Practical emotional resilience for the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond
Webinar on practical emotional resilience for the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond: Follow-up article
Resilience is defined as bouncing back from adversity or change. Some people are naturally more resilient than others, but the good news is that everyone can learn to increase their level of resilience. It’s important to remember that resilience is not a fixed state, but a state of being which can and does fluctuate depending on our circumstances.
For most of us, our current circumstances are characterised by adversity (albeit at differing levels) and a huge change to our pre-Covid lives. As such, it’s become even more important to focus on resilience to protect our physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
During last Thursday’s ‘Practical emotional resilience to deal with the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond’ webinar, I shared a simple, practical strategy to use in stressful moments. In this article, I’ll share five more strategies you can use to improve your resilience. Each recommendation is well-researched and proven to increase resilience. It’s helpful to know that not every strategy suits every individual, so it’s worth trying a few to work out which are most useful for you.
Five simple strategies to increase your resilience:
Strategy 1: Get more sleep!
Proper sleep, or 7-9 hours a night for the average adult, is essential for resilience. Sleep physically and mentally restores us so we are more able to deal with stresses and strains the following day. In his research, sleep expert Professor Matthew Walker found that sleep is vital for emotional regulation, which is vital for resilience. Emotional regulation helps us to find the balance between an impulsive emotional reaction and rational, careful decision making.
One recommendation to get more sleep is to set an alarm for a consistent bedtime until this is an established part of your daily routine. If you’ve had enough sleep, you should wake up before your alarm and feel refreshed.
Strategy 2: Gratitude
Gratitude helps to increase resilience because it puts adversity into perspective. Like sleep, gratitude plays a key role in emotional regulation, a vital part of resilience, and acts of gratitude are directly related to physical wellbeing, which also positively impacts resilience. Gratitude is particularly powerful when it focuses on the interaction between people and practising gratitude regularly can make a big difference to your levels of resilience.
Researchers often recommend practising gratitude on a daily basis. To do this, take some time to think of up to ten things which make you feel grateful. As you picture each of those things in your mind, pay attention to the feeling of gratitude in your body. Just like physical exercise, the more you practice gratitude, the easier it will become.
Strategy 3: Mindfulness
Researchers discovered that people with higher levels of mindfulness had higher resilience (Bajaj and Pande, 2016). This might be because mindfulness helps people to cope better with challenging thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed and drawn into wallowing over setbacks or shutting down emotionally.
If you’re keen to develop your mindfulness, regular practice is key to this strategy. Millions of people worldwide subscribe to the Headspace or Calm apps, which lead you through short, guided mindfulness meditations.
Strategy 4: Intentionally practice self-care
Self-care is an important factor in feeling at our best physically and emotionally, which makes us more resilient and therefore more able to handle stresses and challenges. Any activity you enjoy and that supports your wellbeing will promote your self-care. For some people this means planning healthy meals or taking regular exercise outside, while others watch a favourite TV show or movie. When you’re relaxing by yourself, it’s much easier to slip into a state of self-reflection, or to resolve any problems in the back of your mind without taking all of your focused concentration.
Of course, putting self-care into practice when everyone in your family is at home can be challenging. It’s important to consider what might get in the way of your self-care, and what you can do to remove those barriers. If it’s not possible to remove those barriers, you may want to choose a different self-care strategy which maximises your available time and resources.
Strategy 5: Focus on your breathing
Our natural stress response is an unconscious and reflexive reaction when we experience a perceived threat or challenge. One of the physiological changes of the stress response is fast, shallow breathing. By focusing on slowing our breathing down, inhaling all the way into the lower part of our lungs followed by a longer exhale, we can start to reduce the physical impact of stress and restore our sense of calm.
The free Calm app provides a simple breathing exercise through their breathing bubble which can be adjusted to suit each individual.
About Dr Sarah Whyte (Consultant, Speaker, Facilitator & ICF Coach)
With a degree in psychology, a masters in education and a doctorate in emotional intelligence, Sarah shares science-backed tools to develop emotional wellbeing and resilience. Based in Singapore, she works with organisations, international schools and families across South East Asia to equip people with simple, practical skills to boost their resilience and develop their emotional wellbeing. Sarah’s specialist topics include emotional equity, relocation wellbeing and emotional resilience.
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