The 5 C's of Resilience: How to Cope with Challenging Times


“Blessed are they who are flexible, 
for they shall never be bent out of shape.
                        - Debra McKnight-Higgins

We are all called to deal with stressful surprises and challenging circumstances in our lives.  Linda Graham, a psychotherapist and meditation teacher in the San Francisco Bay area, teaches us how to develop resilience in difficult times.  

In her book, Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, Graham describes resilience as our capacity to respond to pressures and challenges quickly, adaptively, and effectively.  There is not just one magical way to cope with difficulties.  The key is to adapt our coping skills to a specific situation or challenge.  “This allows us to find footing when we’re thrown off balance by the unknown, stress, or trauma,” says Graham.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
-Jon Kabat-Zinn

“We now know, from the latest advances in neurosciences, that our capacities for resilience are innate in the brain, and hard-wired by evolution,” says Graham.  So how do we strengthen our brain’s innate capacity for resilience?  By using what Graham calls “the five C’s of resilient coping.”

The Five C's of Coping

1. Calm:  You can stay calm in a crisis. 

2. Clarity: You can see clearly what’s happening around you as well as your internal response to what’s happening; you can see what needs to happen next; and you can see possibilities from different perspectives that will enhance your ability to respond flexibly.

3. Connection: You can reach out for help as needed; you can learn from others how to be resilient; and you can connect to resources that greatly expand your opinions.

4. Competence: You can call on skills and competencies that you have learned through previous experience to act quickly and effectively.

5. Courage: You can strengthen your faith to persevere in your actions until you come to resolution or acceptance of the difficulty.

“The brain rewires itself by focusing attention on new experiences and encoding in its neural circuitry the learning from these experiences.  It does this mostly quickly though interactions with other people,” says Graham.

Pick one of the 5C’s to work with each week.  You will be re-wiring your brain's circuitry for more resilience each day!

“What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
                                           -Ralph Waldo Emerson


"In truth we are always present; 
we only imagine ourselves to be in one place or another."
-Howard Cohn