient, we know that these day-to-day challenges are temporary. We remain focused on the bigger picture – that these things, too, shall pass.
To be resilient, we need to answer these questions:
- How can we foster greater resiliency in ourselves?
- Does this happen naturally, or can we use specific principles to grow our resiliency?
To answer these questions, I turned to Dr. Katherine King, Psy.D. In her recent Psychology Today article, “Seven Skills of Resilience” (March 2020), she described the following fundamental principles that underpin an individual’s resiliency.
Principle 1- Cultivate a Belief in Your Ability to Cope
We all must acknowledge our feelings and validate how we react to a situation. Afterward, we can begin to recognize that we have personal strengths and abilities to get through the problems we face. As Kaitlyn got older, we’d often sit and discuss life events that caused her stress or were emotionally upsetting to her. Then, we’d discuss how she was an intelligent and capable person who had the strength to weather the storm. Sometimes just validating that it is okay to feel a certain way was all that was needed.
Principle 2- Stay Connected with Sources of Support
Self-isolation can lead to negative outcomes in times of adversity. We need to stay in touch with family and friends who can listen and provide support. No one needs to be a superhero. But, sometimes, just a short “check-in” with a friend can let you know that you’re not alone.
Principle 3- Talk About What You’re Going Through
Some people are quiet by nature. They may not want to share their feelings or the challenges they face because they fear they’ll be rejected or ignored. Although, talking about what we’re going through helps us to process our emotions.
Principle 4- Be Helpful to Others
We know that we often get so much more in return when we give to others. By helping others, we gain more understanding of ourselves.
Principle 5- Activate Positive Emotions
Positive psychology has grown in recent years, and the research has shown that positive attitudes can help us deal with difficult circumstances. The key is to be realistic about our lives but remains optimistic that our situations will improve.
Principle 6- Cultivate an Attitude of Survivorship
Embracing an attitude that you will endure what you are facing creates a ‘failure is not an option’ perspective. We start to realize that we all go through hardships at various times in our lives. We can begin to connect our experiences to others through a sense of shared survivorship.
Principle 7- See Meaning
Some people believe that “everything happens for a reason” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Regardless of your belief system, finding meaning and purpose in what you are experiencing strengthens your resiliency. Kaitlyn knew from a very early age that she wanted to help other children and families, so she became a pediatric nurse. Being a father of a premature infant certainly provided valuable insights that shaped my own professional practices.
As a father, I couldn’t have been prouder of Kaitlyn. She continues to be an inspiration to our family and me, as she embodies these seven principles. While I know that hardships will come, I know that Kaitlyn will survive and thrive. After all, she is resilient.
Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate. That is the 3C way.
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