We all are designed to have it!
Going through a world-wide pandemic has caused many challenges for all of us. From the mundane requirements to stay home, not meet family or friends, to more traumatic events such as illness or those with lasting impacts like the death of loved ones. Such changes have affected people differently, causing different thoughts, emotions and uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful situations—because in our DNA and the way the body and its systems are designed to operate – create resilience.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
In the last year, we have seen great impacts in most of these areas, upon all of us, with one added stressor – not being in control of one’s life – even when one is not experiencing any of the above. Each change in government advice over the last year has caused the awareness of not being in control of one’s own life, with more and more things being taken out of one’s control and other things being planted into one’s life that one hadn’t planned for: such as working from home, or home schooling.
Psychological resilience is defined as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. But – we have not been able to return to pre-crisis status – because the pandemic and its ramifications continues to evolve, change and what it seems like currently, to grow greater.
So, it is important to consider how resilience operates naturally in each person, and what we can do to aid its effectiveness in us. Certain natural functions in the body assist resilience – sleep, relaxation, calmness in body and mind all introduce states of being that facilitate our ability to ‘spring back into shape; elasticity’. The human mind also has “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties;’’ and with a little help we can expedite this capacity.
It begins with looking for those aspects of your life you can control, modify, and grow with. In the UK’s current circumstance this may appear very difficult! But there are – perhaps small factors – that you can exercise control over, to bring you that awareness that it is your life and you do have dominion over what happens in you.
The American Psychological Association have identified four components that will increase your resilience. If the behaviours they advocate are practised, they will also increase the sense of personal control and purpose.
The Four Components
The four core components of resilience are —connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning— and together, they can empower you to accept and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences.
Build your connections
Prioritize relationships. Connect with empathetic and understanding people which will remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings and prioritize genuinely connecting with people who care about you.
Join a group. Along with one-on-one relationships, some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other local organizations provides social support and can help you reclaim hope. Research groups in your area or online, that could offer you support and a sense of purpose or joy when you need it.
Take care of your body. Self-care is a legitimate practice for mental health and building resilience. That’s because stress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting positive lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.
Take care of your mind. Mindful journaling, yoga, spending time in nature and other spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can help you build awareness of positive factors in your life and restore hope. Even in the darkest of times, when you journal, meditate, or pray, you will recall the things you’re grateful for, and see things more positively.
Help others. Whether you volunteer on a NHS project or simply support a colleague or friend, you can gain a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people, and tangibly help others, all of which can empower you to grow in resilience.
Be proactive. In difficulties like the pandemic, it’s helpful to acknowledge and accept that things are difficult, and you may not be able to do much about a lot of things, but is there something you could do for yourself or another that would improve the situation? Talking it through with others helps you and them.
Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly—that enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. This is not just work projects, but something that you may want to do for yourself and your family. Using the time of the pandemic to benefit those you love is an accomplishment won from hard times.
Look for personal growth. People often find that they have grown in unexpected ways as a result of difficulties experienced. Sometimes the growth is profound. For example, after a tragedy or hardship, people experience better relationships and a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. This can increase your sense of self-worth and heighten your appreciation for life.
Embrace healthy thoughts
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. The pandemic has also brought many positive things to each of our lives. What are these things for you?
Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of the adverse situation. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. 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 (if not now, but soon). Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Along the way, note any subtle ways in which you start to feel better as you deal with difficult situations.
Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience. For many people, using their own resources and the kinds of strategies listed above may be enough for building their resilience. The important thing is to remember you’re not alone on the journey. While you may not be able to control all of your circumstances, you can grow by focusing on the aspects of life’s challenges you can manage, and draw support as needed from loved ones and trusted professionals.
10 February 2021
Some material drawn from https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience