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Build Resilience to Maximize Mission Readiness

Image of a Soldier

Photo by Sgt. Ray Lewis

The ability to adapt to adversity and overcome barriers is critical to a warrior’s strength. This skill—resilience—can characterize both physical and psychological strength. But while every warrior is trained how to develop physical resilience, it’s also critical to learn how to develop psychological resilience.

Your leaders, buddies, family and fellow warriors depend on you to be strong, so use the resources listed below to:

Resilience: The Ability to Adapt Your Strength

Resilience is an essential part of a warrior’s positive growth and development. In addition to peak physical performance, each warrior must be well-balanced psychologically, spiritually and socially in order to sustain the rigors of military life.

Resilience is:

  • The ability to maintain mission readiness before, during and after stressful situations in combat.
  • Critical to facilitating recovery from symptoms of combat stress.
  • An important way to enhance effectiveness and decrease the adverse effects of stress in all aspects of military service.1

More than just stress resistance, resilience is a proactive and adaptive process that emphasizes turning challenges into opportunities. For example, consider the differences between steel and rubber:

  • A steel bar is capable of maintaining its rigid form while bearing large loads, but is susceptible to breaking.
  • A rubber brick, on the other hand, bends easily under even small loads, and is extremely difficult to break.
  • Moreover, once the load is removed from the rubber, its flexibility returns it to its original form.2

Similarly, your leaders, buddies, family and fellow warriors depend on you to have a flexible type of strength so that you can recover peak performance after a stressful event.

Because this type of strength is so important, the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are committed to helping all warriors develop it. For example, the Army’s $125 million Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program provides soldiers with the critical tools and resources to improve combat performance and enhance resilience in the face of stress.3

A Roadmap for Warrior Resilience

Like a physical skill, psychological resilience is a skill you can learn.2  Warriors can use the following 10 tactics as a roadmap for improving resilience:4

  1. Make personal connections
    Strengthen relationships, communicate openly, and accept support from close family members and friends. 
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems
    You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen in combat, but you can change how you respond and look towards the future.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living
    Accepting the things you can’t change can help you focus on the things you can change. 
  4. Move toward your goals
    Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
  5. Take positive, decisive actions
    Act on adverse situations as much as you can, rather than detaching from problems and just wishing they would go away.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery
    Warriors often find that they eventually grow in some respect as a result of their experience with a traumatic event or loss.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself
    Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.
  8. Keep things in perspective
    Even when facing very painful events, focus on their broader context and keep a long-term perspective. 
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook
    Expect that good things will happen in your life. Visualize what you want, rather than focusing on what you fear.  
  10. Take care of yourself
    Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Take care of both your body and your mind. 

Start by attempting at least one of the 10 tactics identified above—bolstering one resilience factor usually boosts other resilience factors, too.2  Ultimately, these tactics will strengthen your military unit and aid you in finding a “new normal” as you reintegrate into post-deployment life.

Tools to Support Your Improvement 

Although the tactics listed above provide a general roadmap, warriors should also take advantage of the many targeted tools available to aid them in maximizing mission readiness. Support, education and treatment are always available to those with the courage to step up and ask. 

While you work on strengthening your resilience individually, using these important tools to support your development will make you a stronger, more reliable, and more effective warrior.

Adapting to Adversity, Overcoming Barriers, and Excelling in the Future

Your leaders, buddies, and fellow warriors need you to be fully mission-ready. Building your psychological resilience will enable you to thrive under the pressures of combat and military service and accomplish your given mission, both now and in the future.

Additional Resources

Sources

1"An Achievable Vision: Report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health" [PDF 591.42KB], Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health. Published June 2007.
2"Resilience: What Is It?," Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control. Last accessed Aug. 26, 2014.
3Ruane, Michael. “Army Program Works to Make Soldiers Fit in Body and Mind,” The Washington Post. Published July 4, 2011.
4The Road to Resilience,” American Psychological Association. Last accessed Aug. 26, 2014.
5“'Mental Resiliency' Training For Troops,” CNN, August 19, 2009.

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