Resiliency in a year of change

Here we are again into a new year and at the cusp of change.

First-year learners can smell the end of a whirlwind first year of training and are preparing for upcoming summer experiences, second-year learners are eager to finally be immersed in full-time clinical learning, and the clerks busily select electives to help them secure their desired residency – which the current fourth years know a little something about.   

Congrats to all the fourth-year students on all their hard work on preparing a strong CaRMS submission, performing well in interviews and nearing the end of a challenging and rewarding four years.  

As I note the above milestones, I do so with the understanding that in order to successfully transition from one year to the next, and on to residency –with all the inherent changes at each stage, one must have had or honed the skill of resiliency.   

Webster’s Dictionary defines this as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

As learners, you will have many victories and rewards in your educational journey, and you will often be met with challenges - socially, academically, financially and personally. It is in how one learns and deals with adversity that strengthens resiliency and builds character.

In an environment where students often feel ashamed or too proud to admit weakness, please remember everyone needs support at some time, for some reason: a less than desired grade, a problem with a facilitator, trouble finding your niche socially, missing home, and finding yourself less than competitive in the CarMS match.

There are many challenges you may face while immersed in medical training, what’s important to note is that you are not alone – even if you feel you are, and there is a lot of support within the school and on campus to help you along.   

Resilience is born out of the challenging times and its lessons will carry you through the remainder of training and career.

How can you build resiliency?   

The American Psychological Association notes 10 ways that can support building more resiliency, as noted in their online guide The Road to Resilience.1

Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and a heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.

Please remember if you or any students you know may need extra support, please visit the LEW Office. We have resources on hand and are closely connected to other supports on campus and in the community. 

Stephanie Coccimiglio
Learner Equity & Wellness Coordinator – Windsor Campus   

1.  The road to resilience. American Psychological Association