How to Cultivate Resilience
Sometimes life can feel overwhelming and when there are added pressures that emerge during transformative period of our lives, we might find it difficult to manage our emotional state. Experiences of anxiety, stress and other strong emotions can become very familiar.
What is Resilience?
Resiliency is our ability to bounce back and recover from difficult situations or challenging periods of our lives. It can be cultivated by engaging in regular practices or developing a routine and healthy habits that helps us manage our emotional, physical and mental health.
Usually we have a healthy balance between our thoughts and emotions, however, during times of stress strong emotions may overwhelm us. Our mind goes into ‘over-drive’ and this stops us from being able to think clearly. Our focus becomes narrow and we step into a fight, flight or freeze response. In other words – we’re in survival mode and we’re doing everything we can to control our situation, to find certainty and to stay with the “known” or the familiar. When we’re operating from this state of survival our safety is of paramount importance and we’re so immersed in our experience that it feels difficult to move beyond this state.
We can engage in activities to reduce the sympathetic nervous system (the fight, flight or freeze response) and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the 'rest and digest' system helps us to relax and enter a more open and expansive state. It lowers our heart rate, allows the body to heal and restore itself and ultimately enables us to be more resilient in stressful situations.
Taking Manageable Steps
Here are some small, manageable activities that you can engage in to develop greater resilience:
1) Use the Breath. Practice taking time each day to stop, breathe and recognise your feelings. What do you feel in your body? What thoughts are arising? Can you name the feelings? Notice what is present and observe the emotions. Being aware enables you to take steps to manage your emotional state and reactions before they become too overwhelming.
2) Remember impermanence. Sometimes we become so consumed by a situation or emotion and we believe that it is going to last forever. We can’t see beyond what we’re experiencing now. Use the breath to remember that your current circumstances and emotional experiences are going to pass - just like the in and out breath - things are always changing.
3) Open awareness. Open your awareness outwards. When we’re stressed or in a state of fight or flight we are very narrowly focused on the issue or the problems we're facing. Open awareness enables you to access the sympathetic nervous system and gain perspective on your current experiences. When you enter a more expansive state this allows you to see the many possible options available to you.
4) Know your strengths. Remind yourself of your strengths. Write them down and draw on the qualities that will help you through this difficult time.Think of past experiences where you have been resilient. What strengths or skills did you utilise or develop from these experiences?
5) Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. It is not a weakness but a strength to acknowledge that sometimes we need support from others.
6) Take time to re-change/rest: When fight, flight or freeze kicks in we think that we need to be active all the time, solving problems and figuring everything out because we’re searching for certainty. It’s important to stop, rest and take time to recover. Take time to meditate, go for walks in nature, have a bath and get plenty of sleep. Read a book or something that’s not related to problem solving! Do something creative, engage in play or your intuitive and create part.
7) Find balance between doing and being. Practice 'being' in the midst of what might feel like chaos or the unknown. Stay with the uncertainty and the uncomfortable emotions. The more you practice staying present, the more you’re able to flow through your experiences with ease and with less resistance.
8) Complementary healing. Complementary tools for healing can be really helpful to support your process. The two techniques I have continuously drawn upon are sound healing and Reiki. Both are supportive of bringing the body back into alignment with it's natural rhythm, promote healing and enable the body to relax and restore during times of stress. Try and find the practices that resonate with you.
Have a go at applying some of these tools/techniques over the next week and let me know how you get on! If you are looking for more support or guidance please get in touch.
Jules has an MSc in Transpersonal Psychology, Consciousness and Spirituality and is a qualified Transpersonal Coach. She is also an experienced teacher with an MA in Education. Jules has combined her training in teaching, counselling, coaching and complementary therapy to form her unique approach to psycho-spiritual transformation, healing and growth.
Jules works from a transpersonal orientated perspective to supports people through challenging life transitions, experiences of stress, anxiety and grief. She guides people on their journey, helping them to connect with the meaning and purpose behind their experiences, so they can take manageable steps to live a life in alignment with their authentic self. With the right support, a time of crisis can lead to a significant spiritual and psychological transformation of the whole self.