Resilience, the ability to bounce back and maintain strength in the face of stressors, is an important attribute for our patients as well as for ourselves. Life is filled with tribulation and dangers, both those we experience first-hand and those we live through vicariously as we are instantly exposed to events through the media. How can we maintain our strength?
A study conducted with young adults found a 2-step process to be particularly helpful (Gerson & Fernandez, 2013). Undergraduates were taught in three 1-hour sessions first to confront situations that were upsetting to them by analyzing them in terms of the role their actions may have played in causing the situation. For example, if they’d been been snubbed by a friend, rather than blaming something about themselves that they could not change (“I’m no good”) or blaming their friend (“He’s a jerk”), they were to consider what they could have done differently and so could change for the future (“Maybe I acted insensitively”). The second step involved focusing on “letting go” when no further actions could be taken. This 2-step process led to a sense of personal control and significantly lower depression scores than a comparable placebo control group.
So, for yourselves as well as your patients, it may be helpful to confront worries with problem-solving strategies, followed by exercises to gain “perspective” on the troubles, whether with meditation or by seeking out experiences that lead to a sense of awe. Let me know what works for you.
For more on the importance of “letting go” when no further actions are possible, see Mindfulness Training: Introduction, Attention, and the Present Moment. For more on how to do it, see Mindfulness Training: Body Scan Meditation and Informal Mindfulness Practices.
Please contact Dr. Gerson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a copy of the article.