Bouncing back. How to build resilience to improve your mental healthNov 18, 2022
I recently returned from a long overdue trip back 'home' to the UK to visit my family and friends post COVID. One of the first things I noticed when I caught up with my friends is how tough the impact of COVID has been on mental wellbeing.
Whilst each of us deal with stress differently, resilience is a skill that prepares us against the inevitable suffering that life throws at us.
One thing that’s for sure, building resilience helps people adapt better to life’s curveballs, keeps self-esteem and confidence intact, allows people to handle setbacks without falling in to victim and blame mentality and promotes a growth mindset, looking at life with curiosity and compassion rather than fear and judgement.
Resilience isn't about 'sucking it up' or taking an 'it is what it is' attitude to the stressors of life, more a quality that empowers us to step back, take a bird’s eye view of a situation and compassionately process, accept and adapt to the challenges in front of us.
When looking at resilience through the lens of mindfulness, it becomes less about mental toughness and more about surrender. Having the courage to see the reality that is in front of us and dial in to the thoughts, feelings and emotions that lie beneath, then moving forward with acceptance and understanding.
Resilience asks us to accept difficulty with courage. To work with it, not against it.
So how can we build resilience and prepare for adversity?
Increase self-awareness and invite curiosity
By understanding your habitual thought patterns, you will become more equipped to step out of reactive behaviour when triggered by stress. You could start by asking yourself these questions:
- How do I currently react to triggering situations?
- What and who are my ‘Achilles heels in terms of triggering a stress response.
- How does my body respond to stress?
- What tools do I already have to cope?
- What habitual responses do I currently have which aren’t helpful?
- What would be a more helpful response?
Having curiosity about how you react to situations will enable you to learn and grow rather than beat yourself up.
Lean towards your emotions
Supressing emotions long term undermines our resilience so it’s important to get comfortable with noticing your emotions, recognising and labelling them. Do you push your emotions down or do you go over and over the same scenario keeping you stuck in the same circumstance? Can you name the emotion you are feeling? What is causing the emotion? How can you change the situation?
Practice courage daily whilst living to your playbook of life
Knowing your values and living your life according to those values whilst challenging yourself daily to choose ‘hard over easy’ creates a compound effect when building resilience.
Challenge yourself physically
The body and mind are intrinsically linked so it is vital to check in daily with your physical body.
Here are some ideas on how to challenge yourself physically (check with a physician before commencing any new regime.)
- Daily breath work or mindfulness practice
- Cold showers/cold water therapy
- Physical exercise that pushes you out of your comfort zone
Like anything worth learning, developing resilience will take consistency, commitment and vulnerability. Meeting yourself where you are at and boldly working through challenges with an open mind will create an inner strength you didn’t know you had.