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Resilience is not just about inner strength. It's also about your connection to others

After Hurricane Ian destroyed her home, a Minnesota woman looks beyond tragedy to find gratitude and compassion for others. Where does one find such resilience? In this "Health Fusion" column, Viv Williams finds there's more to it than just an individual's inner strength.

A plant shows resilience and regrows after a frost
Resilience is the ability to move on and grow after times of difficulty.
Viv Williams / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — As I sit on our front porch in the warm autumn sun and marvel at the changing colors, l can't help but feel unsettled and maybe even a bit guilty. Because while I'm enjoying the beauty of nature's new season, search and rescue efforts continue in Florida and other areas hit hard by Hurricane Ian.

One of my friends lost her home in the storm. Thankfully, everyone in her family is safe. But the place is a total loss. Completely destroyed. It's simply not there anymore.

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"We have more than 36 years of wonderful family memories," she says. "My heart breaks thinking about that and for all those people throughout Florida who are now homeless. We feel fortunate to have our home here in Minnesota."

In the midst of grief and loss, my friend opts for gratitude and concern for others. Instead of throwing herself on the ground in a heap of tears and self-pity — which I imagine she might have wanted to do and I hope she did do at some point — she looks toward whatever goodness she can dig up from the devastating, dirty and silt-covered tragedy.

Resilience. That's what makes it possible for people to cope and move on. Resilience is what my friend has in abundance. But where did she get it?

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Webster's online dictionary defines resilience as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." Mayo Clinic notes that resilience can help protect you from anxiety and depression. And that while resilience won't get rid of your problems, it can help you cope and enjoy life more.

A quick online search churns up a slew of scholarly articles about the health benefits of resilience and some offer tips on how to become resilient. An article in the journal Nutrition, Fitness and Mindfulness lists several ways you can build resilience skills, including practicing gratitude, identifying values and setting goals, doing yoga and building and deepening relationships.

I'm particularly interested in how personal relationships influence resilience. I've always thought that resilience was a completely individual thing and if I wasn't resilient in response to some negative situation, it was my fault. I needed to be better at being resilient. But one particular article helped me realize that internal strength is not all about learning coping skills. It's also about connecting with others who can remind us — even just by a smile — that we're not alone.

The Harvard Business Review article , titled "The Secret to Building Resilience," by Rob Cross, Karen Dillon and Danna Greenberg, notes that "resilience is not something we need to find deep down inside ourselves: we can actually become more resilient in the process of connecting with others in our most challenging times."

You don't have to go it alone. It's OK to allow yourself to find strength from others. In fact, it's important and essential to do so, especially in times of tragedy, such as what's happening in Florida, Puerto Rico and other locations full of people still reeling from the destruction and loss left behind by Hurricane Ian.

They say that there's strength in numbers. There's also resilience in numbers. I know that my friend, who is able to look beyond the tragedy of losing her home to feel compassion for others and grateful for what she still has, is as personally resilient as they come. But her ability to recover is bolstered by strong relationships that can make the burden a little lighter.

If you want to help the victims of Hurricane Ian, check out disaster relief organizations, such as the Florida Disaster Fund or the American Red Cross .

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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Related Topics: HEALTH FUSIONNEWSMDHEALTH
Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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