How to build resiliency in challenging times

by angelazbornik | October 28, 2020 | All the Rest, Meet the Author, On Our Radar

Our inspiring and timely guest blog today is written by Janine Wilburn, author of the upcoming Resiliency Guide series

2020 has been a year of incredible, unpredictable challenge: from a worldwide pandemic to divisive political elections to studying and working from home, and not being able to be with family and friends. There is so much being asked of all of us. So, how can we best keep going, moving forward? By being resilient.

What is resilience? Are you born with it? Or can you learn it? Or both?

A quick definition of terms

Resiliency is that ability some people, adults and children, seem to have to cope in a positive way to the inevitable challenges of life. They survive the most challenging of physical, emotional and/or mentally challenging experiences to thrive; whereas others experience similar situations or circumstances and never recover. It is the ability to spring back into shape, and to simultaneously be tough, strong, sturdy and flexible, durable and buoyant.

The value of resilience

The value of resiliency does not just lie in the ability to survive what would seem to be devastating experiences, but the ability to move through day to day life without being victim to the upward and downward swings of life’s circumstances. For example, a resilient teenager will have more skills and choices to deal with peer pressure, adolescent changes, and even school pressures. Imagine the difference between a teen that can create optimism, authentic self-esteem and positive experiences while also facing challenging circumstances.

Where to find resilience

There are many scientists, philosophers, doctors, and therapists studying why some people thrive and others never recover. An area of neurological science called neuroplasticity has brought learned people from all disciplines together to study and attempt to understand resiliency. In the area of neuroplasticity, it is common to study what is often seen as softer, even spiritual principles, track and measure the changes in the brain and body based on changes in thought.

Some scientists believe their studies reveal that depending on certain size of different aspects of the brain, one is more predisposed to being resilient. However, they agree that through choosing specific thought patterns, behaviors and physical activity, anyone can become more resilient.

Scientific research is now focusing on how different thought patterns affect the human mind and body. Thoughts trigger the release of cortisol, dopamine, etc. by the brain, which then impact the health and wellbeing of the body. Some studies suggest that even genes can be positively or negatively affected by our thoughts.

How to build resilience

Extensive studies on the subject have found common practices among people who are resilient. Here are some key resiliency building tools. Pick one or several to do every day, no matter how you are feeling. Make one or more of these tools a daily practice, and you will begin building resilience.

  1. Doing daily gratitude lists
  2. Expressing your appreciation to others everyday
  3. Doing something creative every day without caring about the end result
  4. Helping someone everyday
  5. Forgive yourself or someone else regularly
  6. Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods.
  7. Make sure to get rest, relaxation and a good night’s sleep.

What you get from being resilient

It helps us deal with small challenges and really big challenges, like we all are doing now. It makes life easier.  It makes life more fun.  It helps you achieve your goals and dreams.  It never gets old, and you can use it for the rest of your life.

How do I know?

I don’t just study this subject I use these tools every day.  Twenty-three years ago I suffered severe spinal injury from a car accident.  My prognosis was grim as the expectation was it was only a matter of time until the damage would lead to significant paralysis. The very, very good news is I avoided that outcome, and these resilience tools play a huge, daily role in my on-going recovery.  I use them for all kinds of reasons. I use them to keep myself mentally, physically and emotionally balanced. I use them to manage pain, and most importantly, I use them to keep my daily life positive, joyful and optimistic.  So, when those difficult, challenging and even dark days come, I open my Resilience Toolchest and get to work. I know it might seem too simple, but it is not, and it is not always easy. However, these tools do build resilience.

The Resiliency Guides series of journals takes these tools and translates them to easy to do, fun daily activities that build resilience and lifelong practices. Available everywhere books are sold January 2021.