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Growing Our Resilience

Young plant growing from old stumpWe all find ourselves working hard to deal with the changes in our culture over the last few months that impact our personal lives AND our working lives. In doing so, we all need to grow in resilience.

What IS resilience? The dictionary definition says resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. It is also the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

Resilience is important for several reasons;

  • it helps us develop tools to protect us when we have experiences that can be overwhelming
  • it helps us to maintain balance in our lives during difficult or stressful periods
  • it can also protect us from the development of some mental health difficulties and issues

No one likes hardships, but avoiding difficult times is often not a choice. How well we know this in the cancer community. Living with a devastating event—like a once-in-a-generation pandemic, or a cancer diagnosis—may be an inevitability of life. So, developing our resilience can not only help us to cope with challenging situations like the one we are facing, but it can help us reach a new peak performance and enhance satisfaction, both in our personal and professional lives

Our staff, just like our patients, are working on developing our own resiliencies. Here is what some of them say:

  • To me, describing someone as resilient means that they have had to come from the other side of adversity or tragedy; they are survivors. They have had to learn to rebuild. Often, I use the word when talking to patients, because that’s what they are. Often, they will say, “I didn’t have a choice.” But really, they did. Because they invent a new normal in their life and they pick up pieces and begin again. And again. They have a new story to tell.
  • When we talk about resilience, I think of bumper cars. Sometimes the hits make you laugh, some make you hurt, some jolt you. But you keep going knowing that life is a ride and there is someone or something there to soften the blow.
  • In health care we talk about resilience often. How to build it, teach it, practice what we learn. Then a pandemic comes and many of the tools we have been using to be resilient become untethered. Building resilience is a lifelong process. It involves self-reflection, boundary setting, and cultivating healthy coping strategies and self-care. I think it’s something that can ebb & flow too, especially at times like this. It is so important to practice self-compassion.

heart shaped bowls filled with grainsAnd here are some of the things our staff is learning about themselves and the tools they are using as they develop resilience:

  • Toughness, stress, strain, strength, hardness, and pressure are all inter-related terms in material science & engineering. The amount of stress & strain a material can take is its toughness. You all are very, very tough people. There are a few ways to increase the toughness of a material: Increase elasticity.
    • Increase volume
    • To some degree, we all have had to do both. We all instantly became much more flexible/elastic.
    • We spread out the pressures among a larger team/foundation to keep the pressure on any one point from getting too high.
  • I think we have all shown how resilient we are. We have all been faced with a new normal. Basically, at the drop of a hat we all started working from home, adapting our workflow, and making it all work for our patients. Some of us have had to become home school teachers for our children as well as continuing the role of supportive care staff. I don’t know how you make it work but I applaud you!
  • I’ve been discussing with patients is how hard it is to cope with tough things when our normal coping mechanisms have been taken away (normal routine of work, exercise out of the home, going to a bar or restaurant, getting together with friends and family, having a break from children). I always remark how on the resilience patients show by forging ahead in these difficult times, facing tough things in their personal life, even when it’s not easy.
  • The word growth truly hit home for me. Despite the sudden change and the unknown, I personally had to be resilient and believe that the impossible is possible. I had to show strength and bravery and tell myself “yes I can do this”. I knew my team, family and patients needed me more so certain fears had to be ignored so that I could help others during these uncertain times.

We hope you related to this message and identified with the words of our team. Some people may need extra support to get through a tough time and we are here to support you! We have been here for each other, to get through this pandemic together. Please contact our team to learn more about the resources that are available.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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