Resilience is one of those buzz words going around.
In essence, Resilience is our innate inner strength: that drive which keeps us from giving up on the things we truly want.
And in the stress of our modern environment, we are tight for time and low on energy. Therefore, by the time we realise we need to change the way we’re coping, making a change feels too hard.
Recognise that your Strength Exists
Feeling resilient is about unlocking that inner drive, and, rather than being fearless, trusting yourself to thrive despite the world around you.
I find the most effective tools to manage stress and overwhelm involves small steps that don’t take too long but can be used regularly. Let’s begin with the mental aspects, then onto the practical changes.
1. Recognise that you do not need to be fixed. You are not weak. I’m not saying you’re a faultless human being… but you don’t need to put all that energy into trying to be strong.
2. Know that our brains are designed to learn, grow and change. Every experience builds pathways in our brain. The more we think, say or do; the more ‘wired’ our brain becomes. So spend time on things you’d like to grow.
3. Believe that we hold power. Humans as a species are so inherently able to manage things. You have survived everything you’ve ever experienced. Don’t forget that.
4. Something in this world will light you up. You may have already found it, or you may just believe in its existence.You are enough, no matter where you are on that path.
5. Creativity is a useful tool, which helps keep us mentally active. This might be holding a spoon with your non-dominant hand or counting items in another language. Get creative and use skills you may not have used since you were a kid.
6. It is okay to reflect, even on negative events. We learn by evaluating how things may have gone previously. Try writing things down with a 10-minute timer. Learn your lessons to avoid making them again (& seek support if needed).
7. Get dressed into your costume or battle armour for the day. Have you ever changed into clothes for an event, then changed them before you left? Next time you need a boost, pause and see what your intuition is telling you about the costume you choose.
8. We are all walking a path of trial and error. You are the expert in yourself, but nothing stays the same forever. Things that used to work may stop working. It’s okay to still be finding what works for you.
9. Goals are proven to be helpful in keeping us ‘on track.’ Whether your goal is weight loss, writing novel words, ‘self-development-work’ or fixing up the shed… write the goal down, and split it into baby steps. Then evaluate what is / not working and tweak things!
10. You have some control over your thoughts and behaviours. We can’t stop our thoughts, but we can question the ‘truth’ of them. Equally, we can control our actions, and reactions. The rest is often outside of our control, and it’s okay to let those things go.
Still with me? Grand. We’re half-way there.
When you feel low or stressed, how do you cope? How do you wind down?
Do you bottle it up until the emotions explode, or can you control the gentle management before it reaches those places?
The Practical Steps Don’t Need to be Big
You can lower your stress levels via your thoughts and behaviours. This is a key aspect of CBT, but also follows general psychology principles. Let’s look at some of the more active, practical techniques to manage your stress and build that inner strength.
11. Complete something. Anything. Add an item to your to-do list, go do it, then cross it off. This is a brilliant trick for those days which lack momentum.
12. Meditation means ‘training of the mind’ and can be done at any time. There are many types, from the ‘just sitting’ of stereotype to mindfulness. The latter focuses on whatever you are doing, and you can grab my free introduction to mindfulness here. Most meditations focus on pausing mental chatter than emptying the mind.
13. Balance out to-do lists with ‘ta-da lists’ and gratitude. To-do lists are helpful in moving tasks out of our head. However, accomplishments and achievements help us feel mentally stronger. Noticing the positives, the things we’re grateful for or recognising how much we completed today: That is what builds our sense of strength.
14. Journaling supports us to make emotional ‘progress’. It’s a great way to process experiences, make headspace and recognise patterns. Which in turn, provide the insight needed to grow. Colour, list, doodle, write… whatever works for you. Even labelling your emotions reduces their power.
15. Engage in a world of fiction. The real world isn’t always pleasant. Taking some time away from reality really benefits our well of inner strength. Whether you read a book, watch a movie or play a video game – take space from the ‘real world’ even for 5 minutes.
16. Pay attention to what fuels you. Research now shows links between diet and not just physical health, but how food affects mood. Notice how you feel after each meal, and see what fuels you best.
17. Move your body in some way, be it dance, yoga or weightlifting. Exercise releases anxiety and helps us feel empowered: psychologically strong. Even in small doses. Dance to a song in your living room, do 5 squats while you brush your teeth, or star-jump as the kettle boils.
18. Similarly to diet, it’s worth noticing when caffeine or alcohol influence our feelings. Caffeine and cigarettes both mimic anxiety in the body, and alcohol is a depressant which damages our sleep. If you feel stressed out, these items are worth monitoring to feel more in control.
19. Get enough sleep. Sleep is a natural stress-reliever, brings us energy and creates resilience for when the unexpected happens. We often don’t recognise just how much tiredness contributes to our daily struggles.
20. Breathe. In, hold, out. Over-breathing can cause dizziness, panic-symptoms, fast heart beat, shaky hands and tingling sensations. Holding our breath is a sign to our body that we’re in danger. Managing your breathing is the best way to ‘reset’ sensations of panic or weakness. Here’s a quick link to a good breathing technique.
This list is far from ‘complete.’ But if you’re burnt out, overwhelmed and exhausted, picking one or two tips to try out can create a bit of mental space and inner strength.
Give yourself credit that you can figure it out, and if you have another tools that helps you reconnect with that inner power, take some time to try it out more often. See where it takes you.
When we feel strong in ourselves, we’re better able to support others, to do the work we’re meant to do, and we just feel better about life.