Updated: May 10, 2021
When I was a student, I heard a very loud and desperate cry in my boyfriend's farm yard. While investigating, I almost stepped on a newborn kitten, the source of the cry. It turns out the kitten's mother had been injured and taken to the veterinarian a few days earlier, and the family dog found this deserted kitten and dropped it in the driveway. If that tiny mite hadn't managed such a loud and desperate cry, it would have perished. As it turned out, I adopted the kitten and Minou grew to be a healthy, beautiful pet that was with me for 17 years.
Resilience is the ability to recover from adverse experiences, to bounce back and perhaps be even stronger than we were before. By nature we are resilient, with an innate drive to grow and thrive, just like Minou .
Resilience in Difficult Times
There’s never been a more crucial time to have resilience. We are challenged with issues like the threat and restrictions of Covid, with lockdowns yet again, and the threat of economic and environmental collapse. This atmosphere can bring out feelings of fear, despair, and overwhelm. With the global pandemic, each of us is experiencing a level of trauma, and while it feels like a very individual experience, we are experiencing it collectively.
Difficult experiences and traumas can set us out of our natural alignment; within ourselves we can get off course. When we experience trauma, we may become psychologically, physically, and spiritually numb, disconnected, or fragmented. But our drive is to repair and heal, to integrate those disconnected parts and become whole again, to be resilient.
Contributors to Resilience
We can think of external and internal resources, in our environment and within us, that support resilience. Research shows that having external resources like access to positive relationships in your life can help us be more resilient. We are social beings and need support from others.
Here are some internal resources identified through research.
The ability to work with difficult thoughts and emotions. People who have mindfulness practices have been shown to manage adversity better, in part because mindfulness helps us be with our emotions and it also helps us develop a gap between having a thought and responding to it.
Having a mindset of optimism, meaning that you see setbacks as temporary and changeable, not as fixed and permanent. You realize you have some agency to act in the situation.
Seeing that your life has purpose and meaning. People who are involved in activities that are meaningful to them, or activities that they see make a difference in the lives of others, can be more resilient.
Five Things You Can Do
Develop practices such as mindfulness and self-compassion. These practices help us contact and stay with difficult emotions rather than repressing them or being carried away by them. Mindfulness helps us pause before reacting to a situation in a way you regret later. The practices allow us to be kind to ourselves.
Learn more about mindsets such as optimism. Remind yourself that this difficult experience will pass and you will be able to look back on it one day. Think about what you can learn from the challenge. What is it teaching you?
Find ways to give your life purpose and meaning. This can be done by getting involved in issues that are important to you. It can be done through your family, friends, your work, or by volunteering.
Think about what you can do for others. Seeing that we can make a difference in other people’s lives gives us a sense that we matter, and that others matter. We feel more connected.
Reach out to others. Go to friends, family or a therapist if you feel like things are too much.
For further reading, see my blogs on collective trauma, mindfulness, kindness, and self-compassion https://www.oceantidescounselling.ca/blog
If you feel you are struggling or overwhelmed, contact me https://www.oceantidescounselling.ca/contact-page