Written by Jimmy Guevara, MSW
We all have the capacity to build resilience, but tapping into it may look different for everyone. Resilience refers to one’s ability to handle stressful situations. Over time, our experiences can help support our resilience as we learn new strategies and solve problems. I learned a lot about ways to support my own resilience from serving in the United States Marine Corps. Some of what I learned I have put into practice in my role as a Resilience Trainer at the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC) where I help other Veterans and their families build on the strengths and skills they have accumulated over the years. Below are three of my favorite strategies that support resilience.
Check-in with each other
During my time in the military, I noticed some behaviors that were helpful to keep morale up and provided me with a mental health check. While training, we all experienced a great deal of stress both individually and as a unit. We would tap each other on our protective vests and ask, “How we holding up?” This check-in helped us get a snapshot view of the unit’s mental status and to evaluate who is fit to stay on the mission. A check-in is also useful in the civilian world. Doing a check-in helps bring families and couples closer together, shares valuable information about our emotional states and lets our loved ones know they are important.
Adapt to change
The foundation of military life is adaptation. With each new training location, we took time to acclimatize to the environment, adapting both physically and mentally. During my time in the military, I had to adapt to the culture of foreign countries, such as Japan and Iraq. I had to remain flexible when it came to understanding the Japanese and Iraqi cultures and learning about the unfamiliar surroundings and customs. Adaptation is important in civilian family life as well. Families go through many changes over time such as moving across country, coping with changing school and work demands and even navigating new and departing family members. Families that remain flexible, communicative and open to new routines and ways of doing things are better able to adapt to any new situation.
Problem solve together
While in the military, it was common for an unforeseen problem to come up while in the field. These situations required solutions to accomplish a mission or keep others safe. As an example, one day we had an issue with receiving a signal through the thick canopy of the jungle in Japan. The only way to receive a clear signal was to climb above the canopy and mount the antenna to the treetop. Working together, we were able to get two Marines to transport the equipment above the canopy and could connect with personnel on a distant island. All individuals in the unit played a role in resolving the problem and we used everyone’s strengths to overcome. Collaborative problem solving is vital in the civilian sector as well. Families that work to solve problems together can become stronger as a unit. Whether a family is trying to figure out how to keep the backyard clean or deciding on what to have for dinner that night, having all family members contribute to a solution builds self-esteem, utilizes the strengths of each member and fosters a foundation of teamwork.
Veterans and their families bring so much resilience with them into civilian life. Resilience training helps support our ability to tap into personal experience, identify successful strategies and adapt skills to fit life outside of the military. At the VFWC, we provide services to help families, couples and individuals, build on existing strengths and combine them with evidence based methods and strategies to support resilience and well-being. Contact us today to learn more about how our team can support you throughout civilian life!
Jimmy Guevara, MSW, is a Resilience Trainer at the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center. He served in the United States Marine Corps for four and a half years. He has been stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Camp Lejeune, NC, and deployed to Iraq for all of 2005. He attended Los Angeles City College and worked in the Veteran Resource Center. Soon after, he transferred to Cal State Northridge, earning degrees in both Psychology and Central American Studies, while serving outreach lead for the Veteran Resource Center on campus. He went on to earn a Masters of Social Work from the University of Southern California (USC), deciding to help his fellow Veterans and making it his new mission to provide resilience training to the Veteran community.
The VFWC is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during challenging times. For information, resources, and appointments please call our Family Services Coordinator at (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.