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Resilience: Maintenance

Harry Mills, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

If you are diligent and committed to the change process, at some point during your journey you'll notice that you have met at least a few of your goals. It won't happen over night, but given enough time and commitment it will occur. Throw yourself a celebration when you reach this point. You will have accomplished something meaningful and useful which will help you along your life journey.

The thing about the life journey, however, is that, so long as you are alive, there is never a point when you are 'done'. Though you may have improved your coping abilities, you will never find that you can simply sit and admire your progress and be complete. If you do this, you'll find that your new coping skills get rusty and your relationships pull away from you. It will be necessary for you to practice your resilience-enhancing coping skills regularly if you are to keep them in good shape.

Handling Setbacks

problem and solution street signsAny time you try to change the way that you customarily do things there is a tendency to fall back into old patterns when you become stressed. As circumstances in your life change, you may want or need to reassess how you are doing with regard to keeping your resilience practices up. Particularly when your life becomes very stressful (due to illness, business travel, work deadlines, relationship problems, deaths, losses and disappointments of various sorts, etc.), you may find yourself starting to lapse back into old patterns. For example, during a period of grief you may become depressed, withdraw from others and stop being receptive to the social support your carefully cultivated relationships can provide.

If you find yourself (or if someone else finds you) falling back into old, unproductive patterns, see what you can do to gain perspective on what has occurred, by temporarily slipping back into the preparation stage. Try to determine what caused your lapse and how you can best deal with that cause so that it doesn't harm your life for the future. Once you understand what has occurred and have generated a specific and detailed plan for managing it, execute that plan.

Work to learn from your lapses, design a new version of your plan, write a new version of your contract, and continue on with your program. When you wonder whether changing yourself is worth the effort, remember that nurturing positive emotional states is one of the most important things a person can do to benefit themselves. In this case, sticking to your program can help you overcome the impact of stress on your life and can make you better equipped to achieve your goals in the future.

Should a lapse occur, the most important thing to remember is that you can recover from that lapse. Don't give up. Remember the reason you decided to make a change in the first place, and once again make improving your health and well-being a priority in your life.