by Dana Bjarnason, RN, MA, CNA, PhD

Resilience has been described as the process of adapting in the face of adversity and becoming stronger after something bad happens. In addition to innate qualities that support resilience, research has demonstrated that there are actions we can take to reduce the impact of stress and strengthen our ability to be resilient.

Through her work on moral courage and resilience, Lachman (2012) identified characteristics associated with resilience including adaptability, self-control, creativity, optimism and persistence. In a concept analysis about resilience, Earlovino-Ramirez (2007) found attributes such as:

  • The ability to rebound, reintegrate
  • Holding high expectations, being self-determined
  • Achieving positive relationships with good social support
  • Having flexibility and a good sense of humor, and
  • Holding high self-esteem and self-efficacy

Dr. Greg Fricchione (an expert in mind and body science) researches stress and resilience, impressing on us the need to understand how our brains function in times of stress and what is happening physiologically. Our amygdala responds to stress, producing hormones to help us deal with a short-term agitated state. Chronic stress leads to increased reactivity and sensitivity of the amygdala, which releases cytokines that “hurt” the effectiveness of our hippocampus and frontal lobe, which work to mediate the amygdala’s response. Failure to mediate these hormones has adverse consequences including exhaustion, anxiety and burnout that produce effects right down to our DNA.

There are actions each of us can take to help reduce the impact of chronic stress including becoming more reflective, engaging in meditation and practicing mindfulness.  The nursing code of ethics reminds us about nurses’ obligation to self-care: “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.” Bottom line: take care of yourself!