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The ability to bounce back

May 1, 2009
by David Poles, LMHC, CRC, LADC-1
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A Massachusetts clinician offers tools for building resiliency in patients

In my work at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Massachusetts and in my private practice at Newton Counseling Center, I often teach patients the importance of becoming resilient. Resiliency is a life skill that all of us need to learn. Those with addictions and those without addictions need to be able to bounce back from adversity. The following is the text of a handout that I often use to teach the concept of resiliency.

Resiliency refers to:

• The ability to cope well with high levels of ongoing disruptive change;

• Sustaining good health and energy when under constant pressure; • Bouncing back from setbacks; • Overcoming adversity or challenges; • Changing to a new way of working or living when an old way is no longer possible; and • Doing all of the above without acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways such as using drugs. Some suggestions for becoming more resilient and happier: • Develop healthy relationships with other healthy people who are supportive of you and your recovery (i.e., a family member, a friend, a sponsor, a therapist, a priest, a doctor, or a coach). • Have faith and pray to a higher power. Develop a sense of spirituality. Engage in activities such as attending a religious service of your choosing, reading a religious book of your choosing, meditating, taking a walk in the woods, going to the ocean, or listening to music.

David Poles, LMHC, CRC, LADC-1

• Learn how to reframe. Reframing is at the heart of resilience. It is about having a healthy perspective. It is a way of shifting focus from the cup half empty to the cup half full. Reframing helps one become optimistic. For example, is it possible to view your relapse as a potential learning opportunity instead of just a failure? • Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile. • Remember the mind-body connection. What we do—or don’t do—with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.