Stress can be defined as the consequence of a physical, chemical, or emotional challenge (a stressor) that requires the organism to either adapt or suffer physical or mental strain or tension.
Resilience is the capacity to recover following a stress. From a genetic perspective, resilience is defined as the quality that prevents individuals who are at genetic risk for maladaptation and psychopathology from being affected by [physical, mental strain or tension].
According to Dennis Charney, MD, Dean of Research and the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Biological Chemistry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City:
There are 10 critical psychological elements and characteristics of resilience, including:
- Optimism. Those who are extremely optimistic tend to show greater resilience, which has implications for cognitive therapies that enhance a patient’s positive view of his or her options, thereby increasing optimism;
- Altruism. Those who were resilient often found that helping others was one way to handle extreme stress, which can also be used therapeutically as a recovery tool;
- Having a moral compass or set of beliefs that cannot be shattered;
- Faith and spirituality. For some POWs, prayer was a daily ritual, although others were not at all involved or interested in religion;
- Having a role model. Many people with role models draw strength from this; for treatment, using a role model, role modeling, or helping someone discover a role model can be beneficial;
- Social supports. Having contact with others who can be trusted, either family or friend, with whom one can share most difficult thoughts was important in recovery;
- Facing fear (or leaving one’s comfort zone);
- Having a mission or meaning in life; and
- Training. One can train to become a resilient person or to develop resilience by experience in meeting and overcoming challenges. Dr. Charney believes the importance of training has implications for how we prepare young people for adulthood. He suggested that high school health courses could be adapted to help with this preparation.
Excerpted from 2005 Mt Sinai School of Medicine
NYC Grand Rounds Presentation entitled:
“The Psychobiology of Resilience to Extreme Stress: Implications for the
Prevention and Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.”