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What is resilience and how does it affect your life?


Thoughtful man leaning on a wall outside on a sunny day

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back in times of stress, trauma, or adversity. In other words, it’s about learning how to cope through — and ultimately recover from — difficult times.

We all have challenges in our lives — from everyday ones (like trying to cut back on social media or get enough exercise), to traumatic ones like coping with the death of someone close to us, dealing with a job loss, or managing after a life-changing accident. Resilience helps you work through difficult feelings (like sadness, anxiety, anger, or grief) and find ways to get back on your feet. You may become even stronger in the process, because you’ve proved to yourself that you can manage stress, and can still find enjoyment in your life.

And remember - resilience doesn’t imply that you’re tough enough to never reach out and ask others for support. In fact, part of being resilient involves drawing on the supports you have to get through something difficult. It's not about being stoic and trying to manage everything on your own.

Why is resilience important?

  • It gives you confidence that you can cope through difficult times.

  • It emphasizes that drawing on the support of others gives you strength.

  • It provides an alternative to unhealthy coping methods, like substance abuse.

  • It can offset the effects of stress and trauma, and help you better manage feelings of depression or anxiety.

 

How to build mental, physical, and financial resilience

There are many ways to become more resilient in different areas of your life. Let’s take a closer look at mental, physical, and financial resilience.

 

Mental resilience

Mental resilience refers to how your mind is able to adapt to and recover from adversity. Here are some strategies for building up your mental resilience:

Connect with others

Surrounding yourself with people who care about you is important. Nurture relationships with family, friends and people in your community who you trust, and who you know will be empathetic and understanding. Accepting support or help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Try these strategies:

  • Arrange a date night with your partner.

  • Meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk.

  • Join a spiritual group or a Meetup group with whom you can share activities and interests.

  • Do volunteer work, which research shows benefits not only the recipient of the help but also the person offering it.

Reframe your perspective

Maintaining optimism can be easier said than done, especially when things feel like they’re not going well. But how we interpret events can influence how helpless or hopeless we feel. In difficult times, try these strategies:

  • Ask yourself: What am I learning now that could help me in the future?

  • Give yourself credit for any efforts you're making to help yourself get through a bad situation.

  • Reassure yourself that negative things from the past aren’t predictors of what will happen in the future.

  • Remember that you can’t control everything, but you can choose how you think about and respond to things.

Problem solve

Although you may have to accept what you can’t control, there are likely things in your life that you can change. To get started, try these strategies:

  • Set a realistic goal and visualize how to get there.

  • Break your problem down so you can tackle it one piece at a time.

  • Look back to remind yourself that you’ve solved problems before, and remember what’s worked for you in the past.

  • Celebrate the small victories along the way.

Find joy in your life

Look for ways to learn more about yourself. That means finding things to do that give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, as well as feelings of happiness. You could:

  • Dive into a new hobby.

  • Give yourself opportunities to be creative.

  • Explore new things, whether it’s hiking, painting, or volunteering.

 

Physical resilience

Physical resilience refers to your body’s ability to adapt to challenges and maintain strength and stamina when facing emotional or physical stressors. This is important because stress doesn’t just affect you mentally, it also affects your body.

Exercise

Regular exercise has many benefits — from reducing stress to increasing self-esteem to improving sleep and warding off feelings of depression and anxiety. Intense exercise also releases endorphins, “feel good” chemicals that can produce feelings of euphoria and reduce our perception of pain. To become more active, try these strategies:

  • Find a form of exercise that you enjoy so that you’re motivated to keep doing it - there are so many free YouTube channels and apps that it’s easy to try new things.

  • Choose exercise methods based on mood - like doing yoga when you’re stressed or a high intensity workout when you have energy to burn off.

  • Try exercising outdoors - many people find nature restorative.

  • Ask a friend to join you for company, or even motivation.

Note: COVID-19 is still a big factor - make sure that you’re following health guidelines when you exercise.

Healthy eating and drinking habits

Nutrition and eating habits have a big impact on our overall health. This is different for everyone, but here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Eat at relatively the same time each day.

  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish and poultry.

  • Cut back on red meat, alcohol, and junk food.

  • Avoid coffee after 2 p.m. so you can get a good night’s sleep.

  • Try keeping track of what you eat and drink - you could write it down, or use one of the many free apps available.

Sleep well

A good night’s rest is restorative. Part of getting a good sleep involves preparing your body for rest. Here are some key strategies:

  • In the last hour or so before bed, dim the lights and put away your phone and laptop.

  • Spend 10 or 15 minutes doing something relaxing, like gentle yoga, using a guided meditation app, or listening to sleep sounds.

  • Try writing down what you need to do the next day, or anything else that’s circulating in your mind so that you can relax.

  • Read a novel or something light before bed.

Meditate

Meditation has many beneficial effects, from lowering blood pressure, to reducing heart and breathing rate, oxygen consumption and stress hormones. One of the more established mindfulness training programs is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), which is offered as an eight-week program in various hospitals and centres to help manage stress.

You can also meditate on your own. There are many free meditation apps available, so this is not something you should have to pay for.

Practise self care

Self care is a term that gets bandied around a lot, but it's something we should all do more of. In addition to things like yoga and healthy eating, here are some self care strategies:

  • Take a warm bath

  • Make a cup of herbal tea

  • Spend time in nature

  • Write in a journal or talk to someone about what’s bothering you

  • Take a break from social media

 

Financial resilience

Financial resilience refers to your ability to achieve financial goals and sustain your lifestyle despite any emergency or curve ball that comes your way. Money is a common source of stress, but the right planning, preparation and perspective can help you manage it. Becoming confident that you can pay your bills and save for the future, even in the face of something like COVID-19, make a positive impact on your mental health.

This is Meridian’s area of expertise and we have many resources to help you build financial resilience, including:

What is financial wellness?
Build up your financial resilience in 5 steps
8 tips on managing your money during a crisis

Plus, you can do a quick survey to measure your financial resilience, see how you compare to others, and get personalized recommendations for improvement”:

Financial Resilience Score™

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