What a year, and the start of a new decade, 2020 has been. Covid-19 snuck up and took over the world, and has been one of the biggest game-changers we have ever seen.
Putting aside the devastating death numbers and the continuing hardships faced by so many, we can also recognise that the pandemic has forced industries to revolutionise themselves.
Business leaders are throwing stats around about how digital transformation efforts that would have taken 2 years previously are now being done in 2 months.
Enterprising folk are developing apps and platforms that are enabling the public to perform certain daily tasks without any loss in access or convenience.
And now with the latest news about the vaccine, I cannot help but recognise just how brilliant humans can be. The grit, the determination – it used to take years for vaccines to be made available, how amazing that the geniuses around the world have administered the 1st dosage even before this year has ended?
Let’s talk resilience.
With that in mind, and feeling a little hopeful, I wanted to write about one of mankind’s greatest assets, resilience.
- How many of us have had to zag when the whole world was zigging this year?
- How many of us have had to pull ourselves out of whatever funk we were in just to get by?
- How many of us kept our spirits up even as the world crumbled around us?
Many think of resilience as an ability to bounce back after a hard fall. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc.”
That definition centres around the suddenness and something short-term happening. But I am certain that most of us know a few people who have had a lifetime of trauma or difficult situations to deal with.
If you’re reading this, you might very well be one of these people too, just like me.
Without even knowing it or putting much thought into it, you keep bouncing back, again and again, every time, every day. Maybe you do this because you have no choice. You have people depending on you.
Or maybe you’re a natural optimist. It will get better, things will look up, is your mantra.
Even better to be a realist, I say.
Really not about unicorns and rainbows.
Life is full of ups and downs. If life were one big frolicking unicorn-filled playground, you’d never know the joy of overcoming and surviving the shit storms that serve to make you stronger, more empathetic, and generally, a pretty fabulous unicorn yourself.
Look, I am not saying that all your trials and tribulations exist only to make you stronger. Most days, I don’t buy that delusion, but I will tell you that some of the best people I know have had serious strife in their lives.
And I am guessing most of them who are still standing, still surviving, thriving even, have Resilience as their best friend.
We’re not talking about short-term setbacks here. Instead, it is a lifetime of challenges, and how we adapt and respond to continued stress and adversity which is our definition of Resilience.
5 ways to grow resilience in our lives.
1. Accept your feelings.
My learning of the year. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, and accept them. Resilience isn’t pushing aside your feelings and keeping a stoic demeanour. It is recognising your feelings, and then processing them in a way that is better for you, allowing you to have the healthiest responses to challenges – thus building resilience.
2. Know your Values.
My favourite big picture concept from therapy sessions. Hand in hand with Acceptance, Values will guide you in processing your feelings.
Studies have shown that being clear on your Values plays a part in building resilience. Think about it. If you know which values are important to you, when something bad happens, you can use your values to guide your thoughts and reactions, hence, improving resilience.
How this value of mine made it one of the best years of my life.
For example, one of my most important Values in life is Personal Growth. And I sure have done loads of that this year. The additional time that was forced onto me because of Covid-19 (clients postponing projects for example), I used to start my journey into improving my own mental health.
- I went for therapy and fully committed to taking care of my mental health.
- I started my mental health advocacy in earnest with this blog and have spoken at a couple of mental health events. During this year’s World Mental Health Day, I advocated the importance of reflecting on mental health and worked to reduce stigma towards mental health matters and seeking professional help.
- I learned more about mindfulness and started a daily meditation practice.
- I discovered a new talent – writing songs, which I am using as part of my advocacy efforts. I am working on a few songs about mental health, and started singing lessons so that I can sing them well for the release in 2021.
These may not sound like big things, but they have all lead to personal growth in me where I find myself having less knee-jerk reactions and being more grounded about the challenges in my life.
3. Believe that you control your fate.
And make the decisions that support that belief. Do you know people who cannot get past their struggles, always attributing their stuck state to statements such as “this is fate”, “it’s in god’s hands” etc? And they are just resigned to it?
On the other hand, do you know of people who have even worse struggles but are managing, even thriving? There are studies that show that those who believe they are in charge of their own fate will figure out and do their best to make it work. So be like them instead.
4. Set realistic goals.
This is sort of a reverse engineering concept. If your goals are too lofty, and if you don’t meet them, you may view yourself as a failure which doesn’t do much for your confidence. The opposite happens when you set realistic goals and your successes will only serve to up your resilience levels for future negative situations.
5. Finally, Hope.
Expressed sometimes as a sense of humour, ability to look on the bright side, living in the moment and not letting the past or the future overwhelm you.
The most resilient person I know.
I think the best example of resilience I have seen is my mother. Despite having to deal with all the stressors of having a schizophrenic son, having to take care of him pretty much on her own for the past 30-odd years, she still has a generous spirit and a genuine smile all the time.
And she still has the strength and unwavering commitment to look after his every need, despite her own frail health. Her resilience allows her to still have the energy to be positive despite all this.
So there you go, practices and beliefs for building resilience.
Happy practicing and here’s wishing all of us improved resilience in the new year!