Some people refer to resilience as “bouncing back,” but it’s more than that. It’s the process that allows people who have been knocked down by adversities in life to come back at least as strong as before. In other words, rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, life-changing situations, or significant sources of stress (challenges to your health, relationships, job, loss of a loved one or finances) overcome them and drain their resolve. Through resiliency, people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their life goals.
Resilience does not always come easily but there are ways you can cultivate your resiliency, even during the challenges and uncertainties time like these in the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s true, that learning how to “bounce back” is an important tool to life-long happiness, growth, improvement, success and peace-of-mind. And it is a process or ability to take what you have learned from your past experiences as well as develop new coping strategies in what you are experiencing as you press forward.
Resilience isn’t something you are born with or without—it’s like a muscle that can be built. It involves thoughts, an ability to understand and manage emotions, behaviors and actions that can be learned and developed over time and with intention. And too, while you may be able to build resilience on your own…it may take some a few, trusted people to share your thoughts and experiences with as you move forward.
Keys to Build Resilience
- Be open. Being able to recognize and accept challenging experiences – including your thoughts and feelings instead of trying to suppress them or change – is important. It’s not resignation to the thoughts/feelings but recognizing that you have them. And being resilient does not mean ignoring your feelings or experiences and “sucking it up.” It’s acknowledging the reality and understanding it’s a part of being a human. We have struggles, experience loss and feel inadequate at various times throughout life.
- Let go of things that cannot be controlled. Spend time, energy and focus on situations and events you have control over—things you can have an impact on. Doing so, you gain control over your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Spending time being angry, upset, hurt, or worried about uncontrollable events, is a quick and easy path to feeling lost, helpless, and powerless.
- Be engaged and interactive. When challenging times, difficult emotions, or tough thoughts come, don’t lose sight of what’s important to you. Take time to consider areas of life that are important to you and your values. Engage in actions that bring you closer to those valued areas.
- Give. Make a call. Send a note. Reaching out to others is powerful in sharing and connecting. On a microscopic level, it increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
- Give yourself grace. These are trying and difficult times. Please practice self-compassion – which entails being kind to yourself as opposed to saying hurtful and critical things to yourself. Experts recommend that the next time you catch yourself in a time of pain or suffering (or just contemplation) – ask yourself what a caring friend or family member might say to you in that situation.
- Gratitude. While times can be challenging, gratitude serves as a beacon of hope and optimism. It reflects the positive belief that something good will happen. Too, you may identify some silver-lining in situations.
- Wellness—caring for your mind, body, and soul, also known as self-care is essential to building resilience and being resilient. Mindfulness is being fully present or aware of the moment, by calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When mindful, you are better able to cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down. It helps weaken the chain of associations that perpetuate obsessing about problems or failures. Eating balanced meals that provide vitamins, nutrients, and building blocks for your body, staying hydrated, being physically active, and getting good quality sleep are essential for a strong mind and body to deal with challenges. And, avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. It’s masquerades as a temporary relief but usually spirals out of control.
- Build a strong support system—you’re not alone. During challenging times, some may choose to isolate themselves. Prioritize trustworthy and compassionate individuals who can understand your situation and help you get through it, to bounce back. Faith-based, civic, local groups can also provide value-based social support and a sense of purpose when you need it the most.
Everyone is riding an emotional rollercoaster due to Covid-19 and as a result their respective resilience will ebb and flow. Each in their own way. Recognizing and managing your thoughts and experiences – and building new coping strategies – is important to your self-care and for building your resilience as you move forward.
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.