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Resilience through hard times

  • Published
  • By Maj. (Dr.) Lesley Friedhoff
  • 6th Medical Operations Squadron

Have you ever been blindsided by bad news or realized an important relationship was coming to an end? Have you ever had “the rug pulled out from under you?”

These kinds of things seem to happen at the worst possible times, don’t they? What’s worse is that you really can’t predict when your life will get turned upside down.

It’s not necessarily healthy to constantly worry about the unpredictable future, because more often than not, terrible things will not happen. However, it is also unhelpful to assume you are immune and that unfortunate things only happen to other people. This type of thinking may lead you to be defenseless when something challenging does come your way.  It may also lead you to underestimate your own vulnerabilities, which could prevent you from being proactive and taking the necessary steps to help yourself. 

I’m sure you can think of times in which setbacks were really not setbacks at all because you were in a good place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We should take comfort in the fact that we have some control over our well-being at any given time, based on the choices we make. After all, it is easier to manage life stressors when you’ve slept well, eaten right, and had a good social group and leisure time. When all of those things are aligned, we are truly at our best – our most resilient.

In the last few years, the Air Force has emphasized resilience.

Resilience is a set of personal characteristics and coping skills that allow us to bounce back from adversity. It is important to understand that bouncing back isn’t something we do all by ourselves. In fact, one of the most important aspects of resilience is early help seeking. It’s about asking for help at the right time. This can be difficult to do, as many of us want to manage things on our own, but with that strategy, we risk waiting until things are out of control before reaching out. It can take courage to ask for help, but in many instances, it is assistance from others that aids us in bouncing back.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

It is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the warning signs and risk factors of suicide, which include unusual or sudden changes in behavior, relationship issues, and legal troubles (a full list of warning signs can be reviewed at In addition, please remember that MacDill has a number of helping agencies available year round. I urge you to access the many resources available, including the Military and Family Readiness Center (formerly Airmen and Family Readiness Center), Chaplains, and the Mental Health Clinic.

Asking for help is resilient. It is a sign of strength, and it can be the difference between a hopeless dilemma and a workable problem. Reach out! Do not be afraid to allow others to help put the rug back under your feet and give you the traction you need to live the life you want.