In a previous blog, I explained the process behind how our program got its name. Now, I’d like to dive a little deeper and write about how truly meaningful that word, “RESILIENCE,” has become to me.

In all honesty, I did not overthink the word before choosing it as the name for this program. The concept of ‘Resilience’ fits our program because that is how we see our children, our patients, from a strengths-based perspective.  When searching for a name, I knew I wanted the name of our program to avoid giving any negative connotation or make children feel like victims of a disease.  Furthermore, I needed to express how children have the tremendous capacity to reverse and even defeat Metabolic Syndrome

However, after settling on the name, now, every time I hear or read about resilience, whether on the radio or TV or in a passing conversation, or news article, my ears perk up, my eyes light up, and I pay closer attention. I had no idea how the idea of resilience has been popular in multiple sectors of society. This has inspired me to dwell upon the word, its meaning, and its significance.  I am pleased to offer a little more reflection on this concept that is central to our program, philosophy, and treatment model.

Resilience is the essence of pediatrics.

From infancy to young adulthood, children prove that they possess the inborn qualities to overcome adversity in all domains, especially the physical one.  As a pediatrician, I have been amazed on countless occasions at a child’s innate tendency to rebound from physical illness, even those that might have otherwise led to devastating consequences for someone of my age. I recall late nights during my pediatric residency, tasked with the enormous responsibility of caring for infants or toddlers admitted to the intensive care unit with life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis or cerebrospinal meningitis. So many times, I would wonder if and how a particular child might make it out of the hospital well enough to return home, let alone live through their devastating illness. The entire medical team would worry so much about what might become of the child, whether they would make it out alive at the end of a lengthy hospitalization, or whether their illness might leave them with lifelong physical and emotional disabilities.  

Nevertheless, time and time again, so many children proved us wrong. Tears come to my eyes as I type this, recollecting the numerous children that ultimately woke up from their comas and bounced back to health, almost like nothing had happened. That’s not to say that many of them did not endure significant residual physical deficits, complications of their medical illness and its treatments. Still, repeatedly, I was blown away by the power of the children’s resilience. Most of the children I treated weren’t going to let their physical problems get in their way of living life to its fullest. The smiles on those children’s faces as I would write up their discharge paperwork still leave me with goosebumps. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: one of the joys of being a pediatrician is that children are inherently resilient and can heal themselves, provided we adults don’t get in their way! It leaves me humbled and energized to witness how children essentially “heal themselves” if they get the critical and timely support they need, not only from medical professionals but their loving families and society. 

The latter being said, resilience certainly isn’t a universal quality, even in children. I’m sure we’ve all met children (and indeed adults!) who find it harder to bounce back from challenges, no matter how small or large.  

So, I’m left pondering, “If each person is unique, what makes some more resilient than others?”  

Is it genetic?  Is it environmental, based on individual circumstances and upbringing?  Is it both?

Here’s an interesting take on children and their resilience after adverse childhood events (ACEs) from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Dr. Bauer, a pediatric behavioral specialist, writes that children can be buffered from toxic stress by providing security and a nurturing environment. She shares that collaboration and communication to help spark moments of connection which ultimately help children thrive and develop resilience.

So, what are the key elements of resilience? 

According to the renowned social worker and bestselling author Brené Brown, “resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving.” It’s about a “tolerance for discomfort.”  “Sometimes we have to do tough things and feel our way through tough situations, and we have to feel tough emotions,” she says.

Resilience is considered part of strategic planning in certain business models, enhancing a company’s capacity to “anticipate, embrace and adapt to changes and disruptions in an increasingly volatile world.” Along those same lines, this recent interview shared a meaningful exchange around the topic of communities of color, land ownership, and sustainable farming practices. The story of “Black farmers’ legacy of building self-sustaining communities through producing food” might just embody the spirit of resilience like no other!

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led many to discuss the power of resilience as well.  According to the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, resilience is akin to a seesaw with positive and negative experiences balancing on a fulcrum. To find balance, we must load up on the positives such as “responsive relationships” and unload the negatives to the extent possible. While some of the negatives may be considered outside of our control, I think the last ~ two years of the pandemic have shown us that good nutrition and diet lay the cornerstone for fighting back against the chaos and havoc the virus can wreak on our immune system.  In fact, studies have shown that nearly half the deaths from COVID-19 were people who already had underlying chronic diseases, the most harmful of which being Metabolic Syndrome itself.   

In my own life, here are the three keys I’ve found to my personal resilience (in no specific order, as I do feel the trick is to implement all of them simultaneously): 

  • Gratitude
  • Good food
  • Good sleep

The team behind Pediatric Resiliencealso feels these three key ingredients form the recipe for success. Thus, to ensure children and families have the resources they need to be forever resilient, we set up this website built around the pillars of care, community, and food. Through our blogs, videos, recipes, and shared events, we hope to provide care. We see your family’s innate strengths, and through our virtual community, we want to offer diet, lifestyle, nutrition, and wellness tools to make you thrive. We will make health and nutrition a fun activity for the whole family. Let’s help each other become better grocery shoppers, cooks, and how to eat to live and transform ourselves into truly resilient beings. Resilient not only against disease but also against negative emotions. 

As you can see, I’ve been giving this idea of “RESILIENCE” a lot of thought in the last several months.  One day, I lightheartedly thought that the letters I & L might just be two of the most important letters in the English alphabet!  After all, are they not what transforms the verb “resent,” a word that brings forth a negative, bitter, and toxic emotion, into the beautiful, positive, and uplifting emotion brought forth by the adjective “resilient”!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think makes someone inherently resilient. What does resilience mean to you? Is resilience a quality that can be taught? If so, how do you choose to impart the teachings to yourself, to your children?  Please share your comments with us. In the end, the axiom that “it takes a village” applies to resilience as well!

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