Where does your resilient self stand? Would it break in two in a split second? Or would it show some resistance?
From my perspective, resilience is the ability to bounce back from a setback, a challenge, something that does not align at all with our expectations or plans. It is the capacity to reemerge and readapt to reality without losing oneself, involving a certain degree of mental and physical elasticity.
Resilience can grow out of a traumatic event such as divorce or the death of a loved one. As well as from smaller aspects from our daily life, such as last-minute cancelled plans or a tantrum from one of our kids. Going through these events – traumatic or not – enables our resilient self to keep evolving, picking up cues from our experiences – positive and negative.
I believe the last two years have taught us a lot about resilience. How to endure in the face of uncertainty. How not to lose oneself amid chaos and challenge. Perhaps there were moments where you felt like a wooden stick. Easy to break at the first attempt. When indeed your resilient self is like bamboo. Its elasticity allows it to bend and adjust to these inner and outer struggles. Despite these many hurdles and struggles you have endured since; you are still standing. Your resilient self is there to help you navigate the up and down waves of adversity, bringing you to the surface and propelling you to moving forward.
Let us consider the 4 pillars of resilience and see what strategies can be developed in each of these elements, to help you strengthen your resilient self.
1. Physical resilience: Our body's ability to arise to physical challenges and recover from damage. Probably it is because I’m 8-months pregnant, but this is the example that jumps immediately to my mind. I am amazed by how incredibly strong a woman’s body is to be able to endure natural labor – often for prolonged hours – in pain and agony and yet to restore its harmony in such a short period of time. For sure I am not saying to every woman out there, “go and get pregnant to develop your physical resilience”! There are indeed other ways and applying both to women and men. Frequent exercise, a balance diet, good sleep habits are a few examples. These may sound tough habits to implement – if you do not have done it so far – but they are worthy and dependent on you. Give it a try for a few weeks and notice how this physical strength evolves into positive and inner energy.
2. Mental resilience: Our mind's capacity to be flexible, to weigh alternatives and think creatively toward a solution. If you are thinking “That sounds awesome for a creative job profile, not my 9-to-5 administrative role”, let me stop you right there! A solution-oriented mindset applies to a myriad of situations, not necessarily your daily job. Focusing on this second pillar, it makes me think of reading, writing, brainstorming. If these are not in your top list of fun hobbies, no need to worry. Mental resilience can be developed by any kind of activity that stimulates the brain. So, think about what you enjoy doing that involves feeding your brain muscle. Maybe it is drawing or painting, playing an instrument, negotiating with your 3-year-old kid, playing chess, do puzzles. Every time we give our mind a chance to create new brain paths, we are adjusting the patterns and developing our mental plasticity.
3. Emotional resilience: Our ability to show emotional intelligence and awareness, to adapt and accept the situation, ourselves and others when facing adversity. It is not about displaying a plethora of emotions or frenetically hugging everyone around you. Each of us has their own way to deal with and express our feelings. For that to happen in the healthiest possible way, we need to be in touch with our emotions. Positive and negative. By taking time to check in with ourselves, to listen to what the body-mind-spirit triad is telling us, we are developing every time more self-awareness. Such awareness not to be deposited only on us, but also on others. So that when adversity hits, your self is emotionally resilient to accept and adjust to the challenging situation at hand. Self-reflection through the practice of meditation and journaling is a useful tool to keep building emotional resilience.
4. Social resilience: Our ability to connect with others from a place of openness and empathy based on trust and respect. A pillar that has been quite challenged in the last two years. Not because we do not know how, we are social beings after all…but because the rules of the game suddenly changed taking an unexpected toll on all of us. Therefore, we need to be reminded of such kindness and openness and practice it, even if it means doing it through different channels. Next time you are in a team meeting or grabbing coffee with a friend – no matter if it is face-to-face or virtually – do your best to listen to them from a place of genuine interest. Leave your judgments and worries aside for a few minutes, and instead be present and responsive. Be open to accept different perspectives over the same topic, encouraging one another to share. When you are humble enough to listen, you realize how much you are learning from others and the impact it has on your own growth and resilience.
The more robust your resilient self is, the more flexible you will be to adapt in the face of adversity. Keep nurturing your resilient bamboo-like Self. Do not wait until a crisis hit to work on your resilience. Keep feeding your resilient self with mental and physical activity, emotional awareness, and social connections.