A recent study published in the “New York Times” highlighted an interesting discovery. Scientists researched how special operations soldiers and race car drivers achieved resilience during the physical and emotional stresses of their jobs.
These individuals were placed in brain-scanning machines and were fitted with face masks through which the researchers were able to control the flow of oxygen at the press of a button.
In another control group, 48 healthy adults were placed in the same machines and were given the same face masks to wear. These adults were divided into three groups: high resilience, average resilience, and low resilience. These categories were determined by questionnaires given to them about their self-perceived emotional and physical resilience.
As the researchers began restricting the flow of oxygen, something interesting happened. The control group of “low resilience” healthy adults had brain signals that were quite inactive right before they realized the button was going to be pushed, resisting the flow of oxygen.
However, after they started having trouble breathing they experienced extremely high levels of activation in the section of their brains leading to bodily awareness; overreacting to the threat once breathing became difficult.
The more we are prepared for impending disasters, the more favorable the outcome will be when the inevitable actually occurs.
The control group of “average and high resilience” adults, as well as the elite soldiers and racers, showed increased levels of brain activity right before they thought their oxygen was about to be restricted. However, the level of activity in their brains sending signals to bodily awareness were muted. This group experienced a stressful condition but did not overreact physically or mentally.
The aforementioned example accurately illustrates the power of resilience; the ability to maintain a level of functionality despite changing conditions in one’s environment.
For a family, attaining a level of high resilience could mean knowing what to do in case of a fire at home. For a nation, ensuring that local, state, and national agencies are operating under the same procedures and nomenclature leads to a higher level of resilience. The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security after 911 is a great example.