Beyond Disaster: Building Resilience

March 21, 2023

Written by:

Mimi H. Wright, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist

Beyond Disaster: Building Resilience

As we head into the fourth year of our lives being changed or “turned upside down” by the Covid-19 Pandemic, cumulative stress has had negative effects on each of us physically, emotionally, mentally, and perhaps even spiritually.  You are not alone.  Even those who appear to be coping well are experiencing underlying anxiety.

For your Mental Health Moment today:   Stop and think about how Resilient you have been in dealing with the changes that have occurred over the last 3 years.  Resilience is your inner strength and ability to cope and deal competently and successfully, day after day, with the challenges and demands you encounter.  You have the ability to “bounce back!”

10 Ways to Build Resilience

Make Connections:  Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important.  Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.  Even little connections – a brief conversation with a neighbor, a call to a friend or relative, a kind word to someone in line at the grocery story, a question for a colleague – can melt the ice within you.  As you feel safer, get the vaccine, and activities resume, seek more opportunities to connect.  Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope.  Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.  Be a volunteer.  Attend religious or community functions.  Suggest coffee or lunch with an acquaintance.

See crises as things that you can handle:   You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.  Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better.  Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.

Accept that change is a part of living:   Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations.  Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.   All change involves loss, even when it is positive change.  We naturally grieve that which is lost.  With any change, ask yourself, “What is positive about the change?  What is going right, well, or in my direction?”  However small, shifting our thoughts to what is going right brings another perspective and balance.  

Move toward your goals:  Of course, first you must develop some realistic goals!  These could be to get exercise, to eat a healthy diet, to obtain a job, to learn a skill, make and follow a budget, make a friend, join a group, or any number of things.  Once you set a goal, you must do something regularly – even if it feels like a small accomplishment – that enables moving toward your goals.  The important thing is to take action… and the first step is often the most difficult.  Even minute change in the right direction builds confidence.  Once you take action, you are moving toward your goal and building confidence and momentum.  Pat yourself on the back!  You are building resilience!

Take decisive actions:  Act on adverse situations as much as you can.  Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.  If you are aware of something that you want to change or a goal you want to meet, as in the previous point, take action!  When you are aware of a problem… whether at home or in your workplace… and you don’t say or do something about it, you are part of the problem.  Taking action helps build resilience.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery:   People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss.  Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of personal strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for their life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself:  Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective:   Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.   Stop and think about the reality of each situation. Slow down.  Use positive self-talk.  Define the crisis at hand and your role.  Focus on personal and practical solutions that could help you cope with just one stumbling block at a time.  Ask yourself, “Am I magnifying a problem, leaping to conclusions, or applying emotional reasoning?  Take time to “Stop, Breathe, Reflect, and Choose how to Act.”  Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook:  An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life.  Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself:  Pay attention to your own needs and feelings.  Focus on self-nurturing techniques.  Carve out time to engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.  Exercise regularly.  Care for your body by eating clean healthy food and for your heart by seeking out others.  Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind, body, and spirit primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Focus on building Resilience!  Use the 10 Ways to Build Resilience above to build Resilience especially during this stressful time.

If you are experiencing so much anxiety and distress that you have difficulty functioning on a daily basis, it may be time to seek professional help.  For more information about the Behavioral Health Department at Goodall-Witcher Healthcare, call 254-675-7938.

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