Resiliency Is Personal Sustainability | Omega

Resilience is a term that gets used a lot in sustainability circles. It can apply to ecosystems, human communities, institutions, and individuals alike. Here is a look at personal resiliency and how it intersects with environmental sustainability.

Psychology Today defines resilience as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” The American Psychological Association (APA) says resiliency is “an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.”

As anyone who regularly engages with environmental issues knows, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When the environmental news includes severe droughthoneybee deaths, the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet, and other potentially civilization-threatening events all in one week, the complexity and enormity of the situation can become too much. Environmental disasters, or imminent disasters, can cause ongoing stress and anxiety, especially if someone you love is involved. 

There are many techniques to help people cope with stress, techniques that can help those working in the environmental field as they face the challenges involved with building an ecologically sustainable future. The work is hard enough—developing resilience can help alleviate some of the anxiety that goes with working in this field. 

How can we become more resilient? 

Omega recently asked permaculture teacher Eric Toensmeier how he remains grounded, even in the face of environmental tragedy. He responded, “My experience has been that permaculture gives me hope to keep going. I look at the bad things, but I’m working on solutions. The more I learn about how agricultural styles like permaculture can fight climate change, the more hopeful I am. The amount of hope I have increases as the amount of work I do on solutions increases.” 

Eric’s reply demonstrates several ways the APA says we can all build resilience: Maintain a hopeful outlook; move toward realistic goals, even if they seem like small accomplishments; take decisive action; and avoid seeing crisis as insurmountable. 

You can also make connections with close family members, friends, and like-minded groups; accept change as an essential part of living; keep a long-term perspective; and take care of yourself through exercise and relaxation, including meditation and mindfulness practices.

As the APA points out, being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t suffer difficulty or distress, emotional pain, or trauma. Resiliency is not something you either have or don’t have. Rather, it’s a practice involving “behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Discover More