When considering life’s third act people often focus on their dream bucket list of travels, hobbies and all the possible joys of having more personal time. Yet, the other side of life’s third act is all too real and can disrupt executing the bucket list. Including obligations that are stressful and hurtful even when willingly embraced with an open heart. There are loved ones to be cared for, physical challenges, perhaps financial difficulties and funerals to attend. These disruptions test a person’s strength and will, blurring one’s perspective with an emotional fog that screams ‘just get through it’. Some people get through these times better than others, they are more resilient.

A dear friend has a photo of him and his close friends taken at a celebration during their middle age years. They are laughing, clearly enjoying each other as they had done for decades. Now twenty-five years later he looks at the photo counting down how many are still kicking, how many are incapacitated or how many are no longer with us. He enjoys telling stories of their escapades together, their brilliant minds and the many life events they witnessed together. This is his family of the heart, the folks that came into his life and made it a joyful experience. He visits them often focusing on the positive and stays in touch with their families.

Another friend shares her experiences moving her mother in with her to care for her now at the end of her life. She shares funny mishaps, as they learn to deal with the new realities of her mom’s diminished capabilities. They have created a routine that supports their needs. She has support from her daughter and grandson allowing her to have some time for herself. She shares her quest for finding balance by volunteering at a community center and working on her art projects that support a charity. She releases the stresses of her day by going to a gym to work out.

Resilience is competence in the face of stress, adapting to trauma, growing from challenges to make future hardships more manageable. Can we build our resilience? Yes, there is a skill set that has been identified by studying people who have successfully weathered the worst that life has thrown at them. Resilience is not based on an innate personality trait, it’s based on skills that can be learned and practiced.

The skills set include:

  • Connecting to your family, friends and community and asking for help
  • Learning from your experiences, reflecting and developing insight
  • Problem-Solving rather than blaming, it fosters a sense of self-control
  • Healthy Habits, taking care of yourself to sustain you in difficult times
  • Finding Humor in the challenges, helps you hang on
  • Staying positive by having an attitude of gratitude for the good in your life, especially what you might be taking for granted
  • Service to others strengthens resilience, acts of kindness ignite resilience