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Resilience – The Power to Recover Quickly from Difficult Experiences

Last week I reflected on my first week of 2021, and felt things were going reasonably well. This week has been littered with experiences that have challenged my reserve and resilience, but I am proud to say, that I have been tackling these moments very differently from how I would have chosen to last year. The word chosen is probably the key factor here, as how we respond or react to any situation is a choice. 

I was faced with the death of our hamster, (who we had owned for just 4 days), a dog with an infected nipple who probably will require expensive surgery, a husband who is now a key worker and leaves the home early leaving me to juggle an early school run before I attend a busy hospital shift, experiencing my first root canal treatment on an infected tooth, and then my eldest unable to go to school as he had been sick! This all actually happened over about 24 hours, and I am still standing!

We all know the saying ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ and I know it is easy to let the mind feel trapped in a negative spiral when things don’t go well. When every event occurred, I processed each one, brought myself back to my body and how it was feeling, relaxed any tension I had (in the dental chair my hands and thighs were stiff!) and above all focused on my breath. I honestly felt so much better than I would have done, as I usually become quite dis-regulated and enter my fight/flight/freeze response to deal with stressful events. What I have been cultivating during the pandemic is the art of resilience.

To have resilience is to have “The power to recover quickly from difficulties” Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intention. Focusing on four core components — connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning — can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences.

Resilience can help if like me, you are having ‘one of those days’. Here are a few ideas for you to ponder, to see how you can build up your resilience.

1. Stay Flexible. Resilient people expect to face challenges at different points in their lives. They can adjust their goals and find ways to adapt.

2. Learn Lessons. When you have a negative experience, focus on the positive lessons you can learn from it. When a tough situation arises, don’t focus on who is to blame. Let go of asking “Why me?” and feeling like a victim. Ask yourself what you could do differently next time to have a better result.

3. Take Action. Think about what you can do to improve your situation, and then do it. Resilient people work on solving a problem rather than letting themselves get paralysed by negativity. For example, if your manager cuts back your hours at work, you could look at it as a chance to explore other job options. In the long run, it could bring about career growth.

4. Stay Connected. Nurture your relationships with friends and family. When you are going through a hard time, don’t withdraw from other people. Accept help from those who care about you. Resilient people have at least one or two people in their lives they can turn to for support.

5. Release Tension. Make sure you have outlets to express your emotions and let go of tension. Some examples can be to write in a journal, draw or paint, meditate, or talk with a friend or counsellor.

6. Have a Sense of Purpose. Do things that bring meaning to your life. That may be spending time with your family, but volunteering or other work for a cause can also make you feel stronger. 

7. Learn Healthy Habits. You will manage stressful times better if you exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, take time to rest. People who stay physically strong tend to be more emotionally resilient.

8. Believe in Yourself. Take pride in your abilities and what you have done. Recognise your personal strengths.

9. Keep Laughing. Hold on to your sense of humour even when times are tough. Laughter relieves stress and helps you keep things in check. This short video is from the wonderful Tiffany Jenkins and always gets a laugh out of me.

10. Be Optimistic. A positive, hopeful outlook will make you much more resilient. Remember that many of the problems you will face in life are temporary, and that you have overcome setbacks in the past.

Remember, becoming resilience takes time and practice, and we may not always get it right. Developing these components of connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning will support you to living your life being settled, grounded, calm, compassionate and mindful.

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