I am tired. And you may be, too. Tired of the sickness, death and overall anxiousness from the pandemic. Tired of sheltering in place and putting much of our lives on hold. Tired of winter – even our poor southern friends! Tired from busy season and the thought of potentially pushed deadlines. Tired of the continued racial injustice. Tired of the divisiveness in our country. Tired from our own personal trials. Just tired.
Yes, we may be tired, but we are incredibly resilient, too! I looked up resilience and several sources defined it as “able to spring back to an original form or position” or “the ability to recover easily from illness or misfortune.” I liked the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition best: “able to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened.”
I have seen some remarkable examples of resilience this past year. A mom moving heaven and earth to find treatments for her teenage daughter who has a rare cancer. A husband who lost his arm and is learning to live and work with a new prosthetic arm. A young woman who lost her baby and committed to creating a family with her husband. A young woman who lost her job during the pandemic and found an even better one. Resilience is alive in these incredible people, and I am sure you’ve seen it in others, too.
So, how do they – and we – build resilience? How are we able to bounce back “after something difficult has happened,” especially in the face of extreme tragedy or when the difficulty seems to persist for a long time? Resilience is a skill, and it can be learned. Develop a resilient mindset by practicing these six strategies:
- Stay positive – Managing our mindset requires a positive outlook, which likely requires managing our self-talk. Saying things like, “I’ll get through this” or “This too shall pass” helps you to stay centered and focused on the future. I draw on the Bible verse, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Keeping our purpose and our goals in front of us can also drive positive energy and optimism so we continue moving forward towards them.
- Take care of yourself – Practice good self-care by getting enough sleep, making healthy eating choices, minimizing alcohol or other substances, getting plenty of exercise, and engaging in nature. In addition, reach out to a friend or trusted colleague. The social connection and support can help you navigate trying situations. Turn off 24-hour news and find positive ways to feed your mind. Taking care of yourself may also require asking for help, which may not come easy to many of us. People want to help and contribute and can’t do so if they don’t know you need help or how they can help. There are also resources available if you need them to support mental health, grieving a loved one, or other social services, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
- Find gratitude – Even in the darkest times, we can find things to be grateful for. Right now, think of three things you’re grateful for – it could be your breath, your abundance of work, your children. Practice finding gratitude every day by journaling three things you’re grateful for each morning when you wake up or right before you go to bed – or both! And, if you practice praying, give prayers of gratitude and your worries or requests over to God. He is bigger than we are and will hold them or act on them for you.
- Help others – You can start simply by being available to those you work with, family members, people in your different communities. Let them know you are available as a resource and for support (remember that most people don’t like to ask for help, so offer it). It could be a kind word or gesture or finding a place to serve, like a food pantry, making deliveries, or offering donations. The need is great and focusing on others will help take the focus off you. And helping others releases endorphins that improve your mood and confidence.
- Remain flexible – We never know what life is going to throw our way. Change is also constant. So, resilience requires improvising and choosing plan B – or C or D. So, expect to swerve, duck, of jump depending on what is coming at you. Our path in life (or at work, in relationships, raising children) is not a straight line. It has twists and turns and tidal waves and thunder. When we allow ourselves to believe that it should be a different, “perfect” way is when we suffer most. When a curveball is thrown our way and we see it as just that, we can say, “Now what?” and change courses or take new actions – maybe even discover new opportunities that wouldn’t have presented themselves otherwise. Embrace the change and curvy roads of this journey we’re all on.
You will get through and you will be stronger and better because of your journey. And you’re not alone - you have colleagues at work, family members, and friends. While we all have our own unique journeys, we’re in this together. Be sure to share strategies you’re practicing to build resilience with your colleagues, family and friends. And post ideas here, too. We’d love to hear from you!