Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. With this definition in mind, I would like to posit the importance of ongoing growth in life. It is imperative that we take the time at various junctures of our life’s journey to assess where we are coming from; understand where we are presently, and project a future that will indicate a mental change and readiness to do things differently in an effort to foster emotional, mental and psychological growth and well being.
In light of all we have endured in the last few years as a country, and even most recently, with the volcanic Eruption amidst COVID-19, I want to quote the old adage, ‘with crisis comes opportunity”. Now that we have had some time to adjust to the initial shock of the pandemic, we are faced with the decision on how we wish to thrive in the new normal. To this end, we can tap on the concept of emotional resilience, the ability to adapt well and bounce back from adverse experiences. This article will suggest ways in which you can shape your new normal and thrive with resilience.
1. Learn from the Past
Learning from the past helps you prepare for the future. Focusing on past experiences and sources of personal strength can help you learn how strategies for building resilience might work for you.
2. Acknowledge the Present
It is normal to experience
distress as you make sense of this change. You’re not alone. Recognise that this is also an opportunity for reflection and renewal. While we couldn’t stop the pandemic or the eruption from happening, we can choose the way we respond to this crisis.
3. Redesign Your Life
Proactively organising activities around what we care about facilitates a sense of control and helps reduce uncertainty by building a consistent structure into each day. Begin by defining your purpose – your “why” for living.
Based on your values and intentions, set realistic goals, breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps; then, act boldly towards these goals. Take baby steps; do something regularly that moves you towards your goals, even if it seems small. Finally, keep motivated by rewarding yourself for making progress.
4. Keep Things in Perspective
How we think about a situation can also affect how we feel and cope. Our perspectives are often biased by the imperfect information that is presented to us. Common cognitive distortions include some of the following:
- Mind Traps –
Balanced Alternatives Emotional Reasoning “I’m feeling afraid so
I must be in great danger.”
Reason with Facts What are the actual risks and what can be done to minimise risk?
- Catastrophizing –
“What if… (insert worst case scenario e.g. I lose my job; my family gets sick)?”
Maintain a Hopeful Outlook Visualise what you want, rather than what you fear.
All-or-nothing Thinking “If I can’t manage everything perfectly, then I’m a complete failure.”
Looks for Shades of Gray “While it’s been hard staying on top of everything, I’ve also made some progress towards my goals.”
- Discounting Positives –
Focusing only on negatives and filtering out the positives.
- Gratitude –
Exercise: List 3 things that you are thankful for every day.
E.g. saving time and money on transport, flexible hours, time with family, having a nice meal
5. Attend to Your Body
Most of us are familiar with the basic principles of caring for our bodies – having a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, hydrating well, exercising daily, having regular sleep, and relaxing. However, when stressed, it is easy to neglect the body and turn to unhealthy habits such as consuming excessive sweets, caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes, and indulging in addictive behaviours such as gambling, online shopping, and social media surfing. While such coping mechanisms may give us temporary relief from stress and boredom, they often have negative longer-term consequences. Tune in to your body and allow it to guide you.
6. Mindful Self-compassion
Mindful self-compassion is about treating yourself with care and understanding, rather than harsh judgement, seeing your experience as part of a larger human experience rather than abnormal, and not suppressing or running away from your experience. There are many ways to cultivate mindful self-compassion and one of them is to treat yourself as you might a friend in pain. Be more loving towards yourself.