Resilience as a key life-skill to navigate the short, turbulent as well as the long, anxiety-inducing phases in life, has perhaps never been as much in focus as during the current pandemic. People have coped in different ways – drawing upon their inner reserves as well as the connections with family, friends, loved ones and even Nature, to get through the current crisis which has been the source of unexpected stress and even adversity for many of us.
Research on resilience has a rich history, dating back to the 1950s. The overarching conclusion of this research, over the years, has been that during the lifetime of an individual, their attitudes and coping skills can help make all the difference between them being able to manage and even thrive in a crisis, or instead suffer and wither away. Some even say adversity brings potential benefits. “There is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve the next time.”
While it is true that we are born with varying levels of resilience, it is also equally true that we can develop more positive attitudes and effective coping skills that help us to deal with external stresses better.
So how do we cultivate resilience?
Acceptance of reality is the first major step in developing resilience. We can learn the skill to re-wire our thoughts and our responses to the given situation, so that rather than being overwhelmed, we can accept the reality and learn ways to cope in a more positive and resilient manner.
Drawing upon our resources of family, friends and loved ones who provide comfort and security, and even hobbies and practices that bring us peace and joy such as going for walks, gardening, listening to music or cooking can be turned into therapeutic tools to cultivate resilience and navigate challenging times.
We can then take time to learn body-based techniques to reverse the impact of stress of trauma on the nervous system. We can learn the process for cultivating the positive emotions that antidote the brain’s negativity bias and shift brain functioning from contracted survival responses to openness for learning and growth.
These steps can allow us to move on to appreciating the new life that has emerged because of the challenging times, rather than in spite of them.
If you wish to learn more about cultivating resilience during challenging times, you can check our upcoming webinar with Linda Graham, an experienced psychotherapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of The Resilience Handbook: Powerful Practices to Bounce Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, even Disaster (September 2018, New World Library) and Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, winner of the 2013 Books for a Better Life award and the 2014 Better Books for a Better World award. She integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being.