Health 06 April 2020
Resilience, it's a word we are hearing a lot right now.
In light of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), the uncertainty we are facing, and the global impact of this pandemic, it is more important than ever to take time to proactively build our resilience muscles.
Resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a set of habits, skills, and behaviors that can be cultivated and practiced proactively. When faced with challenges, big or small, those who practice resilience refuse to let fear hold them back, and they break through the barriers keeping them stuck to not only survive difficult times but to get stronger.
While things may be uncertain, practicing resilience provides quietness in the storm, allowing you to think more clearly, make better decisions, and proactively navigate the stressors ahead.
Here are a few ways to grow resilience in turbulent times.
Step 1: Practice Mind Over Moment
Mind Over Moment is a science-based strategy I developed that allows you to step out of reactivity to live intentionally. We spend an inordinate amount of timing worrying about the past or making assumptions about the future. Mind Over Moment utilizes the idea of mindfulness to help you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviors in the moment, in order to steer yourself toward better responses and outcomes.
Mind Over Moment means making deliberate choices about your mindset and belief system because your beliefs drive your behavior. It means being intentional about building skills and developing habits that support resilience and emotional wellbeing.
Practice Mind Over Moment by sitting with difficult emotions rather than judging them, taking time to be still, and finding the beauty in ordinary moments. Gratitude, self-care, and acts of kindness are also ways to practice, each building resilience and cultivating positive emotions that can buffer stress.
Step 2: Don't Mind Your Brain
Your brain is an amazing organ. It can also be your worst enemy. As a protection mechanism, your brain has adopted a negativity bias that causes you to overestimate the negative (threats) and underestimate the positive (opportunities). In times of stress and uncertainty, your brain magnifies negative news, information, and perceptions to protect you.
We can offset the negativity bias by proactively seeking the positive. Be intentional about finding the good in people and situations. Take notice of little moments, appreciate small gestures, and communicate your gratitude to others. The more specific, the better. Your brain becomes primed to start finding the good stuff out there, and there is plenty of it — even in difficult times
One method I have for cultivating positive emotions is something I call "delicious moments." You can increase the likelihood of positive emotions by taking time to savor them. Every time you sit in a positive moment, you embed it more deeply into the neural structure of your brain.
Whether it is savoring the first sip of coffee, snuggling with your pups, sending a text of gratitude to a friend, or binging a new Netflix series, delicious moments are all around us if we just take time to experience them.
Step 3: Transform The Way You Think About Stress
Stress can feel like an unseen force, always in the background, keeping you on edge and unable to fully relax. When stress is acute, as it is right now, your body responds by preparing you to run out and buy toilet paper or head for the hills. This stress response increases inflammation, interrupts sleep, interferes with decision making, and impacts mood. Feeling out of control adds another layer of disempowerment and frustration.
You can shift your body's response by reframing the way you view stressful situations. In fact, a growing body of research has shown that our beliefs about stress and the way we cope are often more important than the stress itself.
Think about it this way. When you view stress as bad, you are more likely to cope in unhealthy ways, trying desperately to numb discomfort. This only serves to exacerbate problems. Conversely, if you view stress as your body preparing itself, putting on armor, getting ready for action, you are more likely to eat foods that give you fuel, exercise, and get plenty of rest. You can go into problem-solving mode, taking time to think clearly and strategically.
Pay attention to physiological and psychological responses like increased heart rate, tightening shoulders, and feelings of anxiety. This is simply your body giving you information, helping to prepare you to take action.
Step 4: Turn Fear Into Fuel
We spend an inordinate amount of energy focusing on the "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios. What is the best-case scenario? What will it look like when things go right?
By rethinking stress, you can harness that fear and anxiety and turn it into the fuel. Use this time to invest in projects you haven't had time to complete, try a new hobby, or take an online class. Take time to help others and serve as a resource to those who need it most.
Rather than become paralyzed by fear and anxiety, use that energy to propel yourself forward.
There is no better time to build your resilience muscle than when you are in the midst of uncertainty. Be deliberate about the messages you send yourself, the habits that you cultivate, and the actions that you take during these challenging times. Practicing resilience helps you do more than survive; it allows you to thrive.
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Help! I'm Dating a Jerk!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. After spending some vacation time with him and realizing he is not treating me the way I like I'm wondering — what do I do? I need him to be kinder and softer to me but he says simply, "chivalry is not his thing." I believe when two people decide to be together they need to adjust to each other. I don't think or feel my boyfriend is adjusting to what's important to me. Should I try to explain to him what's important to me, accept him for what he is, or leave him as I'm just not happy and the little gestures are important to me?
- Loveless Woman
Dear Loveless Woman,I am saddened you aren't getting your needs met in your relationship. Intimacy and affection are important to sustain a healthy relationship. It's troubling that even though you have expressed your needs to your boyfriend that it's fallen on deaf ears. You need to explore, with a therapist, why you have sought out this type of relationship and why you have stayed in it, even when it's making you chronically unhappy? Your belief that couples should adjust to each other is correct to some degree. These things often include compromising and bending on things like who gets the bigger closet or where to go for dinner. However, it's a tall order to ask someone to change their personality and if your boyfriend is indeed a jerk, like you say, who refuses to acknowledge your love language or express kindness and softness, then maybe you should find a partner who will embrace you while being chivalrous.
- The Armchair Psychologist
Hi Armchair Psychologist,
Just wanted to let you know that your article was really offensive to read. Do you refer to women's genitals as: "gross," "ghasty," "smelly," or otherwise? Humans are not perfect, each of us is different and you should emphasize this. I hope that man finds a partner that will love and accept him rather than tearing him down. Which gender has a whole aisle devoted to their "special" hygiene needs? I can tell you it's not men.
Dear Male Reader,Thank you for your thoughtful feedback to my Armchair Psychologist column. My email response bounced so am writing you here. I am so sorry I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I actually meant to be sardonic and make the writer see how ridiculous she sounded for the harsh language she used to describe her date. I obviously failed at this sneer since you think I meant to be offensive. Many apologies. I'll do better. Have a wonderful day and keep writing us with your thoughts.
- Ubah, The Armchair Psychologist