What does “wellness” mean to you?

Is it being healthy and happy? Having great coping skills? Feeling strong and vibrant? All of that and more? Or, maybe it is figuring out how to love kale, change your body, and no longer feeling the pain of emotional wounds. Maybe it’s just impossible… Maybe wellness is complex and some parts are easier than others.

I started out my career in the helping profession working for the DoD, when we were seeing the first military members returning from combat since Vietnam. Folks had long studied PTSD, but this was the first large group of combat cases anyone had seen in a long time. As you can imagine, everyone was paying close attention.

Challenges quickly started revealing themselves. Large numbers of service members needed help adjusting to life after combat. Huge numbers of folks. At one point the dire estimate being offered was 25% of all service members who went to combat would return home with PTSD. That’s a massive number of people and one the DoD and VA didn’t, and still don’t, have the support system in place to manage. It’s safe to say there was a great deal of alarm over what was likely to come.

And so, we did what everyone does when facing a crisis. We started talking about how to “cure” and “fix”. We dug into the theory and techniques and developed a plan for those 25%.

Thankfully, there was someone who paused (probably lots of us who paused) and looked at the numbers. Do you see what was missed in that current focus?

If estimates were correct, and 25% would return with PTSD, that left 75% who came home ok. Seventy-five percent! That’s a much larger and stronger number.

And what, pray tell, kept those 75% safe from developing PTSD? In a nutshell, those who did not develop PTSD had resilience.

I have been fascinated with resilience since the very first study I read. Consider what this means…. There are qualities inside the human mind, body and spirit that act as a “vaccination” against extreme and traumatic stress. And while we most definitely want to provide care for those who suffer, we could also consider how to possibly protect someone from developing the disorder in the first place!

I want to be strongly protected in life against the crisis that may come. I want to be resilient.

And that’s where my definition stayed for a while. Resilience would equal my own sort of vaccination against stress, but I was limiting the power of this idea. Resilience is oh so much more.

Resilience is about thriving in the face of stress. This doesn’t mean a resilient person likes the stress, but it does mean that they thrive, in spite of the stress. In the worst of times they still know joy, love, satisfaction, calm, peace, and all the other good pieces of life we talk about when times are good.

Thriving. Yes, please.

But, surely this exists only for the lucky ones born this way, you might say.

I have good news for you. Resilience can be learned. Some would go so far as to argue that everyone who is resilient learned how to be.

That’s wellness for me. Resilience. Thriving. Adapting. Overcoming.

That’s soulful living.

If you want to know more about what’s inside a resilient life, download this pdf for 10 qualities you want to develop. None are quick and easy. All of them take time and focus and attention. All of them are simple, possible, and learnable.

Every last bit of this is worth it.

I’m in it with you. The conversations will continue here on how to learn resilience. A little bit at a time, in small and doable steps, you will learn how to increase your resilience and your love of your own life.

 

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