Resiliency: Essential to Survival

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In the harsh environs of an Arctic winter, daylight is scarce and outside temperatures can drop to negative 60 degrees below zero. Daily life in austere operating locations like Clear Air Force Station, Alaska and Thule Air Base, Greenland can be quite challenging, especially for newly assigned unaccustomed members.

Perpetual darkness coupled with little to no opportunities to walk outside for some “fresh air” can leave individuals at an increased risk for experiencing feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. These emotions do not discriminate based on rank, age, gender, or ethnicity and can come on suddenly, especially in the deep solitude of what can seem to be a never-ending winter.

To help combat this, individuals should strive to create a sense of resiliency within their daily lives.

One useful tool in building a deep well of resiliency is the creation of positive habits. Repetitive Positive habits can often provide a stable foundation to lean on for when tough times occur. They serve as an effective outlet for stress relief and can also help pass the time during the never-ending winter. Habits should be ideally linked to goals to give the member something to work towards. Without clearly defined goals, the positive habit could easily fall by the wayside if the member grew tired of it.

For example, a member plans to pass the winter months by reading books and exercising more. How many books do you want to read in a 3-month period? Do you want to read more non-fiction books? How does a goal of exercising more translate into defined and tangible results? Do you want to take 2 minutes off your 1.5 mile run time? Sculpt your physique and lose 15 pounds? It’s important to set goals to accompany your habits so that you can stay on track, improve yourself, and accomplish something that you can be proud of.

Developing strong social bonds with other people can also aid in the development of a person’s resiliency. Human beings are by their very nature social creatures. Even the most introverted of people still have the occasional desire to vent about a bad day or celebrate an achievement with another person.

Strong interpersonal relationships enable people to realize that their struggles are shared and that they have a venue from which they can seek support and counsel.

During the unforgiving winters experienced at remote locations, the feeling of isolation can be exponentially magnified, which makes social bonds and unit cohesion ever more critical. Members often find themselves absent of the bonds they have during a traditional assignment.

Technology has evolved to a point where worldwide interpersonal communication is easily achieved, but this still doesn’t take the place of an actual face-to-face exchange with another person. Whether it’s playing a board game with friends or binging a TV series on Netflix, members should attempt to incorporate shared activities outside the workplace; thereby creating a sense of togetherness.

Developing repeatable habits and building strong social bonds both contribute heavily towards an individual’s own sense of resiliency. In challenging situations, such as a menacing winter at a remote location, resiliency is a vital element to not only survive but thrive.