In times of crisis, we can all take an emotional hit to our general resilience. Like pretty much everything in life, resilience is on a spectrum, and you may find yourself sliding back and forth from one side to the other. And still, knowing that there are steps you can take to create resilience, can be empowering. So, let’s look at six steps that can help you increase your resilience.
What is Resilience?
The APA defines resilience as an adaptive process that helps in the face of trauma, tragedy, threats, or adversity. The trauma could be any sort of big T or little t trauma, uncertainty counts. Ultimately, resilience is your capacity to bounce back when life takes a hard turn, and you are left floundering. Developing resilience tends to require us to take stock of our emotional resources and grow through difficulty.
What Resilience is Not.
Resilience isn’t a constant steady-state of emotional strength. Different people will always respond differently to situations. One person’s “I got this,” maybe another person’s, “Oh shit, this is hard.”
Life has a way of giving us all a lot of plot twists on our journey. And, learning how to navigate through the big and small bumps is vital to a sense of well-being and our capacity to bounce back. Remember, bouncing back, involves the sort of situation that caused you to bounce in the first place.
The good news is that people are all capable of resilience, and most of us will adapt to challenging situations. The faster you bounce back has to do with your coping strategies, let’s explore these six steps.
Six Steps to Create a Resilience Mindset
- Develop a Self-Reflective Mindset
- Give Grace.
- StoryJack the Narrative.
- Get Mindful and Healthful
- Build your Tribe
- Be Proactive
Develop a Self-Reflective Mindset.
Self-reflection is key to self-awareness. When we can notice and acknowledge our fears, we shine a light on them. And there is a balance necessary here because this isn’t about stewing in the soup of fear. Awareness is about recognizing what is motivating you.
Once you understand the underlying drivers of your experience, you can take steps to navigate more effectively.
Here’s an example: If I feel threatened and don’t get curious, I may lash out without understanding why. That may lead me to make up stories to make sense of my behaviors… typically stories that blame others.
Conversely, if I am upset and I get curious and can say, I am upset about XYZ, then I can determine what actions I have control over, so reduce my upset.
As I look around, I see a lot of people acting out of fear and uncertainty. Just think back to the toilet paper panic, people demonstrate their concern as anxiety or anger. Both are fear; the difference is the expression of the fear. You may find yourself swinging from worry to overwhelm, exhaustion to anger, to XYZ. The key is to become aware of what you are feeling, acknowledge it, and then start to get curious.
Some reflections that can support your self-awareness:
- What is driving these emotions?
- Brainstorm what is within your control?
- What is outside of your power?
- Start reminding yourself to focus where your control is. What you say, think, and do.
Giving grace is an act of compassion; it is also about acceptance. There is a significant link between acceptance and happiness. And I think it’s fair to say that happiness increases resilience.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that we don’t work to find new solutions. It means that we accept what is so that we can start to move forward.
None of us are at our best when we are under stress and feel stuck. And, right now I hope we can agree, a lot of people are under pressure. It is hard to give grace and have acceptance when we are swirling in uncertainty. Yet, this is the path out of strong negative emotions.
Look to reduce judgments. When we are under stress, we can become critical and judgmental—noticing what we don’t like, instead of reminding ourselves to throttle back on our opinions and fears.
Expanding our ability to be flexible. Recognizing that we all may be in different places on the resilience spectrum. And giving ourselves and others permission to be where we are, is crucial to giving grace and moving towards acceptance.
StoryJack the Narrative.
It’s a part of being human to have stories streaming through your mind. We often hear our narratives as we determine good or bad. Or, when we are deciding if we agree or don’t. And, these narratives often show up with some problematic thinking strategies.
Examine your narrative for these key signs:
- Must, need to, got to, have to, ought to, and the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s (these words are often associated with Expectations or Demands).
- Never, always, completely, totally, all, everything, everyone (these words are often associated with Predications).
- Awful, terrible, horrible, unbearable, disaster, worst ever, (these words are often associated with Magnifying).
- Jerk, slob, lazy, creep, hypocrite, bully, stupid, idiot, crazy, @X%*^#$! (these words are often associated with Labels).
Each time you notice any of the above, it’s time to challenge the narrative. I have a worksheet of questions that you can use to challenge your distressing narrative. You are welcome to download it here. Or, here are a few questions to ask yourself.
