Benight on resilience: “We’re going to get through this”

Dealing with a pandemic is stressful, no bones about it. Though some individuals have settled into new routines, many others are coping with stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness and uncertainty.

That’s normal­­, said Chip Benight, professor of psychology and director of the new National Institute for Human Resilience, in a recent “5 Things You Need to Know” episode.

“The threat of COVID is very hard to pin down,” Benight explained in an interview with Joanna Bean, director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. “That creates an ongoing sense of threat. And that, combined with the economic impact, creates a disaster.”

Fortunately, Benight says, there are plenty of strategies individuals can employ to regain a sense of control, stability and resilience – even in the midst of a pandemic.

“Resilience is the capacity, over time, to regain a sense of agency. It’s the ability to put another foot forward, to see what the next step should be and collect yourself to move in that direction,” Benight explained.

“That doesn’t mean that having distress and struggling and even falling down, if you will, aren’t a part of resilience. The key is that you get back up.”

Recruiting for resilience

Benight shared that the National Institute for Human Resilience, which focuses on the health and wellbeing of trauma survivors, launched three days before UCCS moved to remote operations in response to the COVID pandemic. And just two days after that, Benight realized that people across the nation would soon need more resilience than ever.

Benight is the director of the new National Institute for Human Resilience.

In response, the NIHR team created GRIT: Greater Resilience Information Toolkit, which provides, among other resources, a five-hour volunteer resilience support coach training designed to teach anyone how to support their friends and loved ones.

“GRIT came to me two days after [UCCS’ COVID response] hit,” Benight said. “It’s designed to be a national, local and regional resource to focus on resilience and the capacity of human beings to adapt to extreme experiences.”

“The idea is to reach out and follow a set of guidelines and skills. You can reach out to your friends and colleagues to promote their strength and resilience. And if someone is struggling, we have a whole set of resources in the GRIT program to give to people to help them be more resilient.”

Nearly 750 individuals from 34 states and three countries have signed up for the GRIT training, which launched in March. The training, offered online and in a completely automized format, equips coaches to support individuals facing general and COVID-related stress and promote resilience, disaster recovery and healing among their communities.

“If you want to be a powerful force for your community,” Benight said, “it’s a very simple thing to do.”

Hope for the future

Benight understands what individuals are going through. But he also has words of encouragement.

“It’s really important that we don’t think of ourselves as isolated entities,” he said. “We’re one big community, one big nation, one big world. We need to think collectively and promote getting resources to the people who vitally need them.”

“This is stressful. There’s no doubt about that. But we’re going to get through it. And I think we get through it stronger if we’re together.”

“5 Things You Need to Know” is a virtual series to keep alumni and friends connected with UCCS. In this series, experts on campus are highlighted through their research and through conversations with community experts. The series is a part of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving’s commitment to lifelong learning and connectivity. Watch Benight’s full interview.

Learn more about the National Institute for Human Resilience and GRIT training online.