Life comes with challenges. At some point or another, we are faced with roadblocks in our relationships, our careers, and even our health. The question is not if, but when. These turbulent moments are not necessarily life-altering, earth-shattering events that change the course of the way that we live. In fact, the majority of the time, life looks quite the opposite. Little moments in our day to day can build up to create stress, frustration, and anxiety.
Again, the question is not if, but when. Knowing that challenges will arise in our lives, how can we build resilience to persevere through the turbulence?
What is Resilience?
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “ the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”
A person’s ability to handle life’s conflicts is a huge component of a positive mental health balance, success in careers and relationships, and can shape one’s overall view of the world. Resilience can help to guide people down a path of positivity and motivation rather than hopelessness and anger.
How to Cultivate Resilience
It is clear that resilience is needed more than ever before, as depression rates are at an all-time high (affecting 1 out of every 10 Americans), the world feels unpredictable, and people are feeling isolated and alone coming out of the pandemic, along with other crises going on around the world.
The New York Times has spoken on resilience a number of times throughout the past few years given the turbulent times of COVID, hate crimes, and overall increased polarization of our country. According to Emily Sohn of The NY Times, building resilience can look simple, can grow over time, and can be cultivated by anyone. The steps that are recommended by experts include “building a strong social network, finding moments for optimism, interrupting the stress cycle, and embracing the hard time.”
These four simple actions can guide one in the right direction to a more positive, happy, and fulfilling life. Let’s break some of these points down to examine what steps can be taken to reach the goal of cultivating a little bit more resilience.
Action Items to a Better You
1. Building a Community
In the world we live in today, we have countless resources and opportunities to connect with the people around us. Although technology can be a source of anxiety and stress, it can also be an excellent launching point into a community.
For example, the main social media platform I use is Instagram. There are a few reasons I love Instagram: it allows me to express myself and be creative, it inspires me to see new places and try new things rather than just seeing them from my phone screen, and it allows me to stay connected with people I have met all over the world on my travels.
There is no better feeling than the feeling of belonging. Whether it be through your coworkers, your church, your study group, your workout classes, or your social media, there is ample opportunity to connect with others.
2. Creating Moments of Joy and Positivity
It can be easy to fall into negativity and pessimism throughout the workday. We get it. Tasks, meetings, and emails can pile up to make one feel overwhelmed and stressed. This is why it is crucial to make time for yourself in an effort to create moments of joy and combat negativity. A few examples of simple and quick ways to do this could be: drinking warm herbal tea, performing sun salutations, writing in a gratitude journal, sharing a meal with someone, or tending to your garden. Giving yourself the space to breathe and come back to yourself can do wonders for your mental health and provide you with the boost to get through your week.
The two things that I do to break up my work day and give myself a burst of power for the rest of the week are taking up a yoga practice and cooking myself a healthy lunch. I love being able to fuel my body with nourishing whole foods prepared by my hands. Filling your body with nourishment is a reminder to your body how much you love and appreciate it. The simple act of making yourself or others a meal can build community and instill appreciation for your mind, body, and soul. On the other hand, I practice yoga to get some much needed movement away from my computer, and set an intention to carry my mind throughout the rest of the day.
There is no right or wrong way to cultivate joy. For some more inspiration on what to do during your workday, check out “Quick Calming Mid Day Breaks” on The Sage.
3. Pausing the Stress
Yes, work and life can be stressful. But, something that can be helpful in calming your anxieties is taking a glimpse at the bigger picture. Is the source of your stress a life-or-death situation? Probably not. Is the email really going to cure cancer? Probably not. When we are able to take a step back from our lives, we can gain perspective on what is important and if something actually requires your immediate active attention.
I like to remind myself how tiny and insignificant my everyday challenges are in the grand scheme of things. This does not mean I am invalidating my experiences or brushing them under the rug, rather it allows me to embrace the problem, process how it is making me feel, and gently push it away.
4. Embracing the Unknown
Life is full of ups and downs. Forrest Gump says it best, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” If that didn’t ring true before, the years from 2020 until now have definitely confirmed that. Instead of stressing over the unknown, why not embrace it? When we look at the future as an opportunity and an adventure, we are more readily equipped to dive in head first, push through the turbulent times, and receive excitement rather than anxiety about what’s to come. Life is too short to not live it fully. Embrace whatever life phase you are going through and use your experience to bring joy, build connections, and push yourself to greater opportunities.
Resilience is “ the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.” What tools can you use to create resilience and lust for your life?