Berny Unruh: What is Resiliency?

Hays Daily News
Berny Unruh

Everyone experiences stress but not everyone reacts to stress in the same way. There are people who thrive on stress to motivate them to get things done. Others may shut down and cannot continue with their daily activities. The adversity during the last year has caused additional stress for most of us.

I’m sure the word “resiliency” has been used in discussions of mental health for many years but I hear it on the news almost daily now. The definition of resiliency according to the American Psychological Association is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

What are the characteristics of resilient people? Illinois Extension hosted a webinar and shared how a person faced with adversity will respond. Optimistic people will see the opportunity in the situation and will respond positively. They will have initiative and assertiveness. They have learned how to respond to negative events even though they cannot control what is happening. They are flexible and are open to new ideas and they cope with change by thinking outside the box.

In addition, a resilient person will have compassion for not only their family but for their community. They know that when they are kind to others, it will make them feel better. They also are creative and have a sense of humor.

Are there things that we can do to become more resilient?  It is important in times of stress that we take care of our body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.

It is also important to take time to unwind. Find activities you enjoy. Listen to music. Take a walk. Watch a fun TV show that takes your mind off the adversity. In many studies, researchers have found that a caring relationship within or outside the family is the most important tool in the toolbox. Work to find ways to connect with others.

Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. And be willing to listen to ideas that may help the situation. You must also be willing to ask for help. Building resilience within yourself and within your family will help you get through the tough times. 

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at