In 2020, it’s understandable to feel knocked down. And although getting back up and moving forward may not always seem easy, taking steps to increase your resilience can help you through the process.
But what is resilience exactly?
“Oftentimes, we are not aware of how resilient we can be until we encounter change or experience a traumatic event,” says Dr. Octavio N. Martinez Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin. He defines resilience as “the ability to adapt to and/or recover from change or misfortune without long-term negative effects.”
Although some people may appear naturally resilient, the ability to bounce back, Martinez says, is actually a skill you can improve upon. “Our personality characteristics play a role in our resiliency, but it is the quality of our life experiences and especially the quality of our close relationships that determine how truly resilient we are.”
For many people across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has affected them physically, financially, mentally and emotionally. If you have been feeling the stresses of the pandemic, Martinez offers these tips to help you move through these tough times and start building your resilience.
1. Expand your social network and improve the quality of your relationships.
Humans are emotional, social beings, and the quality of our relationships is one of the most important factors in building resilience. Spend some time reflecting on the number and strength of your current social connections. It’s ideal to expand your social network, so you have multiple friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers whom you can reach out to for support and connection. Work to improve your relationships by staying socially connected while social distancing.
2. Accomplish a small task every day.
Human beings need to feel as if they have a purpose. Depending on your values, create small goals that you can accomplish every day. This can be as simple as making your bed every morning, reading a few pages of a book before bed or scheduling a call with a loved one every week. By completing these small tasks, you start improving your ability to get things done, and it helps prepare you for greater complex tasks.
3. Take care of yourself the same way you take care of others.
It’s important to remember that the best way to take care of another person is by taking care of yourself first. The mind and body are intricately connected. By maintaining good mental and physical health through regular exercise, good sleep habits, nutrition and relaxation techniques, you are becoming stronger and more resilient and are able to take care of yourself and others much more easily.
4. Practice self-reflection.
Take some time to think about what has worked and what has not worked for you when you have been confronted with change or adversity. Be honest with yourself, and identify triggers and behaviors that have raised red flags within yourself. For example, think about what activities, events and experiences have triggered you emotionally. What were the emotions that resulted, and how did you respond? Keep in mind that all behavior serves a purpose. Figuring out whether your reactions and behaviors were beneficial or detrimental can help you improve the outcomes for the next time you’re faced with a challenge.
5. Plan for what you can.
It’s impossible to plan for every change or situation that may arise, but identifying some likely scenarios and developing responses can help ease your mind and make you feel better equipped for the next time an actual emergency or change happens. As part of this process, identify and list resources that can support you in various scenarios.