Psychologically resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. In simpler terms, psychological resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises or chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences.
1. Write down your worries
Write down all of your concerns. Start with your biggest worries. How many items on this list are within your control at this very moment? Write down as many solutions as you can possibly come up with.
How many items on the list are unlikely to ever materialize or are out of your control? Draw a line through those items but don’t delete them. Part of building long-term resilience includes being able to look back six months to a year from now to see what your specific worries were at this time. Which ones came true, which ones you were able to solve, and which ones never became an issue?
By writing them down and methodically going through the list you’ll get a chance to compartmentalize your concerns and look for common threads. And by writing them down it also becomes easier to let things go.
This step will minimize anxiety. And when you return to the list in the future, you’ll be able to use your current worries as teaching tools and as a confidence builder.
2. Be clear on your priorities.
What if, on December 31, 2019, you were told that in just over a month, the world would be completely turned upside down? You could spend quality time with your family, reassess your priorities, and live in sweatpants.
We complain constantly about the challenges of juggling work and home. Granted, this hasn’t been the ideal testing ground, but it’s the one we have. Resilient people make sure their actions align with their intentions. You might say your family is your number one priority, but do your behaviors reflect that?
We have become efficient at prioritizing our schedules. Scheduling our priorities seems to have taken a back seat. The goal is to be deliberate and intentional about how you invest your time. This is the time to reconnect with family and friends. This is the time to do things that support your physical and mental health. This is the time to establish new business goals. This is the time.
Your résumé and your eulogy should not be the same thing. Use this time productively to get back to what is truly important.
3. Watch out for unlikely attitude.
The most resilient people proactively cultivate positive emotions like gratitude and optimism. This offsets the negativity bias and primes your brain to start scanning for the good things.
Gratitude has been proven to be the single best predictor of well-being and a strong determinant of resilience. People who practice gratitude have improved sleep, mood, decision-making, relationships, lower blood pressure, fewer aches and pains and fewer bouts of depression. The benefits are almost immediate.
Optimism does not mean you see the world through rose-colored glasses. It means you are deliberate about the way you interpret the adversity in your life. Every situation, especially the cruddy ones, provides an opportunity to choose your interpretation.
Plus, when we attune our attention to the good things, we find more of them because we find what we’re looking for.
4. Develop a resilient mindset.
A resilient mindset is a set of conscious and unconscious beliefs that impact how you see yourself, how you interact with others, and how you respond in times of uncertainty.
Your mindset is literally the story you tell yourself about yourself and your life. What story are you telling yourself?
First, it helps to understand your brain and how it interprets your stories. The human brain is built to protect you from threats. It has evolved to overestimate the negative and underestimate the positive.
Your story could also be one of strength. You have survived the worst things that have ever happened to you. You have lost loved ones, faced career setbacks, had your heart broken, and had your share of disappointments. Yet here you stand, stronger, smarter, and more determined than ever. You can look back with perspective and see how you’ve grown.
Our beliefs drive our behavior. If your story is negative, you will operate out of a place of fear. This will shrink your short-term memory and make it more difficult to focus and regulate emotions. Conversely, if you view this as one example of how adversity will not defeat you, you are more likely to take action.
5. Consider all options
Pull back the lens. Look at the big picture. Are there long-term options you’ve missed because you are standing too close to the situation?
6. Keep your fear in check
Fear is not to be avoided nor should it be dealt with head-on. Fears are messages often created by parents, teachers, siblings, and employers but maintained and enlarged by us to the point where the fears too often become debilitating.
Be patient. Take the time to analyze the origins of your fears. Listen to the voice within. Then make a decision whether or not you should allow your fears to take the wheel or if the fears ought to be delegated to the backseat. Because fears are only valuable at the right time and in the right amounts. And it’s our job to figure out how and when to use them to our advantage.
By separating our worries and fears into those we have the power to change and those we don’t have enough information to deal with at the moment, we can minimize what we allow ourselves to bring forward.
7. Stay in control of your information intake
Just like fear, information is good. But consider the source and the amount. Too much data leads to information overload which leads to increased anxiety.
Although you cannot control much of what’s going on, you do have control over what and how much of it you let in. You know when it’s time to tune out and turn off.
8. Maintain a balance between productivity and total rest
When things seem out of control, it’s time to find balance within. Productivity comes in many forms. And the best way to remain productive is to know when to stop and do nothing. If possible, use this opportunity to create a life of perfect proportions.
After working on a project, take a break. Besides giving your mind a chance to shut down, the most creative ideas will come to you when you least expect it: while you’re taking a bath, while you’re out for that morning stroll or right before you fall asleep.
