1. Donnelly, Gloria F. PhD, RN, FAAN, FPCP
  2. Editor-in-Chief

Article Content

We all have those years when we are deeply challenged personally and professionally. For me, 2012 was that year! My personal challenge was the decline and death of my 100-year-old mother-in-law. Widowed when my husband was 9 years old, she was a feisty, independent woman who owned and managed a neighborhood tavern until she was 80 years old. She was my best friend and confidant for the 21 years that she lived in our home and she contributed mightily to the raising of our daughters. A minor fall last January and the sudden onset of dementia took my mother-in-law and our family through 4 months of sleepless nights when not even closed doors or ear plugs could drown out her screams. Then there was the relative peace of in-home hospice. She got both her wishes, to live past 100 years of age and to die at home in her own bed. As difficult as it was, we survived and even thrived knowing that we could give Mom exactly what she wanted to make her transition.

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My professional challenges, occurring at the same time as my mother-in-law's dying process, involved dealing with an unusually high rate of relational aggression at work among colleagues, as well as the demands of enormous growth and complexity in the College. And then, much like the peacefulness that death brought to my mother-in-law and family, calm and rationality returned to my professional life this past summer. As difficult as the professional challenges were, I had been through worse situations at earlier periods in my career; so, in some sense, my experience saw me through and in fact has given me new perspective and renewed energy with respect to my professional life. I could conclude after living successfully through 2012 that I have resilience.


What is resilience and what do we know about it from a scientific perspective. Resilience is "the ability to bounce back from hardship and trauma"1 or the "process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat."2 Despite the prolonged challenges, I bounced back and adapted as if the threats against me were challenges instead. In a review of the science of resilience, Southwick and Charney1 cite broad factors that can contribute to one's resilience capacity; genetics and environment including child rearing; cognitive and/or psychological interventions; neurobiological interventions; improving physical health; and comprehensive resilience training programs. The interplay of genetics and environment is particularly important in childhood since we know that children prone to depression as adults often experienced childhood trauma. Having a repertoire of cognitive and psychological strategies certainly helped me through, given that I regularly meditate and engage in perspectivism and positive cognitive reappraisal. For me the glass is usually half full and things could always be worse. Continued research on the neurobiology of resilience may reveal its mechanisms and provide more effective interventions to prevent posttraumatic stress and depression. Improving physical health was a key strategy for me in 2012; eating better, taking long walks, and catching up on sleep through the difficult months. Although I have not participated in resilience training, I do believe that individuals can benefit greatly from examining their thought processes and monitoring and adjusting their reactions in stressful situations. Self-efficacy, self-control, and humor are key to increasing resilience, and resiliency training includes components of each. In this New Year, we all need to think about our own resilience and how it not only contributes to preventing depression and ameliorating stress but also makes us more effective caregivers. On behalf of the Editorial Board and our production staff, I wish you all the happiest and most resilient 2013!


-Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, FPCP






1. Southwick SM, Charney DS. The science of resilience: implications for the prevention and treatment of depression. Science. 2012;338:79. [Context Link]


2. American Psychological Association. The Road to Resilience. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2010. [Context Link]