- Am I distressing myself unnecessarily?
- How can I see this in another, less distressing way?
- What are some other ways to view this situation?
- Is my thinking working for or against me?
Get Mindful and Healthful.
Meditation doesn’t have to be a long quiet process. It can be. But, there is real value in doing one and 2-minute meditations multiple times a day. Each time you sit down, take a moment to shift your awareness to your breath. Start creating the neural wiring in your mind. The regular and consistent practice will support your ability to shift into and out of mental focus.
I have a shifting visualization on YouTube; it’s something that I have used with clients for years. Building within yourself the capacity to notice distress and then shift your attention to something pleasant, then move back and forth, while breathing. This is a powerful workout for your brain muscle.
Move Your Body as well as Your Mind
Practicing whatever form of mindfulness you enjoy, dance, kneading bread dough, knitting, gardening, painting, whatever, but find something that you can do and that you can also quiet your mind while doing. Then do it… daily.
As you improve your capacity to quiet your mind, you are also positively impacting your health. Increasing your ability to sleep, reducing blood pressure, and learning to shift your attention from annoyances are all some of the benefits.
Add to that moving your body, dance around your house, put on the playlist that gets you bouncing. Go for a walk, play with your kids or your dog. But, move that body!
And then make sure to feed it good food. Junk food may be a “go-to” when we are under stress, but it’s not that useful to your body. Make sure to add healthy options to your plate.
All these elements of mindfulness and healthfulness will increase your resilience. Our body and our minds are interdependent, what improves one, improves both.
Build your Tribe.
We are a social species. Other people may, at times, drive us crazy. Still, we need connections. Reach out to the people you enjoy: the ones who make you laugh, and the ones who help you grow.
Connecting with empathetic friends and loved ones can remind us that we are not alone. That we are part of an interconnected web of people all going through challenges. We may be having different problems, but we all experience difficulties.
Choosing to build your tribe allows you to consider, who are the people that you feel better after talking to? Who are the ones that share your sense of humor? And, which friends are trustworthy and have earned the right to hear your concerns and will listen with compassion?
Given that we need to distance ourselves socially, it is easy to end up feeling isolated. Make sure to make time for connecting. Get creative, maybe pick up a phone and talk to people. Start text threads that have a theme, “What’s the funniest thing you have seen today?” Whatever you decide to do, just do it. Connection builds resilience.
There are two ways to take the concept of being proactive in relation to resilience.
The first is in the idea of creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. When I think of this, what comes up is, don’t wait. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t wait till “overwhelming” turns into depression. Depression makes everything harder.
Use your self-reflection to pay attention to the indicators that you need to do something different. Find ways to step out of negative spirals.
Stephen Covey talked about proactive versus reactive in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Reactive describes a stimulus and a response. As soon as something happens (stimulus), you unconsciously have an immediate reaction (response). Proactive represents the same stimulus and response, but you create space between the thing that happens and your response to it. And, in that space, you can choose a different reaction.
Learning to be both kinds of proactive will help you to develop your resilience. Much like learning to shift into and out of distress, becoming proactive means we are practicing patience with ourselves and others. Waiting to respond means we are consciously at choice. We can always choose our first response, but we also have a moment to throttle back and maybe pick a more useful path.
You Got This!
I do hope that you give these six steps a try as you develop your resilience. Reminding yourself that it’s normal to shift on the resilience spectrum, some days you will feel less and other days more resilient.
Knowing that you can pivot and adapt comes directly from your mindset and the tools in your toolbox. Challenge your negative narratives, and take time to slow down and get curious with yourself. Keep it all in perspective and breathe. You really do have this.
Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC is a Leadership Confidence and Whole Life Coach, and the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life. Lyssa works with confidence challenged high achievers who are ready to rewrite the internal narratives that slow them down. Her clients include executives, senior leadership, and managers at organizations such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, the US Military, as well as with creative writers, actors, and artists.
What fires her up is working with smart people to trust their brilliance and develop the courage and confidence to believe in themselves and the work that is their purpose. If you are interested in meeting to see if you could benefit from working together, let's have a coffee and a chat.
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article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated April 23, 2023.