14 Tips to Bolster Your Resilience

resilience Apr 26, 2020

By Ann Getz, Ph.D.

In light of the unprecedented challenges our world has recently faced with COVID - 19, there’s never been a greater need to boost resilience in ourselves, our co-workers, our children, our families and our world. Emotional resilience is one’s ability to bounce back in the face of adversity, tragedy, or significant sources of distress. Despite the great difficultly of navigating the recent challenges of our new reality of social distancing, remote working and home schooling, it is also an opportunity for profound personal growth. While the hardships and challenges created by this recent pandemic are certainly painful, they can be profoundly transformative. Resilience is not developed from transcending pain, it comes from moving closer to what scares you, having the courage to look at yourself and build upon that inner strength. That’s perhaps the primary purpose of resilience – growth.

How emotionally resilient are you?

Emotional resilience is an innate force that can help us to navigate the turbulence of life, a trait that is much needed in this wake of COVID-19. Just like other aspects of our persona, for example, IQ and emotional intelligence, emotional resilience is a trait that continues to develop over the course of our journey through life. It can vary from person to person. What are ways in which we can strengthen our power to bounce back from adversities?

Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Developing these four core components can help you to navigate this sea change.

1. Build your connections

2. Foster wellness and self-compassion

3. Find greater meaning and purpose

4. Cultivate a positive mindset

Build your connections

1. Prioritize relationships. Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties, particularly during this pandemic. Cultivate relationships with trustworthy and compassionate individuals who can deeply listen and validate your feelings. Spending more time with people who fill your cup rather than drain your energy will support building resilience as well as a positive mindset.

2. Find connection. Along with one-on-one relationships, some people find that being active in community or spiritual organizations provides support and can help you reclaim hope and perspective. This is a time where our global community is finding unique ways to use technology for human connection and meaning. Think about your gifts. Find groups that can offer you support and a sense of purpose or joy in supporting others.

Foster wellness and self-compassion

3. Take care of you. Self-care or self-compassion is a legitimate practice for emotional health and building resilience. Enduring stress or distress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting wellness, like eating for nutrient rich foods, getting ample sleep, regular exercise and being in nature can strengthen your body’s ability to adapt to life’s challenges and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.

4. Practice mindfulness. While significant challenges we face can trigger a cascade of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, mindful practices can calm our minds and bodies.Meditation, deep breathing, mindful journaling, yoga and other spiritual practices can help you reconnect to yourself, create an inner sense of calm and restore hope. This pause can prime you to deal with situations that require perseverance. Be mindful when you journal, meditate, or pray, intentionally focus on the positive aspects of your life. Reflect on your strengths and avenues you are able to cultivate those gifts. Recall the things you’re grateful for, even during this difficult time.

5. Avoid draining your tank. It may be tempting to mask your pain with alcohol, drugs or other substances. Focus instead on giving your body resources to manage stress, rather than seeking to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether. Create positive habits that are aligned with your life goals and every few weeks evaluate your progress. Re-sculpt a life that is focused on bringing your potential and positive energy to every situation.

Find greater meaning and purpose

6. Act in alignment with your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment— that enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. Reflect on your motivation. What is your why? What will achieving these goals bring to you? Take incremental steps to progress forward. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"

7. Support others. Whether you simply support a friend in their own time of need, donate money or time, giving to others can provide a deep sense of purpose, gratitude and joy. In fact, much of the scientific research on resilience has shown that having a sense of purpose and giving support to others, has a significant impact on our well-being.

8. Be proactive.  During challenging times, it can be difficult to remained focused and proactive. It is important to identify and prioritize your short, medium and longer-term efforts. If the problems or projects seem too big to tackle, break them down into manageable pieces. For example, make a daily list of actions, personal and professional. At the close of your workday, re-align your list to reflect shifting priorities. Taking initiative will remind you that you can muster motivation and purpose even during stressful periods of your life.

9. Growth and self-discovery. People often find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle. For example, after a tragedy or hardship, people have reported better relationships and a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. Great challenge can increase your sense of self-worth and heighten your appreciation for life.

Cultivate a Positive Mindset

10. Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel — and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophize difficulties or assume the world is out to get you and adopt a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. For instance, if you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, remind yourself that what happened to you isn’t an indicator of how your future will go, and that you’re not helpless. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.

11. Build your capacity to incorporate change. Accept that change is a part of life. As a global community, we are certainly surfing this wave of adapting to our new normal. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations in your life. It takes courage to accept change. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you to focus your energy and efforts on circumstances that you can alter and bring you closer to the life you want.

12. Focus on what you want. It’s hard to be positive when life isn’t going your way. An optimistic outlook empowers you to expect that good things will happen to you. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. We get what we focus on. So, be mindful of how and with whom you are spending your time with. Surround yourself with people and things that nourish your spirit.

13. Reflect on your successes. It may be helpful to reflect on who or what was helpful in previous times of distress, you may discover how you can respond effectively to new difficult situations. Remind yourself of where you’ve been able to find strength, where you have navigated turbulent times before and ask yourself what you’ve learned from those experiences. You were successful in that situation. How can you re-ignite that learning?

Boosting your resilience takes time and intentionality. It is a daily practice that can help us to navigate the ups and downs of our life journey. While the benefits of emotional resilience are clear – increase longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life – we have a unique opportunity to use these practices to build greater resilience in ourselves, our families and our communities.

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