What is the meaning of resilience?

Let’s see the meaning of the word as it is found on the Merriam-Webster:


1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress

2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

After witnessing or being a victim of a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, war, flood, fire, the loss of a dear relative or friend, an ordeal may begin for people. In the months following the event, people find themselves silent, stunned, they review the same terrifying images and feel unable to return to a normal life. Yet, after a relatively short time, one year for example, more than 50% of these people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feel better.  Some individuals possess amazing abilities to overcome difficulties and return to their original, or even mentally stronger, state. This process can be defined as “resilience“.

Why are there people who are more resilient than others?

In some cases resilience is partly innate. The concentration of cortisol (the stress hormone) drops faster. It is estimated that 85% of the population has genetic predispositions to defend themselves from traumas. Another determining factor is the healthy environment in which they grew up. Emotional security during early childhood provides better self-esteem and helps to better overcome difficulties. 

In addition, the support of family and friends is also crucial. Some studies on the state of memory after traumatic events revealed that when survivors were left on their own, the chances of reacting with resilience were lower, while when they were well surrounded, they had a good chance of overcoming the situation they were facing.

So how could you help the victims?  

You could reassure them, speak to them with affection, as you would do with a child. In fact, just like children, survivors can no longer manage their emotions, and sometimes they can’t even speak! By protecting them, the stress generated by the traumatic event will gradually be reduced.

A first level of psychological help can be given by establishing a relationship with the person involved by actively listening to them.

Then, you shall assess the needs of this person and establish priority.

However, for a real psychological support it is important to contact a professional, who will be able to give a proper psychological first aid (PFA) and decide on the follow-up to help people regain their vision of the world and ultimately their life.

Have you ever witnessed a traumatic event or helped any victims of traumatic events? How did you react?

Would you like to know more on overcoming stress? Have a look here!

Photo by Sharon Wright on Unsplash