There are various lenses through which we can see life.
Right now what is your view? Does it contribute to mental health or take away from it? During the past hour have you focused on what is possible, on the positives and on resources or on problems, obstacles and the negatives? Or has it been relatively neutral?
Resilience is something we cultivate.
It is in effect bounce back when we experience challenges. Some have more natural bounce-back however we can all get to a point where bouncing back is really difficult. It can be an unwise or unkind boss, a death of a dear one, divorce, or unemployment that can really challenge us. Or a combination of a few or many factors. There is no set time that we have to bounce back from anything but staying stuck brings a risk of poor mental health, so it is worth being aware of the key principles in cultivating resilience.
There is an old story of The Buddha being asked whether he is God and he says “No”. They then ask him if he is a reincarnation of God and again he says “No”. He is then asked, “What are you?” The answer is, “I am awake”. Buddha means “the awakened one”. The viewpoints require that we are awake, that we catch ourselves out being caught in unwise and limited mindsets.
The first viewpoint is reminding ourselves that in all lives there are challenges, that experiencing difficulty is part of the deal. No one promised you a special ride on your way into this life. Life has not singled you out for misery; everyone experiences their share, some more than others. A couple of months ago I had some big things happen in my personal life, plus some health issues, all worked had stopped due to Covid as it did for many, then I got a speeding fine and the same afternoon I ran into my son’s car. It is easy at times to feel that everything is going wrong, but life has no heart, things just happen. And we can just greet what comes with kind curiosity. And remind ourselves that it will not last.
Ask: “Is this good for me to spend time on?”
Notice where your attention is, and then ask if it is engaged in something that is good for you or not. Like any mother I can wake up worrying about my boys. I can feel the body contract and the mood drop if I think they are not happy. Most of the time now I catch it and remind myself that I need to keep my cells happy, so I do a “Dear Body” (hand on heart, notice warmth and follow the breath). It doesn’t mean I don’t have a conversation or don’t do anything but I do stop worrying. You might also feel obliged to spend time with people who drain you. See how you can dial it down to fewer visits, less time or no time at all. Or a courageous conversation. What do you engage in that is really not so good for you?
Be aware of the good
Even in the midst of the most difficult situation there is the possibility of humour, of appreciating beauty, or kindness. Allow your system to be open to that and then do Taking in the Good (TIG) with it.
So often when we experience something difficult our focus is on how we can change the situation so that we feel better. In that we tend to forget to acknowledge ourselves for being in pain. Yet all pain needs recognition if it is to ease its grip. The easiest way to do that is again to do “Dear Body”. Recognition of our pain in tenderness is the direct route to self-compassion and that is the antidote to the victim. Engaging with the victim is not good for resilience! Is there something right now that needs your self-tenderness?
Action points for increasing resilience:
Ring someone, arrange to meet, invite people for dinner, engage in a hobby, learn a new skill, take up music, join a book club or meditation group, volunteer. We, for instance, have started having people for dinner every week on a week night. It is informal, an extra “nice”, and all you do is cook a little more food.
Get the body moving
I cannot tell you how much daily exercise does for mental stability—it is essential—let alone what it does for our physical health.
Get enough sleep — and good sleep
It is almost impossible to be resilient if you don’t get enough sleep. If you have problems sleeping then start by preparing yourself for sleep by turning electronic stuff off an hour before bed. Bring a book to bed. You can also have milk and banana before bed (both are known to be good for sleep). Ensure that you get between 7-9 hours.
And I would add engage in mindfulness. Just do ten minutes a day. This might just be the best investment in your mental health that you make.
If you would like a little more on these, then go to our Instagram where we have little video clips on resilience.
With love and knowing that we are little humans—and the challenges that this brings,