As a child, I enjoyed putting together puzzles. The 500 to 1000 piece ones were always a challenge. I would prop up the top of the box with a picture of the complete puzzle nearby and try and group the puzzle pieces together by color or design to start out. Knowing what the completed puzzle would look like helped me put it together.
Unfortunately life is quite the opposite.
It doesn't come with a complete picture or map, and we don't know how it is going to turn out. Through life's twist and turns, we must adapt and adjust and make the most of each day. Each change affects people differently. Some people seem to handle hardships much easier than others. Why is that? Are people born that way? Are they taught how when they are young? It is in large part due to their resilience and adaptability.
So what exactly is resilience? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress - such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
While resilience can mean you rebound more quickly from difficult times, people who are resilient also find opportunities to grow and even improve their lives along the way. Difficult times are a part of life, but by building resilience you can not only survive, you can find ways to thrive.
Being resilient doesn't mean you won't experience difficulty or distress again. The most resilient people have often experienced major trauma and adversity in their lives and have found ways to build resilience through it all. There are some factors that make certain individuals more resilient than others, but it is something anyone can learn and develop. Just like building a muscle, resilience is something that takes time and focus. The good news is that you can build this muscle over time so that you are better prepared to deal with the next curveball life throws you.
According to the APA, there are four core components you should focus on to not only weather the tough times, but to grow from them. They are connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning.
1. Let's start with connections.
It is important to surround yourself with empathetic and understanding people. People who you can trust and will help you see and focus on the positives through the difficult times.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, "we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with." I have observed how my mood can change depending on who I have been spending time with. Even after a phone call with a friend. Negative people, breed negative energy and it is contagious. Prioritize spending your time and energy with people who will help you focus on the aspects of a situation that you can control. Accept help and support from people who care about you.
In addition to prioritizing your relationships and personal connections, it is also important to find a group that aligns with your purpose and can bring you more joy. Whether it is faith-based, a civic group, or something that connects people with common interest. Having something positive to focus on can provide a much-needed outlet.
2. Another important area to focus on is your wellness.
Wellness should take many forms - physical, mental, emotional, psychological. With physical it is important to provide your body with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and nightly rest. Keeping yourself in good physical health will give you the strength and energy to get through tough times, and can help mitigate stress. Sometimes you may want to skip and exercise and splurge on a high-fat and carb-heavy meal and that's okay. Don't beat yourself up for having an off day, just don't stay down for long. Have your cheat day and wake up the next day and get back on track.
It is also critical to take care of your mind. Again, many ways to do this: Meditation, prayer, gratitude journaling, yoga, and other spirit-filled activities can restore hope and help you focus on the positives that exist around and within you. Starting your day in an attitude of gratitude can make a big difference in how your day plays out.
While you are working on your positive mindset, make sure you are avoiding things that can have a negative impact. During a pandemic such as COVID-19, limit how much time you spend watching the news. The news is always going to sensationalize any situation and this is not a healthy way to spend your time. Stay informed and aware, but limit how much time you spend digesting the news. Also, it may be easy to mask your pain with drugs and alcohol, but this is just putting a temporary bandage on the situation, and can lead to more problems. Manage your stress rather than trying to eliminate it.
3. Finding meaning and purpose has always been top of mind for me.
Even more so now. When you feel like you have a reason to wake up, people counting on you, and a purpose to serve, it invigorates you. Maybe you already know what that purpose and mission is, and maybe you are still trying to discover it. Either way, there are some things you can do now to get you closer to it.
Start with helping others. Whether it is looking for virtual volunteer opportunities, donating blood, or simply supporting a friend in their time of need. There are many ways you can help others, which in turn can empower you. You can achieve a sense of purpose, create or strengthen connections with others, and even build feelings of self-worth. All of these things aid in building your resilience.
Building your self-awareness during this time and asking yourself "What can I do to improve my life right now?" Maybe you want to lose 30 pounds. Okay, how can you break that down into manageable and actionable steps? Now that you have more time, maybe you can meal prep. Plan out time to exercise. You can create good habits now that you can continue once you are back to your normal activities. Taking the initiative now will remind you that you can rise above the challenging times and use motivation to achieve your goals. This will also increase the likelihood that you will be able to do this again when times get tough.
In a recent podcast interview, John Maxwell said that we are all going to move during this time. "The question isn't if we are going to move, the question is in what direction." Are we going to get distracted and lose focus? Or are we going to use traction to move forward. It's up to each of us how we are going to use this time. It is important that we maintain our perspective and focus on those things we can control. Another good question to ask yourself is "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that will help me move in the direction that I want to go?"
Something I have trained myself to do in difficult time is to look for the silver lining. There is always something good, even in the terrible times. When you can find that good, it will increase feelings of gratitude and appreciation for life. I have found that during periods of struggle and hardship, I have grown and become more resilient due to the fact that I made it out on the other side. It is important to pause frequently and self-reflect. Appreciate all that you endured and how your strength and resilience carried you through. And remember this the next time you enter a difficult period.
4. And finally, it is important to embrace healthy thoughts.
Your thoughts can play a major role in how you feel, and how resilient you are when you are challenged and have a difficult situation. It is critical that you keep everything that happens in perspective. Difficult times don't last forever, and often it is hard to remember that when you are in the middle of it. Remind yourself that things will get better and to take each day as it comes. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can control how much you let it impact your life and how you respond to it. Remember - this too shall pass!
Accept that change is inevitable and a fact of life. You may need to adjust your new year's resolutions and 2020 goals due to COVID-19 - and that's okay! Being able to adapt and adjust to your current circumstances will help you get through any difficult time more easily.
Start and end each day with a hopeful outlook. It is hard to be positive when it can feel like the world is falling apart around us, but your mindset can help you through this. An optimistic outlook can empower you to get through the day and maintain control. Feed your faith, not your fear.
And learn from your past. It has been said that experience is a great teacher, but it is actually learning from and evaluating your experiences. How have you gotten through hard times in the past? Who has helped you through them? Remind yourself that you have made it through tough times before and you can do it again.
And so just know that you are not alone during this time. We are all going through this together. Some may look like they are handling it well and have it all together, but the truth is this is hard for everyone. The ones that will come out of this the best are the ones that are intentional about focusing on these key areas - creating and developing connections, improving wellness, finding and focusing on their meaning and purpose, and practicing healthy thinking.
I am here and listening for anyone who needs someone. We will get through this. Together.