By, Nikita Paddock, PHN, BScN, RYT
Resilience is often recognized after an event or situation that has pushed an individual, community, or group out of their comfort zone, or through trauma. Resilience can be better understood by comparing it to something we depend on: our smartphone battery. If you take a look at the upper corner of your cell phone, you will see a little battery icon. What level is yours reading? When did you charge it last?
If you are like many people, you try to keep your phone charged by plugging it in each night. This is a habit that can prevent us from the added stress of having a low battery when we need it the most. Similarly, our resilience requires consistent practice and work to prevent us running low. Resilience is not a static destination or recognition of a lucky turnout, but an evolving way of being that requires work each day. We can intentionally use resilience practices to strengthen our resilience.
Resilience plug-ins may be innate if you spend time in meditation, but for most of us, we have to try out a variety of types before we find the ones that charge us the best. Regardless, almost all of these will charge us a little, so pick the ones you feel the most full after and keep a list in your phone or your wallet. Add to this list as you go through life and find activities or practices that make you feel safe, loved, and strong. I will share with you a list of my favourites:
1. Time in nature: Go for a long walk bringing awareness to the present. Focus on the temperature of the air, the smells, the distant and near sounds, the energy inside you. Become fully engrossed in your surroundings and if you notice the mind wandering to the past or future, bring it back.
2. Serving others: The power of selfless service should be advertised as medicine for ourselves and communities. Serving others reminds us that we have purpose. When we help others, we release oxytocin, the happiness chemical, and our cortisol lowers, which means we feel less stressed and we can make better decisions for ourselves. Serving others also fosters connection and reminds us that we are not alone, leading to greater resilience!
3. Gratitude Journaling: Gratitude journaling is a powerful resilience tool. All it takes is a paper and pen. Write down as many things as you can that you are grateful for. With each one, pause and see if you can feel gratitude. You can even repeat “thank you” in your head or aloud. Gratitude journaling rewires our neural pathways in the brain. The more we do it, the more we will be naturally grateful for the things we have. Gratitude promotes resilience by shifting us from a negative to a positive mindset in a realistic way.
Some phones hold less charge. They may be old, store too much, or we may not know why they don’t hold charge. These phones need charging more often. Sometimes it is valuable to carry a charger or back-up power source when you have a phone like this. Humans alike have different paths that have either strengthened their resilience muscle or weakened it. Trauma, past experiences, and even the role models in our lives affect our levels of resilience, so some people will need to keep their back-up batteries nearby. These can be found in the resilience practices that we find the most strengthening. Sometimes, people naturally have a full battery, but with many phone calls or even roaming, it can become unexpectedly drained. Have you ever left the flashlight on? Similarly, people may have excellent resilience to external stress in the past, but with prolonged stress or a cascade of traumatic events, resilience may become depleted and it is essential to recharge to prevent a mental health crisis or burnout.
Prioritizing your resilience charge means prioritizing yourself holistically. Our health and well-being are dependent on so many internal and external factors including ones out of our control due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is essential right now that people focus on the things they can control. If we do not charge our resilience batteries frequently, we will burnout. The COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to a marathon, rather than a sprint. The rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, as well as feelings of hopelessness and despair are widespread. People are experiencing ongoing stress and trauma affecting all areas of their lives. Coping mechanisms previously practiced are requiring people to pivot and find other methods of staying well. We do have hope. I am encouraging you to create a resilience charging kit. Inside, keep a list of resilience practices you like, and ones you haven’t tried yet. You may also share tools with friends and family to promote resilience in one another. If you feel low levels of resilience, reach out to a trusted professional. Provincial Mental Health Resources: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/ gov/content/mental-health-support-in-bc/moodand-anxiety