How New Englanders Can Build Greater Resilience and Overcome Adversity
There’s an old adage that adversity creates opportunity. If true, then we’ve all certainly had our fair share of opportunities over the past year. From the global pandemic, to economic malaise, to political turbulence and social unrest, just about everyone has been feeling the adversity in one way or another, physically and mentally. So how do we sustain and thrive and get beyond it? It starts with something we all have to some degree, and maybe don’t even know it – resilience.
Resilience is our ability to respond to setbacks, to cope with adversity, to recover and move ahead. Some of us are more resilient than others, and our resilience can vary based on our age and stage in life. Resilience is a skill we can cultivate to see us through life’s challenges and come out stronger in the end. We know we need resilience today more than ever.
In fact, the Cigna Resilience Index, the largest U.S. survey on the topic, showed that resilience is at risk in 60 percent of Americans. The survey also revealed a bright spot: There are simple ways to build resilience.
Community engagement, exposure to diversity, and social connection are all keys to building a more resilient future generation. Here are some actionable tips and practical guidance for New Englanders to learn how to build their own resilience, whether coping with stress, anxiety or feelings of isolation, or struggling to meet everyday obligations while being pulled in multiple directions.
Increase exposure to diversity. Children, young adults and parents with racial and socio-economically diverse communities and friendships are significantly more likely to be resilient. Find opportunities to surround yourself with people different from you.
Family support and purpose-drive pastimes. Children, young adults and parents who often spend time with extended family, even if online, are more likely to be resilient. Parents who regularly participate in religious/spiritual activities or volunteer work, even in a virtual environment, are also more likely to be resilient.
Mental/physical health and sense of community. In addition to good physical and mental health overall, resilience is also significantly higher in children who frequently get physical exercise and in adults and workers who regularly exercise and practice stress reduction activities. Incorporate regular mental and physical wellness routines. Consider adding a daily exercise regimen (but first talk to your health care provider).
Facilitate transparent two-way communication. Workers who proactively and frequently have open and transparent conversations at work, and who have equally communicative leadership, have higher resilience. Be open, transparent and approachable to your coworkers’ needs, both those above and below you.
Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength. Explore what’s available to you through your health plan or employer. Access to resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs, Employee Resource Groups and COVID-19-specific resources (digital symptom checker, caregiver support, etc.) is associated with higher resilience in parents, young adults and full-time workers.
To learn more about resilience and actionable steps to help build your own resilience and help others build theirs, visit www.CignaResilience.com.
This post was authored by Stuart Lustig, M.D., M.P.H., National Medical Executive for Behavioral Health at Cigna.
Stuart L. Lustig, MD, MPH is senior medical director for behavioral health at Cigna and a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist. He previously served as lead medical director for child and adolescent care for Cigna’s behavioral health business. During his career he has edited a textbook for health and mental health professionals, and published articles on mental health in numerous journals. He leads an ongoing effort at Cigna to disseminate the latest in health services research through peer reviewed journal publications and presentations at conferences. Prior to joining Cigna in 2011, Dr. Lustig served as an associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and as director of its child and adolescent psychiatry residency training program. Dr. Lustig received his doctorate of medicine from Rush Medical College and completed his psychiatric training at Stanford and Harvard hospitals. He also has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois School of Public Health.