Resilience—A Key to Emerging with Strength from Crises

July 2020

Resilience—A Key to Emerging with Strength from Crises

Resilience has become the word of our times. The more resilient we can become to changes ahead and the more we can build endurance and the ability to bounce back from difficulties, the stronger we will emerge as a community from global crises.

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During times of stress, however, we humans naturally lose the capacity to function on all cylinders. Our executive functioning in the prefrontal cortex of our brain is impaired when the body is under stress. Yet, our go-to response to cope with modern times is to continue to act as though we are still functioning at full capacity—often working ourselves into the ground and trying to do all things for all people. These behaviors are likely to affect decision-making and can take a physical toll on our bodies.

This is why turning our attention to building resilience is what will help us to not burn out, not cause undue stress on our immune systems, and to be able to function effectively at our true capacity.

What can we do to build resilience?

  1. Build emotional resilience: Take some time to let ourselves feel all of our emotions.

    This concept may seem counterintuitive to some of us because we’ve become accustomed to believing that if we let in feelings, it will weaken us. But there is a term called emotional agility that is so important to building resilience. Emotional agility is about being with our emotions in healthy ways.

    One of the most important things we can do to build resilience is to name the emotion we are feeling: “I feel grief,” “I feel angry,” or “I feel anxious.” When you name the emotion, you feel it and it moves through you. Holding onto anger, for example, only makes us exhausted and sick and can lead to resentment and bitterness. It is important to acknowledge the feelings we are going through so that they will move through us.

    This also applies to feelings of joy. Expressing joy and gratitude about the things that are going well or the things you appreciate can prove to yourself that you can get through stressful times; these behaviors build resilience as well.

    Bottom line: If we permit ourselves to feel grief and allow tears to fall, the feelings will happen, and we will realize we are not victims to these emotions. It is also important to realize that we don’t have to experience these emotions by ourselves. Reaching out to loved ones or calling on a professional for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a very courageous act of self-care.

  2. Build mental resilience: Find pockets of control.

    When we experience fear and anxiety, it is because of our lack of certainty. We have uncertainty in the economy, our wellbeing, as well as the health and safety of loved ones. So, it is important for us to find pockets of control in order to bring us back our sense of agency—or choice—in our lives. One way to have agency is to have some short-term, achievable, weekly goals. An example would be having an outreach goal of checking-in with a certain number of loved ones per week, where the purpose would simply be to listen and show you care.

  3. Build mental and physical resilience: Manage your inputs and outputs.

    During stressful times, it is easy to input with a lot of news and junk food as opposed to things that are going to replenish us. So, ask yourself, “Is what I am taking in actually nourishing me?”

    We also have to manage our energy output. We have to manage to our real capacity. Because of our natural reduction in capacity discussed earlier, we cannot do everything we were doing before. Instead, it’s important to have a laser-like focus on what’s most important. Choose one to three things that are most important to you and let go of the rest—at least for now.
Author : Suzanne Mansell, Family Dynamics Consultant