As the world around us slowly starts to reopen we may still find ourselves feeling fatigued, frustrated, burned out, or in some ways very anxious. Navigating through this pandemic has not been an easy feat for any of us. Let’s discuss the impact of this long-term stress on our resilience and how we can build it back up again.
What is resilience? According to the American Psychology Association (APA) it is “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.” Essentially resilience is our ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult life situations.
While some of us were fortunate enough to be born with more resilient protecting factors such as stable housing, safe schooling, low parental discord, parents that attended to a child’s needs, etc., some of us entered into a difficult time with low resources to begin with. It is important to note that we all deal with different challenges throughout the course of our lives and that that will take a certain amount of resilience to help us bounce back or recover. Any stress uses our resources and resiliency. When we have time to recover and invest back into our resources we continue a high level of resiliency. However, chronic stress, such as living through the uncertain and difficult time of a global pandemic, uses all our resources and drains our resiliency. It empties our tank and makes coping with difficult as well as regular life situations harder.
Perhaps you noticed you increased or developed unhealthy coping strategies such as shopping, eating, or alcohol/drug use. You may have had changes in mood such as anxiety and depressive symptoms or feeling irritable and snapping at others for seemingly no reason. It’s possible you felt tired, fatigued, less energy to get through your day. Perhaps you experienced something else related to a lack of resiliency. You are not alone. This difficult time used it all up and made it harder to get back up and get back out there.
Researchers have studied the topic of resilience for decades and studies have shown that there seems to be 3 common trends amongst people who tend to have increased resiliency. That is to say those who always seem to “float” through life – and seem to be less impacted and recover more easily from hardship. Here are three of the commonalities of these resilient strong characters.
- More resilient people are very much aware of the fact that bad things can, and unfortunately sometimes do, go wrong. This is not to say that they welcome adversity, just that they are aware of potential problems.
- They choose to focus their attention on things they can change and spend less time on what is out of their control. Resilient people have a tendency to give credence to perceived stressors all while still giving weight to the good in their environment – this is called “benefit finding”. It’s about making an intentional on-going effort to tune into the good.
- They regularly check in with themselves and ask “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?” For example “is the way I’m thinking and acting going to help me recover from that heart attack?” or “am I acting in a way that will help me get that promotion at work?”. By asking this simple question, it helps center oneself and refocus on what matters to them.
Keeping this resilient attitude in mind, what are some ways you can rebuild the resiliency that has been depleted? Here are some resources and resiliency building strategies we are seeing in recent weeks:
- Staying connected and sharing how you are doing with others that care about you.
- Taking care of the basics – getting enough sleep, food, and rest. Take naps. Relax.
- Limiting and even cutting out unhealthy coping strategies that further drain our resources.
- Try the Headspace guide to Meditation on Netflix
- Tara Brach has a lot of free material. Try the 40-day Mindfulness program at https://courses.tarabrach.com/courses/mindfulness-daily (only 10 minutes a meditation and is self-guided)
- Mantras that are nourishing and affirming
- “I will get through this”
- “This too shall pass”
- “I can take care of myself during this difficult time”
- Do some fun things at whatever your energy level is.
- Allow yourself to be tired and to attend to the fatigue. Stop trying to push through and get everything done.
- Managing expectations. Matching my ‘to-do’ list with my energy level rather than expecting I can do as much as before.
- Self-compassion – life it hard enough right now, stop adding to the pile by beating yourself up. Become your own ally.
Don’t forget – resilience is not a character trait that has been set in stone. Rather, it is about regular willingness, effort and mindfulness.
Wishing you all a wonderful rest of the summer. Remember to be kind to yourselves.
All the best,
Émilie Rose Casey