The ability to bounce back from tragedy and difficult situations, the various ups and downs in life, is called Resilience. It is a very important brain function. It is our mind’s protective armour. This armour protects us from various day to day stressors. It is how fast we heal from mental injury/ stress. It promotes faster recovery and better outcomes.
Just like we can improve physical resilience by exercises, we can also improve our mental resilience by learning positive coping strategies.
Resilience varies from person to person. Each individual copes differently. Some cope better with stress, some cope better in relaxed environment. Also, different people have different tolerance to various situations and circumstances.
Not everyone will develop anxiety or depression. This also depends on your genetic vulnerability. We cannot do much about our genetics, but we can definitely improve our resilience by inculcating and practicing positive coping strategies.
Develop a sense of control: We as humans like to be in control of our life and things around us. When we are in control, our anxiety levels are very low and we feel powerful. However, we cannot control everything. So, to develop a sense of control, we need to set a routine. Follow a schedule for day to day activities. A routine helps us be in control of our life, partially and give us some sense of control. This removes uncertainties and reduces anxiety, thus, increasing our resilience.
Make S.M.A.R.T. goals… meaning:
Specific (simple, sensible, significant) - Define exactly what you want to achieve, what resources you have and what needs to be done.
Measurable (meaningful, motivating) - How much or how many? How will I know when I have received it? This part of the goal will help us measure our progress too and keep us motivated.
Achievable (agreed, attainable) - Your goal must be achievable. It may push you to your limits, but it should be doable and plausible. It must be realistic, including finances.
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based) - how much the goal is relevant to you? Is it worthwhile? Am I the right person for this.
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)- every goal needs a deadline.
E.g. I want to become fit. For that I need to lose weight- 15 kilos weight in 6 months. For this I have to exercise- jogging for 40 minutes, and weight training for 20 mins, 4 times per week. Also, I have to follow a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. Rich in protein. No fried and junk food. So, when we set S.M.A.R.T. goals, they become more achievable and we are motivated to accomplish them. This helps us cope positively.
Take care of yourself- both physically and mentally.
Physically: By eating healthy diet and by exercise. Exercise not only increases the body's resilience and endurance it also helps improve the well being of the mind by releasing the feel good hormone endorphin.
Mentally: Positive self talk –Talk positively about yourself without any judgement. When you look into the mirror, try and be your best friend. If you’ve done some mistakes don’t be too harsh or critical of yourself, try and forgive yourself and try and see if you can solve the issues and correct your mistakes. If not tell yourself you tried your best and it’s ok if it does not work or it's okay to make mistakes.
Being mindful: Rule of 3- Be mindful of the surroundings to come back in the present and away from your distracting thoughts. You can be mindful of any 3 things around you- the three things that you can see, 3 things you can hear,3 things you can touch and 3 things you can feel. This will bring you back to the present and current scenario and help you focus more on the present and avoid over thinking.
Meditation: Practise meditation for at least 10 minutes every day. This will help to clear your mind.
Being grateful: Be grateful of all the things that you have. Every day you can think of 5 things that you were grateful for. This helps in more clarity of thought and better coping.
Help others-: When we help others, we feel a sense of being useful and helpful. It gives us a sense of accomplishment.
Keep busy: It is said that “empty mind is the Devils workshop”. Keep yourself busy by doing activities that you like, learning new hobbies, skills, watching movies, organising closets, or involving yourself with some social work, etc.
Loneliness is a sense of lack of emotional connection and companionship. It comes from within. Suddenly when a fast paced life becomes slow and with restriction of mobility to go to places, results in a sense of emptiness end loneliness. Those affected most are whose relationships are already strained.
What do you do to come out of loneliness?
Think about who matters most in your life and who are the most important people in your life and who support you? These are generally very few people- four or five - few family members and one or two close friends. Increase more contact with them, reconnect with them over video calling/Skype/Face Time. Video calling is much better than texting or emailing.
Control Information Flow: Strict yourself to media exposure to local channels only and the topics which are relevant to you. You do not need to see it relevant topics and follow only genuine news.
Accept Uncertainty: Make a list of uncertain things that you accept without realising in everyday life. For example, ‘will I get a bus or will I get a cab to work on time?’So, once we realise that we have been living with these uncertainties, our brain acknowledges that everything is not 100% certain and still we are doing okay without certainty. This helps to calm the nerves and lowers anxiety and nervousness.
Worry period – Set aside a time and place in the day for 30 minutes where you worry about various things. Worry only during this time. If you are out of topics for worrying during the worry period, leave it and do it again the next day. Everyday reduce the time by 5 minutes.
When will you know that anxiety is severe?
If your anxiety hinders your day to day activities, if you are having a panic attack, having signs and symptoms of hyperventilation, rapid heart rate, sense of impending doom. If all these symptoms are present it means you are having severe anxiety and you need to reach out for help. Reach out a psychiatrist for the same.
Difficulty with sleep
If you are having difficulty going to sleep or falling asleep or you are having multiple awakenings during the middle of the night and you don’t feel fresh when you wake up, then you are suffering from insomnia. How to improve your sleep and have a refreshing sleep? You can do this by following simple sleep hygiene steps. These include:
· No nap during the day.
· Do not keep looking at the clock.
· Have the same wake up time, irrespective of what time you sleep.
· Use bed only for sleep
· If not asleep for 15mins on bed, leave the bedroom and go in another room, read a boring book or listen to soft music and return to bed only when sleepy again.
· No caffeine after 6pm.
· Sleep early to maintain the circadian cycle of 24 hours.
· Hot showers help with sleep.
· Keep looking at the sky fee times during the day, to make the mind aware of the daylight and to maintain the circadian rhythm.
· Wind down time- have at least 1 hour of wind down time before sleep- stop all screens, read a relaxing book, etc.
· This should help you sleep better. If after all this, you are not able to sleep, then something is not right and you need to consult a psychiatrist for the same.
Applying Positive Coping Strategies in day to day life helps improves resilience and improves our quality of life. So as Barack Obama has said- “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
(The Author is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Columnist)