I realize that all of us have been bombarded with emails, social media posts, and news clips proffering advice for managing this new world that has been so suddenly thrust upon us. The bank, our dentist, that person we bought a DVD from on eBay 5 years ago all are giving tips for how to keep our chins up and our families safe.
While the resources, support, and expert advice have been wonderful, the reality is that each of us has different needs during this challenging time. What brings hope and strength to one person might fatigue or overwhelm another. Perseverance during tough times doesn’t adhere to a one-size-fits-all rule. There is, however, a universal formula for resilience to which we can turn – and tweak to fit our individual needs during this time:
- Analyze the thoughts that keep you resilient
- Study which actions keep you resilient
- Learn what makes you physically resilient
Accessing positive thoughts might sound obvious. However, finding the logic that keeps us strong during tough times doesn’t often come naturally.
For most of us, what comes naturally are thoughts that perpetuate feelings of stress. Our brains are hardwired to be on the lookout for emotional strain and danger. That danger can include anything that infringes upon our personal safety, values, or progression. Staying on the alert for danger is how the brain keeps us safe.
Once the mind identifies a stressor, its job is to stay stressed – by thinking the same tension-inducing thoughts over and over. Why? Because the brain wants to stay guarded until the danger is gone. Your system wants to stay frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed – until it feels safe again.
Obviously, there is a flaw with this system. We can’t change or eliminate most of the stressors in our lives. The presence of the COVID-19 virus and the ensuing quarantine are perfect examples of stressors that cannot be avoided.
What do we do then? How do we put a wrench in our stress response even if the stressor remains present? We stop and find the thoughts that make us stronger than the stressor.
Find thoughts that make you resilient, that bring you hope, and that give you relief. Identify ideas that make you calmer, that make you strong, and that relieve you. And when you find a thought that helps, even if only a little bit, practice it repeatedly. Practice the thoughts that counter your brain’s initial fight, flight, or freeze response to stress.
Some of the thoughts I’ve heard family and loved ones turn toward for resiliency are:
- This won’t last forever.
- This could result in positive long-term changes.
- This might have a larger purpose that we don’t fully understand.
- This quarantine helps me reconnect with my core values and priorities.
- This brings out the worst in people, but it also brings out the best in people.
- Animals and the planet are benefitting from this.
- Even in hard times, life is still filled with beautiful moments.
- Our ancestors have been through much worse.
- We can order pizza more often than before. *
*Please note: Since we are all unique, the thoughts that make one person feel reprieve might have the opposite effect on another. Some of us need light and playful thoughts while others might rely on the philosophical. Still others may turn toward spiritual thinking. Resilient thinking is different for each of us.
The actions that keep us resilient will again be unique to every individual. Some of us will feel more resilient during this time if we slow down and take it easy. Some will feel stronger by trying to maintain a routine and a sense of productivity. Some will desire community and support, and others will require more solitude.
Don’t listen to what someone else says you should do. Do your own research and actively study which actions truly help you feel good.
Some of the actions I’ve heard about from my amazing clients include:
- Helping others
- Engaging in prayer or meditation
- Resting, sleeping, and enjoying more leisure time
- Making plans for possible life changes after the pandemic
- Reaching out to loved ones in creative ways
- Engaging in creative projects or finishing household projects
- Savoring small pleasures
- Finding sources of humor and sharing them with others
- Spending time outside
- Watching the news and staying informed
- Taking a much-needed break from the news
Finally, it is hard for us to manage stress if we are fatigued or physically out of balance. This does not mean that now is the time to start a strict diet or become rigidly disciplined about exercise. Strictness and rigidity arguably increase our stress, not our resilience.
Instead, notice what your body craves to stay vital. Since you’re at home more, can you prepare more meals from scratch? Now that your evenings are not filled with extracurricular activities, can you go to bed an hour earlier? Or can you determine what improves the quality of your sleep? Since that kickboxing class is not an option, can you find more ways to move in a joyful way at home? And can you learn which activities help you to relax and restore? These may include yoga, meditation, taking a hot bath, or snuggling with your pets and children.
The formula for resilience is simple: What thoughts keep me resilient? Which actions keep me resilient? What keeps me physically resilient?
Have fun trying out different thoughts and actions, and study what truly strengthens you as an individual. For more information on resilience, you can read my book, Soothe: Your Mind Body Spirit Guide for Dealing with Crappy Emotions, available on Amazon.
Please note that this post applies to readers living in peaceful homes without the threat of violence or abuse. If you or a loved one is a currently a victim of abuse, please seek help using any of these Minnesota resources for abuse victims.
We at Healthwise have been humbled to see just how resilient and amazing our clients have been, and we are honored to be a part of your resilience formula. – Heidi Kopacek