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Commentary: On resilience through the storm

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Elise Redziniak, First Sergeant, AF Life Cycle Management Center
“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” -Brene Brown

COMMENTARY:  Have you ever wondered how huge trees withstand strong storms and not get knocked down due to the high winds and torrential downpours? I found this very interesting that although trees are so tall and look like they could fall at any moment, they actually lean into other surrounding trees to help take the load off that they are carrying and they have the ability to streamline their shape to allow the wind to move more effectively through them.  Also, palm trees are able to withstand wind up to 145 mph and actually get stronger from the storms they endure. This reminded me of the parallelism of the trees ability to survive and our ability to remain resilient during some of life’s toughest storms.

Former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said “I used to think resilience was the ability to bounce back, but I now see it is the ability to move through the hardships, the pain, the fear, and the suffering.” We have all had our fair share of struggles in life and some issues that we have had to work through stem from relationship, financial, health complications, work place stress, and changes in life.  It is important to note that resiliency is not something that we are born with but instead we work on developing through life’s storms by internalizing behaviors, thoughts, and actions.  There are moments in life where we experience such heart wrenching situations and we do not know how we will move on from the hurt but it is helpful to take these feelings and thoughts day-by-day, find stress relieving outlets and a network of people to navigate through the adverse times.

Some ways to handle stress, change, and challenges in life is to work on your thoughts and have a sense of awareness to negative self-talk and instead try to view the situation in a more positive way. This will help reframe the circumstance and allow you to develop courses of action to move through it. Our behaviors also enable us to navigate tough times such as refraining from turning to poor coping skills and self destructive behaviors but instead focus on a physical outlet of exercising or look into mindfulness apps to utilize. 
Rumination is when we are constantly on a loop and thinking about what we are going through, this can be really tough to break if we do not have outlets to release our brains from it.  We have to take a deliberate approach in breaking the negative loop and to release our thoughts so we can take action.  Meditation and mindfulness breathing activities can help slow down, organize, or distract us from the loop to focus on a stress reducing activity.  Exercise is another great tool to reduce anxiety and to work stress out to improve our mood.  Also, mindfulness and exercising can be used in tandem by doing some type of activity in staying connected to what you are hearing, feeling within your body, and seeing. 
Our actions influence our level of resiliency and some helpful ways to do this is by developing strong and trusting relationships with people who care for you and want to see you as your best version. A close friend is comforting to know that you are not alone in not just the good times but also the bad ones. Having positive people in your life can help build resiliency. Another action to work on is self-awareness as it is critical to know how you’re feeling through tough times and to know your strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on your successes will help motivate you to work through with confidence in your abilities and strengths.
We can become so consumed with the issue that we are facing that solving the problem seems very distant because we are spending time and energy in the situation but not focusing on the process of traversing the environment. It is extremely helpful to rely on supervisors and agencies such as the Chaplain, Military Family Life Consultant, Military OneSource, or Employee Assistance Program to discuss your situation with a licensed counselor who can help refocus your situation. I have noticed that talking through my issues with one of the aforementioned counselors is helpful as they provide clarifying questions, allow a safe space for thoughts to be released and organized, and are geared towards goal-oriented counseling. 
Adversity gives us the ability to look back at lessons that were learned and gives clarity as to why we had to endure that storm to get to the next chapter of life. Adopting these skills and making them habit will continue to build character and help others through their life events. The ability to be vulnerable with others in what you have been through can be extremely helpful in connecting to people who are enduring a similar situation.  Remember to be more adaptable like trees and know roots are not strengthened during a short period but throughout their lives. Allow yourself to lean into others and give people an opportunity to lean into you when they are facing life’s storms.
The Air Force Resilience website has contact information for counseling and outreach sources listed in this article: