Have you ever stopped to think about how resilient you really are? You’re most likely too busy juggling home, children, career and attempting to establish some form of work-life balance to notice.
“Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: (1) a belief that they can influence life events; (2) a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; (3) and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences” – Amanda Ripley.
As the Covid-19 global pandemic dominates the news, the world as we’ve known and built our routine around has changed. We are impacted by the lockdown – social and travel restrictions, supply shortages, children being home schooled, working from home for those who can, unemployment for those less fortunate, and intensive work schedules for NHS and frontline staff.
Our stress levels rocket, anxiety, fear and uncertainty escalates, and our mind becomes caught in a cycle of negative thinking.
We feel controlled by our emotions or pushed off course by things outside our power. We have a sense of being disconnected from others and develop an automatic negative response to stress and change. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically.
Amidst it all we try to cope with the changes and adjust to a new set of rules whilst attempting to manage to stay healthy and keep our family and loved ones safe.
Before you start thinking we’re all failing or becoming pessimists, remember that this is a natural emotional and psychological response in a time of crisis. Unfortunately these natural human reactions make matters worse by filling our minds with constant worrying thoughts that shrink our perspective and stop us from seeing things with more clarity.
The good news is: we can take steps to support our mental wellbeing and build our emotional and psychological resilience.
“Resilience is not what happens to you. It’s how you react to, respond to, and recover from what happens to you” – Jeffrey Gitomer
Resilience is the ability to be resourceful and flexible in challenging situations, cope with stressful times and handle changing demands effectively. It can help us meet challenges head-on, bounce back from difficult experiences and live a more balanced life. We engage at home, at work and with others. We are aware we’re not perfect and can get things wrong, and don’t focus on the negatives or don’t take every issue as our fault. We view failure as a learning and growth experience. We make time for ourselves and loved ones.
We can all learn to be emotionally resilient by spending time developing the habits that help build resilience, but we can’t do it alone. We have an inherent reliance on other people and our communities to access resources when we most need them. The current Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how individuals and communities have come together to support the vulnerable living on their own, the NHS and key front line staff.
One such amazing example is Captain Tom Moore and his 100th Birthday walk for the NHS; his resilience and desire to help has brought people together from around the world and achieved an astonishing £27M for the Association of NHS Charities – ttps://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tomswalkforthenhs
Emotional resilience does not require any unusual skills or capabilities; it develops out of ordinary day-to-day experiences, relationships with others and interaction with everyday life events.
Studies show that resilient people have a number of common personality characteristics, such as:
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Open to life’s experiences
- Enthusiasm and optimism
- Self-awareness, autonomy and emotional literacy
- Critical thinking, flexibility and adaptability
- Persistence when faced with challenges and adversity
- Ability to learn from experiences
How do we develop our emotional resilience?
By learning to recognise our emotions, managing our minds so that we don’t become slaves to our negative thoughts and connect to positive resources.
Thousands of thoughts pass through our mind every day, each triggering a network of emotions. Some cling on, others die as quickly as they appeared and others are stored for later use. We seldom stop to check who’s in the driving seat and instead we experience life as a rollercoaster ride.
“Mastering the art of resilience does much more than restore you to who you once thought you were. Rather, you emerge from the experience transformed into a truer expression of who you were really meant to be” – Carol Orsborn
Take time out to notice your thoughts. Befriend your mind instead of battling with it as if it is your enemy. Give yourself one minute three times a day to just breath. Headspace (App) offers guided breathing sessions from 1-3 minutes.
Become aware of your physical cues that signal heightened stress levels and emotional state. Pause. Name your emotions and how you’re feeling – you’ll soon start to notice that this helps reduce their impact.
Reflecting on your thoughts and emotions alone isn’t enough. Connect with your partner, spouse, family or friends. Sharing with others is a vital part of building our resilience.
When I’m feeling irritable (sometimes I don’t even know why), I let my husband know to warn him of a potential storm coming his way. I notice the moment I voice how I’m feeling the strength of the irritation subsides.
Developing your resilience requires good foundations. Establish a daily routine, nourish your mind and body through good nutrition and exercise. Take time out to relax and reflect on your day with a sense of positive gratitude.
Find your sense of purpose. Notice how it rejuvenates, energises and deepens your life experiences with your partner, spouse, family and friends.
Practice these simple exercises with curiosity. Be curious when exploring your thoughts, feelings and emotions, with no judgement or need to fix. Notice what you find, and like autumn leaves in a breeze, let it drift away as you find a renewed level of calm and peace.
*NEXT WEEK – How parents, teachers and key adults can help teenagers develop resilience