Tag: resilience

Are you feeling busy, distracted and exhausted? Even after the emotionally overwhelming year we’ve all just experienced, we haven’t slowed down and taken time for ourselves. Further, our society doesn’t value the practice of introspection, the observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Introspection, or self-reflection, is the willingness to recognize and determine your “old programming” that no longer serves you so that you can build new “programming.” How this can be done? With a calm mind to start.

How do I calm my mind?
Having a calm mind will allow you to concentrate and feel more relaxed. This practice will vary person to person, but here are some suggestions:

  • Take a few deep breaths; practice breath work
  • Stretch your body
  • Go for a walk; move your body
  • Journal, meditate, pray

How do I practice self-reflection?
When your mind is calm, allow yourself to draw inward and think deeply on the issue, emotion or memory at hand. To help, ask yourself:

  • What does this make me think?
  • How does it make me feel?
  • How does it hold me back?

It’s important not to judge yourself. Be honest with yourself so that you’re not tempted to imagine how you should feel. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper! You’re trying to access the root of the issue and you will most likely come across resistance. This is your ego/mind trying to protect you from uncomfortable and harmful emotions.

Additionally, you can ask yourself questions in order to get to know yourself better whether or not you’re currently working through an issue. Start with these:

  • What am I really scared of?
  • Am I holding on to something that I can let go of?
  • When did I last push passed my comfort zone?
  • What do I want most in life?
  • When was the last time I made someone smile?

Why should I practice self-reflection?
With self-reflection comes self-awareness. You’ll begin to see your thoughts, behaviors, emotions and reactions in real time as you experience them. You can determine which ones bother you, don’t serve you or harm you and learn to let them go. By slowing down, calming your mind, and asking yourself substantial questions to draw on old issues, you can then learn to shift your behaviors, thoughts and reactions to ones that better represent you, your values and beliefs.

The more you reflect, the easier you’ll be able to hold yourself accountable. This not only benefits you directly, but it also benefits those you surround yourself with. You may even inspire them to be more introspective!

What are benefits to introspection?
A self-aware person can expect myriad of benefits, but here are some that may be true for you:

  • Clarity
  • Self-control
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Higher self-esteem and pride
  • Increased emotional intelligence
  • Easier time coping with challenges
  • Appropriate reactions to situations
  • Realize their potential and become more aligned

Remember, slowing down, calming your mind and regular self-reflection may come with resistance­­­­ from your mind, your family, even your job. Stay strong­­–this time is essential for your mental health. It’s okay to start small and always be gracious and patient with yourself. You’re in the process of changing how you think, feel, and behave. You’re changing your life!

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Mental and emotional resilience takes continuous practice. It’s a commitment to yourself that you will always show up and do the hard work. Being mentally healthy and resilient will allow you to feel more confident, in control, and able to tackle life’s ups and downs.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulty or a tough situation. It’s a skill that takes constant care to develop. It’s a conscious choice to improve your response or reaction to something that was very hard for you to experience. In other words, resilience is the ability to “bounce back.” It sounds like a superpower, but we can all practice resilience with self-awareness and the decision to improve. 

What does resilience look like?

We all have different life experiences, stressors, and issues that we work through on a daily basis. Therefore, a resilient person does not have one specific quality, look or personality trait. It’s all of us. However, there are some characteristics to look for in a mentally healthy and resilient person:

Sense of autonomy: individual autonomy is the notion that you are your own person. You live your life based off your own values, ethics and motivations.
Rational thinking: the ability to consider and analyze facts, opinions and judgements of a situation to determine a reasonable conclusion.
Regulate stress: the use of coping skills to manage daily stresses.
Self-esteem: the attitude you have towards yourself; self-respect, self-worth. 
Sense of optimism: can also relate to one’s happiness and the meaning and purpose they have of their life and life in general.
Good health habits: this includes proper sleep and personal hygiene, nutritious eating and regular exercise.
Sociability/social skills: being sociable with others; the way you communicate and interact with others.
Adaptability: the ability to change and adjust to new situations or experiences.
Altruism: the moral principle of being concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of all other living beings; compassion, love for others.

On the other hand, those that are lacking resiliency may show these traits:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Low immune system or illness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overreaction to normal stressors
  • Easily upset/depressed or crying
  • Lack of hope

It is not out of reach or impossible to strengthen resilience and our mental health. We all have the natural ability and capacity to grow and improve our quality of life.

