As the Mayo Clinic explains, “resilience is your ability to adapt well and recover quickly after stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy.” If you’re more resilient, you’re better able to maintain your physical and psychological health when you’re faced with life’s challenges – whether small, like losing your keys, or life-changing, like losing your job. If you’re less resilient, you’re more apt to become overwhelmed, use unhealthy coping strategies and develop mental health issues.
But your personal resilience level isn’t something you’re born with and that’s that. It’s actually possible to build your resilience through some fairly simple interventions.
Working to improve your resilience involves taking action in each of five areas: physical activity, social activity, mental challenges, positive thinking and mental health. Taking the time to invest in each of those areas can have a huge payoff when it comes to your mental wealth. And the good news is that you can often “fill two birds with one scone” – combining physical and social activities, for example – for added benefit.
Here are three easy ways to start improving your resilience.
Take time to connect
Having strong social ties is one way to improve your resilience – so take time to connect with people, whether they are your closest family and friends or neighbourhood acquaintances, such as your mail delivery person or the barista at your local coffee shop. Think of a spider web – sure, every web has a few main strands that serve as anchor points, but the tiny interconnecting strands are just as important to holding the spider up.
One great way to connect with your friends and family is to schedule time to exercise together – that way you’re improving your physical health, as well. Regularly spending time in nature and improving your physical health by exercising have both been shown to increase your resilience.
Don’t forget to switch off
It can be hard to do when it feels like so much of our lives – work, school, entertainment – happens online these days, but taking a break from your computer and putting down your phone are essential. It’s too easy to zone out while scrolling (doom- or otherwise), which can lead to feeling mired in the doldrums. Instead, take some time for one or more positive, action-oriented, resilience-building practices: keeping a gratitude journal, practising positive affirmations or developing a mindfulness practice. Even something like reading a book or spending time on a hobby you enjoy will help build your resilience.
Get help when you need it – and we always need it
Don’t wait until you hit a crisis point to reach out for mental health support. Think of working with a mental health professional in the same way that you’d think of other preventative care, like visiting your doctor for a flu shot each year or scheduling regular dentist appointments and eye exams. Tell your therapist you want to improve your resilience and then you can work together to improve your mindset.
One of the unanticipated benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic was that accessing mental health care has become easier. These days, it’s commonplace to have a therapy appointment over the phone or on video – no worries about travelling to/from the appointment, finding a parking spot, and so on. Prefer a DIY approach? The federal government has collected a wide range of mental health and substance use supports at its website Wellness Together Canada.