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Resilience: Can You Learn It?

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resilience and learning itLast week during a heat wave, I was seriously drooping.  Just walking to my car in the sun knocked me out.

Prior to the first mutiple sclerosis episode 32 years ago, heat wasn't an issue.  Since then,  I melt in heat and my function drops dramatically.

But here's the thing:  once I'm in a cool place, I cool down and feel fine (or at least better). Lovely.  My body is still resilient, that way, after all this time.

I hadn't noticed resilience in myself until I'd lived with illness for a decade.  When I recognized it, I sensed this would help me create a satisfying life while living with chronic health problems.

When I became a parent, I wanted to nurture resilience in my children.   I seriously believed that my daughters needed to SEE this behavior in me.  This became a key motivator for me. Funny thing happened.  I got better at being resilient to my health problems -- and other parts of my life -- with practice.

This topic is getting significant play these days.   Here are just two examples:  The Mayo Clinic wrote Build Skills to Endure Hardship and Psychology Today, All About Resilience.  Basically, the message is that people with this quality are more successful in overcoming difficult times.

The thing is it's often likened to being positive or having an optimistic, upbeat  attitude.  I define resilience as the ability to bounce back when you're knocked down, rather than always seeing the silver lining, although that might be how one gets there.  I wrote about it extensively in my book, (Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease:  Keep Working, Girlfriend!).

Recently, I was discussing this topic with a client who wondered: is this innate or can you learn it?  The articles imply and sometimes say that you can get better at it.  My own take is that it seems to be innate but it doesn't always show up until you're  'tested'. Typically, people who have been able to spring with the punches, have shown resilience and will bring this to the bigger challenges, like living with health conditions.

I've also  seen people who haven't had to develop this and don't realize this quality within themselves.  Then, once they identify it's there, they can nurture it and help it grow.

What do you think?


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Rosalind Joffe is passionate about coaching people and giving people the tools they need to thrive in their work while living with chronic illness. Rosalind Joffe built on her experience living with chronic illnesses for over 30 years, including multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, when she founded . This unique career coaching firm is dedicated to helping people with chronic illness who care about their work lives develop the skills they need to succeed. A recognized national expert on chronic illness and its impact on career, Rosalind is a seasoned and certified coach, the co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!, publishes a widely read blog, Working With Chronic Illness and can be found on twitter @WorkWithIllness.
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