This COVID-19 pandemic took us all by surprise, by its duration and by its impacts in our lives. We are getting reorganized as we try to find a new “normal”. However, uncertainties remain very present, and that could generate stress, anxiety and even suffering for many of us.
According to our mental posture, this new reality exhausts us and sometimes discourages us. It can also be a source of renewal and investment in our well-being. Our resilience, this ability to face a difficult situation, becomes our best ally.
We want to help you get back to basics, by looking more clearly and with kindness into your priorities. To support you in this process, here are our 5 STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPING RESILIENCE.
STRATEGY 1: LIFE HYGIENE
The first step to build resilience is to take action on the basics: exercise, sleep, nutrition, and nature. This strategy seems obvious but our physical state and posture will directly influence our mental posture.
There are a lot of good resources on physical health practices out there. We invite you to make your personal assessment, to choose one or two new behaviors you would like to adopt, and commit to that. We invite you to follow your progress at the end of each week, for example.
Whether for physical or mental health improvement, the change of habits is a challenge worth the effort. What is encouraging is that today we know the recipe to get there.
To get you into taking action, we invite you to ask yourself the following questions:
- What lifestyle habits are currently affecting my well-being?
- What habit can improve my lifestyle in the short term?
- Imagine that tomorrow, this priority to improve your lifestyle is adopted, what new behaviors can you and those around you observe?
STRATEGY 2: STABILIZING THE MIND
A second strategy to develop resilience requires the stabilization of the mind. For reasons of adaptation linked to our survival, our brain is most often nourished by a negative bias and seeks to fill the uncertainty by creating stories that are often the source of our stress and anxiety. Without a stable mind, the famous hamster wheel is thus activated.
Our doubts, our fears and our limiting beliefs surface and activate our old reptilian brain to face the perceived threats.
This immediate reaction deprives us of the full potential of our more advanced functions, related to the prefrontal cortex and our executive functions. In the long run, this defense response damages many of our systems, including our digestive system, our reproductive system and our immune system. Stabilizing our mind is therefore critical to physical and mental wellness.
A present mind is a healthy mind. Developing this presence, however, requires training such as mindfulness practices, whether formal or informal.
In terms of informal practices, a series of mind training activities might be an option. From conscious walking to conscious eating, every action you take in a day can be done with full attention.
The many breathing techniques can also be an excellent strategy for calming the brain, including cardiac coherence where you breathe in for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds to calm both your mind and body.
To go further in training the mind, and therefore in reducing stress and improving resilience, we invite you to discover a formal practice like mindfulness meditation. Although apparently simple, we suggest initial support, either through an audio application or ideally through training with an accredited professional. The benefits of this practice are undeniable today. However, this practice can also have certain risks that professional support can alleviate.
Stabilizing our mind is a habit to be developed as are the habits linked to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some questions to start this change:
- Do I believe that stabilizing my mind will improve my well-being?
- Do I believe the benefits are worth the effort?
- If so, when and how do I want to start this exploration?
STRATEGY 3: MY INTENTION
Without clear intentions, our mind will go to our automatic reactions or to our behaviors conditioned by our environment, as described in strategy 2. We all have stories or narratives that condition our behaviors, usually in an unconscious way. Our lives are often hectic and stressful and our autopilot often takes over for the sake of efficiency or protection. The uncertainty of confinement and social distancing feeds our negative beliefs and thoughts.We seldom take the time to stop and define our intention, to specify who and what is important to us. The best version of us is within us, but often latent.
With a calm mind, the intention becomes clear and aligned with our values. It will have the power to overcome our survival reflexes and our limiting beliefs. These survival reflexes often act as an obstacle to our well-being and development, both personally and professionally.
We invite you not only to answer the questions below, but also to visualize your answers as accomplished states, because the unconscious mind does not perceive the difference between our beliefs and reality.
- What is my greatest hope in terms of my well-being?
- Imagine that a miracle happened and that this expected result materialized. List five behaviors you can observe in this context.
- When you put yourself in the shoes of your relatives and your colleagues in this imagined reality, what are the five behaviors that they observe in you?
STRATEGY 4: ACCEPTANCE
Scientific literature, my practice as a psychologist and my own life experience have thus far shown me that a winning strategy for our well-being lies in welcoming our discomforts, our disappointments and our sorrows.
Welcoming does not mean resigning or submission. Welcoming simply means recognizing reality as it is, feeling inhabited by the confidence that we have the resources to face it, even to learn from it to find a new equilibrium or recognize new opportunities. We now know that those who perceive a situation with openness, curiosity and acceptance will experience less stress and anxiety than those who resist it and want the situation to be different than it is.
To go further, I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:
What are the new opportunities that arise:
- When I do accept things that are beyond my control?
- When I welcome uncertainty as a temporary state?
- When I recognize that I have within me the necessary aptitudes to evolve safely?
I invite you to go through this reflection in kindness towards yourself, to recognize that the consequences of the pandemic are real, generating in us reactions and discomfort. These reactions and discomforts do not have to define us, however. They are simply part of the human experience and, once they are recognized and accepted, we have the choice to nourish the intention that we identified in the reflection of strategy 3.
STRATEGY 5: INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Interpersonal relationships come as the 5th strategy, not because they are less important, but because the impact of this strategy is multiplied when the other strategies have been applied in the first place.
When our bodies are healthy, when we have the capacity to find inner calm, when our intentions for a better life are clear and when we can accept challenges with curiosity, courage and serenity, we are in a favorable space to improve the quality of our interpersonal relationships.
A major Harvard study tells us that the quality of our interpersonal relationships, those that are felt to be safe, can significantly influence our happiness and our physical health.
Investing in our personal or professional relationships, where we foster kindness, a sense of belonging and collaboration, directly contributes to our own resilience and that of our loved ones.
Conscious communication, compassion and generosity practices are all recognized as effective for improving our resilience. Many studies show us the impact that these can have on our well-being and, of course, on that of others. We therefore encourage you to integrate these practices into your daily life, with creativity in times of social distancing.
To develop quality relationships, here are some questions:
- Who is important to me? Who am I important to?
- Am I in a space of non-judgment, curiosity, kindness and patience when I approach my interpersonal relationships
- What emotions arise in me when I experience a rewarding relationship?
Wellness and resilience are accessible to all. It is suggested to bet on a few well-targeted behaviours that will allow you to navigate this pandemic period with resilience, health and happiness. I wish you great discoveries and well-being.