The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” In regard to mental health, psychological resilience is seen as the ability to adapt well when experiencing adversity, trauma, or other significant sources of stress.
Being able to utilize inner resilience can support individuals in overcoming adversities and being able to deal with the changes that happen throughout our lives. Although research has shown that the majority of individuals are born with psychological resilience, the ability to utilize resilience is based on a variety of factors and is something that can be strengthened when needed.
Everyone has had to adapt to changes during the past year (2020-2021), whether it be changes with work, school, social activities, or health.
These changes have tested our ability to adapt and adjust to a stressor that is still being understood and with no clear timeline in regards to “the end being in sight.” These changes have challenged us as individuals to utilize our inner resilience, external support systems, and other resources to manage stress-related symptoms such as depression, anxiety, grief, anger, and fear.
Through this experience, there has been recognition of the importance of supporting Mental Well-Being and acknowledging the impacts that this stressor has had on mental health.
Tools to strengthen inner resilience
One of the positives I have seen through this experience is a willingness from people to disregard the stigma of mental illness, an openness to talk about mental health challenges, and courage to seek help for these challenges through supports such as medications, therapy, support groups, and online communities.
Research has found that there are a few tools that can help to strengthen inner resilience when needed. The American Psychological Association has found four components that are helpful for strengthening wellbeing and personal resilience – connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning. Below are some tips for supporting each of these four components:
- Connect with Others: One of the benefits of social media is that there are lots of virtual groups available for connecting with people with similar interests. Do you love dogs? There are groups to talk about that! Want to try gardening? There are groups to give you advice! Now that the weather has improved, consider meeting with other people face-to-face in an outdoor setting. There are also a lot of volunteer opportunities available, such as being part of a phone tree that calls isolated senior citizens, walking dogs at animal shelters, or helping deliver Meals on Wheels. Taking the time to connect with others can help to remind you that you are not alone in these difficulties and validate your emotions.
- Foster Wellness: It is important to give your body the resources that it needs to help you manage stress. These resources can be obtained through choices that help to promote physical health, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and ample sleep. Developing a Mindfulness Practice can also help to focus your mind on positive experiences and hopes for the future. If you are struggling to implement some of these practices on your own, consider asking a friend or family member to be your Accountability Buddy to praise you when these choices are made and gently remind you if forgotten.
- Focus on Healthy Thinking: Accepting the facts of this situation and how it has changed your life can be helpful to let go of bitterness and anger toward the factors that you cannot control. Instead, try to focus your thoughts on goals and hopes that you have for the future and choices that you are still able to make in your life. This positive outlook can help your thoughts to focus on the expectation of good things to come and increase hope for the future. It can also be helpful to remind yourself of previous adversities that you have overcome as a way to remember your own strengths and empower yourself in facing this change.
- Find Meaning: Be proactive in finding and focusing on changes that you want to make in your life through the stressful event. By asking yourself “What can I do about this?” you are focusing your brain on finding a sense of control and purpose in the face of adversity and increases your ability to rise above this challenge. Regardless of how big or small, consider writing down realistic goals for the future. These goals can provide you with a tangible finish line to focus on taking steps toward and increases feelings of accomplishment.
If your challenges feel too overwhelming to face on your own or you feel that you are having difficulty tapping into your resilience, consider seeking out professional help.
Licensed professionals are available to provide you with a variety of tools or skills that can help you in this process and support you in fostering your own inner resilience. Although the challenges and changes that we currently face seem daunting, remember the resilience that is inside you and hope for a better future that is yet to come.