This might also be a good time to look over those tiny tangible aggravations in your life — the ones you manage to push aside during busier times. Change those light-bulbs, set up a system for incoming mail, go through your medicine cabinet and throw out expired medications. Clean out closets. Go through files on your computer.
By eliminating tiny stress factors, you become an eliminator of problems. It’s liberating and you’ll build self-esteem in the process.
9. Surprise yourself
This might also be a perfect time to work on all of your hidden and ignored talents. Remember that guitar stuck in the back of your closet, the balls of yarn you bought when you wanted to learn how to knit, all the photos that need to be organized and turned into creative photo albums or the sourdough bread recipe you always wanted to try? If not now, when?
Your mind cannot occupy two thoughts at once so replace your worries with a new activity — one that is both challenging and fun.
Or you can start a brand new project. Start journaling, write a poem or two, paint, or learn a hundred words in a foreign language. As a teen, I learned to say “I Love You” in a bunch of different languages. Strange, I know. But it became a very effective icebreaker whenever I met people from different cultures. And spreading universal love is never wrong.
And there’s no better time to learn something you know absolutely nothing about. You might never develop an interest in astronomy or cooking or chess but it doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few minutes expanding your knowledge.
Envision your future. There’s no better time to make a long term and a short term vision board for what you want your future to be like when all this has settled.
10. Challenge yourself by doing something you dislike
Doing what you love is easy. Doing what you hate is hard. But if you can do what you hate for a set time each week, everything else becomes so much easier. And there’s no better way to gain self-esteem than to overcome obstacles.
I’m pretty sure I’ll never become a great gardener. Yet for four hours every Thursday, you’ll find me doing what I hate. Why? Because the sense of accomplishment I feel once I’ve filled a trashcan with weeds is impossible to describe.
Besides, many of our passions are often accidental. Great things often happen between our present state and before we’ve reached our perceived goal.
Wouldn’t it be great if you manage to create a new hobby at a time like this, a hobby that started off as nothing but a dreaded chore?
11. Believe in your ability to adapt and adjust
Look back at your life. Chances are this isn’t your first challenge. Yet you’ve had the ability to analyze the situation, learn from it, and use your lessons as stepping stones to reach higher and move on.
12. Focus on the positive
At this moment it might seem as if bad news is everywhere. But when you think about it, isn’t much of what you hear the same news being repeated with only slight modifications?
When the bad seems to outweigh the good, shine the light in another direction. Because what we focus on we’re more likely to find. Look for those four-leaf clovers, those poppies among the weeds and before you know it the negatives will fade into the background. Will it solve any problems? Maybe not, but by changing your focus you’ll put yourself in a mindset that will help you withstand challenges.
13. Visualize resilience
Create an image in your mind of what resilience looks like — an image to refer to whenever anxiety levels rise. Maybe you see yourself as seaweed swaying back and forth in the strongest storms with roots secure but with an ability to move with each oncoming wave. Maybe you envision a deeply rooted tree withstanding strong winds and reaching for the light. Maybe there’s a specific person who inspires you during tough times. Or maybe there’s a saying that brings you the strength you need to go with the flow when you feel worn out.
Whatever your vision, start and end each day by focusing on your very own symbol of resilience.
14. Practice mind over moment.
Mind Over Moment is a science-based strategy I developed that utilizes mindfulness to help you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviors in the moment, in order to steer yourself toward better responses and outcomes. It means being proactive and deliberate about the choices you make and the habits you practice, throughout your day, week, month, year, and your entire life. Our levels of anxiety and depression have sky-rocketed, and people are anxious and overwhelmed.
Most of us don’t like uncomfortable emotions like stress and anxiety, so we rush to numb them, usually with an unhealthy vice. Those feelings may be uncomfortable, but research has shown that avoiding them increases their intensity and duration.
Just observe, notice the emotion, notice the feeling, and let it float by. Feelings and emotions are simply information. You don’t have to act on them. You can bring yourself back to this moment because in this moment, you are safe. You can observe the emotion without judgment, knowing that it’s normal to feel or think whatever you are feeling or thinking. You can propel yourself to action by refusing to operate out of a place of fear.
Building your resilience muscle means living purposefully rather than drifting into automatic—life’s screensaver mode.
It’s time to delve into your automatic thought patterns, belief systems and daily habits to identify which ones are serving you. Resilience is built by deliberately cultivating productive beliefs, behaviors, and habits to intentionally break out of reactivity and live purposefully.