Why is it important to be resilient?

To be resilient is to have developed, and continue to develop, a means of self-protection against difficult situations using self-awareness and coping strategies. Also, being resilient will allow you to maintain balance during stressful times and protect us from developing possible mental health issues. It can also offer the following:

  • Improved learning skills, improved memory
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced risky behavior (excessive drinking, smoking, illicit drugs)
  • A sense of belonging and giving back to community and/or family
  • Experience more positive emotions and better able to regulate emotions

It’s important to note that those practicing resilience are not immune from mental illness or mental health issues. However, when effective coping skills are in place, mental health illnesses or issues can be more manageable.

How can I be more resilient?

There many ways that you can practice resilience and mental strength in your life. We are all our own person with individual thoughts, emotions, and life experiences and so our coping strategies will vary. Here are a few to try:

  • Let yourself feel emotions as they come and go
  • Find a support system that you can trust
  • Lean on self-care strategies; listen to what your body and mind need
  • Find a therapist or professional counselor
  • Maintain a routine of wellness (meditation, eating, exercising, etc.)
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Cultivate a sense of purpose
  • Embrace change and your reactions to it
  • Develop problem solving skills; take action to solve problems as they come
  • Face your fears; this begets self-confidence which will affect your perspective
  • Practice self-compassion; be mindful of the words, thoughts, actions toward yourself
  • Learn to forgive; this allows you to process unfavorable experiences by changing your mindset and relieving yourself of toxic, negative emotions and thoughts.

 

The uncertainty of the past year and upcoming months may have lead you to feel isolated, lonely, stressed or overwhelmed. Being aware of your mental health and coping strategies now and working towards strengthening them will better prepare you for any challenging times ahead. Remember that it is okay to need and want help. Reaching out to a professional takes courage.

 

 

 

 

Source: payneresilience.com, positivepsychology.com, psyhcologytoday.com

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  Phew. I am having a hard enough time getting through remote schooling with my kids these past months and now I am hearing concerns that kids may not be back in school this fall or, if they are, they will be wearing masks, distancing, and maybe even going only a few days a week. My kids want to be back to school in the fall. They are hearing the rumors too. They are asking questions. How do I address these with them–not knowing what the new school year will bring? I don’t want to say they will be back when they may not be. I also don’t want to have them fearing the worst all summer. What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty?

Answer: Although our children think we do, we do not have any control over what will happen in the future. We cannot make it all better or promise that life will return to normal. Uncertainty is hard for all of us. Take heart.  Although this is a very difficult experience, there are real-life lessons here for all of our kids, which will serve them well throughout adulthood. Remember the saying, “It is not the number of times you get knocked down that is important, it the number of times you get back up.”  Life is full of uncertainty and change. Helping your kids learn to accept this with grace (as much as that is possible in children) is so important.  

Here is what might help: 

Offer HOPE: Let your kids know that it is the job of the schools, communities and our government to figure out how to get the students back to school safely. Many people are working on it. It may look different, but a plan will be made. They will soon know what it will look like, and together you will all work on making it work.

Offer VALIDATION: We know that being with friends is a really important part of school. Acknowledge for them that you understand it is hard not to know, and that it is also hard for you. Encourage them to talk about their fears and worries. Talk about this together. This is a way to validate what they are feeling and that you are hearing them, you understand and are feeling it, too. This amazingly lightens the mood.

REFRAME: If you can, reframe the way they, and you, are thinking about this. They are experiencing something extraordinary right now. We are all learning more about science, technology, our interconnectedness and our own ability to be resilient. Because of this pandemic, they are going to be part of a generation that takes big leaps forward in their ability to problem-solve and adapt. As horrible as this virus has been, we have learned so much about ourselves. Encourage them to think about what they are missing and why is it important to them. It can offer a new appreciation.

REDIRECT: Encourage them to take another path in action and thinking. When the worries start to take over, have them focus just on today—what can make today a good day, like building a fairy house or making things from found objects, for example. Check out websites for these kinds of activities together. Foster their compassion. Focusing on the needs of others and getting out of our own heads is the best way to feel better (packing boxes at a food bank, walking the neighbor’s dog, saving the Earth by picking up litter or planting a tree, or reaching out to Facetime with a grandparent).

Try this “formula” I have given you (hope, validation, reframe, and redirect). Hopefully, you will soon have clearer answers to give. Try this on yourself, too. 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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