“What is Resilience and Trauma?”

 written by Cynthia Bethany, LCSW-S, CTTS
Director | Prevention and Crisis Response – FWISD

Life Events Can Help Build Resilience to Heal

When the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, what will we remember most? All the television we binge watched, the food we ate, or the numerous virtual meetings we attended? Or perhaps our newfound appreciation for school and health care professionals?

One thing we do not always think about is how well we will recover or bounce back from a major event, or in other words how resilient will we be?

Throughout our lifetime, we experience many stressful and sometimes even traumatic events. We may lose a loved one, live through a natural disaster, or experience abuse as a child or an adult. The current pandemic, with quarantine and other stressors, certainly qualifies. So, what does it mean to be resilient and how do traumatic and stressful life events teach us about resiliency?


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, resilience is “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress; an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” In other words, how do we bounce back or recover from failure, loss, challenges, stress and trauma.


There are three types of stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. Each affects us differently.

  • Positive stress refers to small challenges that are healthy for brain development. Positive stress helps prepare brains and bodies for larger challenges. An example of positive stress would be receiving a promotion, buying a new home, or preparing for a test or job interview.
  • Tolerable stress includes more serious life events like a natural disaster or losing a loved one. They are not good for us like a positive stress, however with support the stress can be bearable.
  • Toxic stress weakens the brain architecture and disrupts healthy development with repeated negative experiences. Toxic stress puts you at higher risk for physical and mental health problems and addiction.

Similar to stress, there are three types of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex.

  • Acute trauma is a single incident that happens; such as a terrible car accident that leaves you injured.
  • Chronic trauma results from repeated and continued incidents that happen over time; a child living in an abusive home or an adult in a domestic, violent relationship.
  • Complex traumais exposure to multiple and varied traumatic events, often of an aggressive, and  personal nature.​ An example would be an adult who is abused as a child and is now in a domestic violence relationship while living in a violent community.


Resiliency is not something we are born with; we learn it from resilient adults. However, it is never too late to learn new habits of becoming resilient when faced with adversities.

There are benefits to living a more resilient life which include decreased depressive symptoms, increased emotional well-being, improved sleep, improved relationships, and improved coping skills when we experience emotional disruptions. Here are some ways resilience can be built:

  • Learn from our mistakes
  • Are self-aware of our own emotions and the emotions of others
  • Are willing to face our problems rather than avoid them
  • Engage in healthy problem-solving skills
  • Seek help from others
  • Are optimistic and seek positive outcomes for situations
  • Be flexible and embrace change
  • Set realistic and achievable goals

Children have opportunities every day to display their ability to recover or bounce back from daily situations. A child that falls off their bike or gets in an argument with a friend are both opportunities to teach children about resiliency. Parents and caregivers can raise resilient children by:

  • Assisting children to find resolutions to their problems
  • Encouraging children to try new things despite the discomfort
  • Teaching them to manage and regulate their emotions
  • Allowing them to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes
  • Praising them when they overcome difficult tasks and even when they fail
  • Encouraging children to ask for help


Submitted by Fort Worth ISD

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