Building Resilience

During the COVID-19 crisis and this challenging time, we have been faced with losses, experiences, and difficulties that none of us could have foreseen, or even imagined. While this period has been daunting, stressful, and traumatic, we can still find ways to cope, grow, and build strength throughout all this adversity.

One of these ways is to develop our resilience. Resilience is the ability to accept and adapt to traumatic and stressful events. When building our resilience, we don’t deny any difficult feelings or emotions that come up for us, but find ways to deal with these emotions in a helpful way.

Below are some concrete ways you can change your behaviors to build resilience. Remember building certain qualities within ourselves is much like building our muscles. It takes practice and work. Things that may seem difficult at first, become easier the more we work at it, and you will soon see your resilience growing stronger and reap the benefits of becoming more resilient.

Focus on Physical Wellness

  • Eat healthy – a portion of our emotional well-being is maintaining our physical well-being. Therefore, it is important to eat nutritious meals during times of trauma. It is also important to not drink too much alcohol. While you may temporarily feel better when drinking alcohol, it has effects on our physical system that leaves us feeling worse when the effects wear off.
  • Exercise – Moving our body physically helps to relieve stress. Also, exercise release certain chemicals in our brains that help us feel good too.
  • Drinking Water – hydrating throughout the day helps us feel better physically too and helps us to avoid dehydration which leads to feelings of tiredness among other things.
  • Get plenty of sleep – Sleeping helps our body repair, improves our immune function, focus and concentration, and feelings of well-being.

Maintain a Schedule and Routine

  • Set schedules – Often when we don’t have appointments, play dates, and other activities to attend to, we become lax with our schedules. However, even if you don’t need to be anywhere it’s best for your emotional and physical well-being to try to stick to a schedule and eat meals, go to bed, and wake up around the same time every day.
  • Find a routine that works for you – It is sometimes helpful to have a set thing that you do at the same time each day. For example, taking a walk every morning, having family game time, or watching a favorite tv show with a friend on the telephone. The important thing is to find a routine that has meaning for you.

Have Compassion for Yourself and Others

During times of stress it is natural to sometimes feel more irritable, impatient, and critical. We tend to take these feelings out on ourselves and others. It is important to not expect too much of yourself, not be critical of yourself, and not compare yourself to others. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can, and forgive yourself for any mistakes or transgressions. It is also important to remember that if others are short or impatient with you, they are reacting to their difficult feelings and be compassionate and forgive them too rather than taking it personally and ruminating on how they may have offended you.

Focus on the Present Moment

  • When going through a difficult time, we often project into the future and imagine more negative feelings and experiences. Just like we couldn’t have predicted this current pandemic, you have no way of knowing what the future will bring. The only thing we have and know for sure is the present moment. We can focus on the present moment by:
    • Being Mindful – this means fully focusing on whatever we are doing in the present moment, no matter what the task. For example, if we are washing the dishes, focus on the feel of the water on your hands, watch the stream of water and the pattern it makes on the dishes you are washing.
    • Meditating – When we meditate we focus our awareness on our breath, an object, or particular saying or mantra. This helps us to train ourselves to bring our awareness to the present moment and away from the chatter of thoughts in our mind.
    • Focusing on our Breathing – Believe it or not, many times we are holding our breath or not breathing fully throughout the day. This leaves our body tense and constricted. When we focus on our breath we can release tension and also remain more present and grounded instead of letting our thoughts carry us away.

Maintain Social and Spiritual Connections

  • Check in Frequently with Family and Friends – It is very difficult being apart from our loved ones and this often leads to feelings of isolation. We can still maintain meaningful and loving relationships through video chats, texts and phone calls.
  • Join Virtual Classes and Groups – There are many groups, programs, and institutions that are offering classes on a variety of topics such as writing, drawing, cooking, philosophy, and exercise. These virtual groups are an excellent way of staying connected with people you do know, and also making new friends or starting a new hobby.
  • Maintain a Connection with Lost Loved Ones – Many of us are dealing with the unexpected and sudden loss of loved ones. While grief is a life-long journey and process, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we can still maintain a connection with our loved ones even though they are not physically present. We can do this for example by writing letters to them, talking to their pictures, or developing certain rituals to honor them.
  • Faith-based Spiritual Services – Many religious institutions are also offering virtual services that you can partake in.

Be Grateful and Positive

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal – During the hardest of times we sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are also things to be grateful for. Each day write down at least one thing you are grateful for. Every so often read what you wrote to serve as a reminder of all there is to be grateful for.
  • Maintain Positive Thinking – When we start thinking negatively about the future, we can remind ourselves that the future is an unknown. Since we don’t know anything yet about the future, we can have every reason to come up with positive ways of thinking about the future as negative ways.

We hope that you find this a useful guide to building resilience. Remember too, just like working out at the gym, everyone is starting from a different place, so be gentle with yourself as you build your resilience practice. Do what you can to start with, and then build a little more to your practice as you become comfortable with what you have been doing so far. And always know that Emma’s Place is here for you. (S.C.)

“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” – Rainer Maria Rilke