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Do you bounce back or fall apart when troubles come your way?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Philip Cooper
  • 37th Helicopter Squadron, commander
With the holiday times upon us, many look forward to a time to relax, take leave and spend time with loved ones. However, for many people the holidays can be a time of greater stress and anxiety than any other time during the year. Personal problems can tend to be exacerbated due to the hustle and bustle of this time of year and resiliency tested to its limits. As a squadron commander, the health and welfare of my squadron is always at the forefront of my mind because it directly impacts my squadron's ability to accomplish its mission and because I care about my people.

According to the Mayo Clinic, when you have resilience, you harness inner strength that helps you rebound from a setback or challenge, such as a job loss, an illness, a disaster or the death of a loved one. If you lack resilience, you might dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. Resilience won't make your problems go away, but resilience can give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life, and better handle stress.

This is an excellent definition by the Mayo Clinic. Being resilient means being able to function in the face of diversity and doesn't mean having a Pollyanna view on life; everything is wonderful when it is not. Resiliency comes about by building positive coping mechanisms into one's life. Our lives consist of physical, emotional/mental and spiritual challenges, which are under attack each day. We must develop our coping mechanisms for each of these areas in order to maintain our health and wellness.

First of all it is important to realize that wharever situation you may be going through, it is not unique to you. There are over six billion people in the world and every one of them faces common issues and attacks in these areas. We cannot have the John Wayne mentality of me against the world and hope to be resilient. That mentality may make a great movie premise, but in reality, it will make one bitter and disconnected from others.

A big focus in my squadron is on personal and unit physical training. Exercise relieves stress and fights fatigue, two of the biggest enemies of resiliency. It is tough to get motivated to exercise, but it is essential to physical wellbeing. Exercising as a unit is very important to me because it breaks the motivation factor, and it connects people and builds camaraderie. The advent of modern technologies such as e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, to name a few, have connected us in a very abstract way, which I believe is detrimental to us as a society. Squadron physical training gets my folks out from behind their multimedia devices and builds true social connections, while at the same time providing a positive outlet to fight stress and fatigue. In addition to exercise, we must also add good nutrition and rest habits in order to makes us well balanced physically.

Proper exercise, nutrition and rest are important to our emotional wellbeing as well because they are inextricably linked. Our emotional resiliency is constantly under attack. The holidays highlight this fact. The need to provide presents for family and friends and to connect with relatives can drain us all emotionally as well as financially. There are a host of classes and programs offered by the base to help us improve our emotional, even financial, lives. If you are in need of help in one of these areas, do not be afraid to inquire about these programs from your commander or first shirt. That is why they are there!

Lastly, our spiritual health is an area each of us wrestles with regardless of our religious affiliation. In survival school I learned a very important truth in being spiritually resilient. At the school, they teach that a person can survive for three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air, but cannot survive three seconds without faith and hope. POWs learned to survive day-by-day by keeping faith and hope alive. They did this through faith and hope in their country and their God. Believing in something bigger than ourselves is not good medicine just for POWs, but for all of us in our everyday lives. If you need help in this area, your base or local community Chaplain is available to assist you.

How are you doing in your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resiliency? Do you tend to bounce back when attacked in one of these areas or do you fall apart? If you bounce back, then reflect on the positive coping mechanisms you have built into your life and remember to thank those in your support network. The holidays give you a great opportunity to do just that. If you fall apart, this is not the time to regress into your Pollyanna or John Wayne modus operandi, but a time to start building positive coping mechanisms and support networks. Remember that you have a commander, first shirt and a host of base and local agencies available and wanting to help you, and your problems are not unique to you.