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“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” -Maya Angelou
One of the greatest aspects of Maya Angelou's work was her ability to translate her resilience into her prose. Her quote here is clearly a rule she lived by, and it is rather simple. Life will change you, but how you let it change you depends on your level of resilience.
There is no doubt that the year 2020 will have changed us all by the time it (finally) ends, but our reaction to it, how we move forward from here, depends on something we all have: resilience. This blog post will tell you how to build resilience and show you examples of resilience, so you can discern for yourself why resilience is important.
Resilience is the ability to adapt and overcome difficulties in life that appear through stressful situations or trauma. This year has been packed with these situations, as people all over the world have experienced tragedy and severe stress.
According to the Mayo clinic, a resilient person copes positively in life’s challenges, maintaining “physical and psychological wellness” in the midst of these challenges, whereas a person who lacks resilience often adapts unhealthy coping mechanisms and is likely to develop anxiety and depression.
One of the most important pieces to remember about resilience is that it’s not the avoidance of stress, nor is it the simple act of pushing through it. It is the perception of difficulties—the mindset—and the willingness to face it head on.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of resilience is that it can be developed. It’s not something that is simply inherited through DNA. Resilience is something one can build through consistency and persistence, with the goal of attaining a healthy, mental toughness that can allow a person to grow while they experience some of life’s biggest challenges.
Some of the key factors in resilience are…
- Mindset - are you optimistic or pessimistic?
- Confidence - do you believe and trust in your own capabilities?
- Emotional management - do you feel in control of your emotional reactions?
- Human connection - do you have a safe circle of connection?
- Toolbox - do you have a toolbox you pull out in stressful situations?
These factors contribute to your ability to cope with stress, and by challenging yourself to consider these things, you can start on your journey to build resilience.
How to Build Resilience
As previously stated, resilience isn’t something that shows up when we’re born; rather, it is something that is developed over time when people dedicate themselves to the process. One of the ways to build resilience is by engaging in resiliency training. This can be as formal as a course or as informal as practicing resilience activities with self-reflection. The key to increasing resilience though is practical application and practice.
Many formal resiliency training programs take place at health and wellness centers. The Mayo Clinic specifically focuses on four aspects: emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual. Other formal training can be found online, since in-person gatherings have changed drastically this year.
Since we’re not health specialists here at SpaceTogether, just regular people who have had their fair share of stress this year too, I’m going to share some of the activities and aspects of resilience building that have helped us stay strong and ready for ourselves and each other.
- Alter the way you see obstacles - Obstacles, however big or small, can feel life-changing and unbearable to navigate, and the key to moving forward successfully is by altering how you view them. Obstacles are essentially giant boulders that appear in the road. Sometimes you see them coming and other times you don’t. They’re sometimes immovable. So, what do you do? When you see this boulder and think here’s an opportunity to get creative rather than I’m never going to get past this, you’re practicing a mindset change.
- Find balance in your thinking - We are emotional creatures without a doubt. Emotions make us passionate and are what make life so incredibly rich. However, emotions, when imbalanced, can cause us to spiral and make poor decisions. When you’re faced with said boulder, try to keep a balanced mind. Observe your thoughts and feelings, don’t ignore them, and remember that you are not alone in thinking and feeling the way that you do. This thing that’s happening to you isn’t happening because you alone in experiencing tragedy. Tragedy is not unique to you or me. We’re allowed to feel the emotions that result from events, especially traumatic ones, but holding room for perspective and balance in our thinking allows us to navigate the situation with grace and wisdom, something that is nearly impossible when we’re acting out of imbalance.
- Stress reduction - When you lead a fast-paced life without any built-in room for stress reduction, life will catch up to you, and it will catch up in a way that will throw you on your back. Sometimes it’s the sudden onset of migraines or chronic pain. Sometimes it’s depression. Oftentimes, it’s confusing and frustrating. Carving out time in your day to become mindful and remove stress will make a difference in how you think, breathe, and live. Some great stress reducers include meditation, mindfulness exercises, or slower-paced physical exercises. If that feels like too much of a change, start by doing something as simple as taking a walk or listening to instrumental music. It’s about tuning out the noise of your life and becoming intentional with the moment you’re in.
- Getting help - One of the best ways to build your tolerance for stress is the ability to talk about it. It’s detrimental to your mental health to avoid the effects of stress and continue as though it’s not happening. You don’t have to pretend life isn’t hard—it is. We’ve all been there. The stigma around seeking mental health help is changing, so if you find that talking to friends and family might not be enough (it often isn’t—and that’s okay), then consider finding a therapist. They will listen and can offer perspectives and practices that will help you navigate life’s challenges.
Why Resilience is Important
Having a strong sense of resilience helps us as humans move beyond the challenges of life with a strong mind and heart, allowing us to know and grow ourselves and still continue to help others.
Some of the most influential and inspirational people spent their lives building their resilience, like Maya Angelou, and thus contributed much to the world. We can take the challenges we’ve been facing and avoid them, or we can look at them, fact-to-face, and work toward strengthening ourselves. We can get through this.
As always, SpaceTogether is here to help. Let us know how we can help you and your business or organization grow.