|From Mental Health For Millennials Vol 4 ‘On Wellbeing’ (2020).|
Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are. How deeply rooted in being. Allow nature to teach you stillness’ (Tolle, 2003: 5).
This chapter looks at wellbeing in the context of resilience, which is the ability to overcome challenges, adapt, and keep going after something difficult has happened in one’s life. Resilience is not a fixed trait, in fact, it is something that is constantly learned, experienced and developed.
A sense of feeling overwhelmed can happen when we become stressed. We can become stressed when what is required of us exceeds our resilience, and in order to deal with feeling overwhelmed and increase our sense of wellbeing, we can learn specific coping tools to manage our times of stress.
People that have learned to become resilient are not immune to stress and stressful situations, but they can cope with it when met with challenges. Coping with stressful situations with the right tools is the key to resilience and managing ones’ life. According to Hanson (2018:2) ‘Mental resources like self-worth and kindness are what make us resilient; able to cope with adversity and push though challenges in the pursuit of opportunities. While resilience helps us recover from loss and trauma, it offers much more than that. True resilience fosters well-being, an underlying sense of happiness, love and peace’.
Working on building resilience is an on-going journey of growth and change. This involves working on improving emotional intelligence. One of the key elements of this process involves managing stress and reaction to stressful situations. This powerful work encompasses optimism, positive outlooks and overall positive mind-set which, in turn, allows for less resistance to change. As I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, developing resilience is a personal journey and a considerable of amount of self-compassion is necessary throughout.
Being resilient does not necessarily mean that a person will not experience stress or trauma in their lives. In fact, the journey to becoming more resilient involves considerable emotional distress. It is from such experiences we learn how to cope and deal with our emotions, actions and thought processes. Unfortunately, in this fast-paced world we currently live in, a lot of people seem to devote most of their time and energy to their jobs/work, to the detriment of their relationships, well-being and overall lives. Developing resilience involves working, resting, recovering, recharging and working again. Making a conscious decision to create a good work/life balance is necessary to maintain a balanced life and to have the ability to withstand adversity when faced with it. For example, exercise, down time, meeting with friends, outdoors activities, meditating etc., is a positive way to spend time outside of the working environment. A healthy mind-set can only be achieved through a consistently balanced way of being.
I developed the following acronym for RESILIENCE in the hope of making it possible for all to understand and exercise in their journey of personal growth to becoming more resilient.
Connection is important for various reasons. Connecting with the right people, for example, empathetic and understanding people can help when faced with stresses or difficulties. Support is helpful whilst trying to cope with difficult situations. Reaching out to trusted people during a time of adversity is both healthy and necessary to help to cope and heal around the situation. Sometimes, the pain of an unpleasant occurrence can lead to some people isolating themselves from others due to feeling ‘heavy’ or that they may be a burden, but it is important to remember that one can seek out and accept help from those who care about you.
Nurturing such relationships on an on-going basis should be a priority in your life. Making the effort for those you genuinely care about is a good way to form a trusting and consistently reciprocated relationship/connection.
Engage with kindness, compassion, love and fire in your soul, not just with other people but also with yourself. Express yourself whilst honouring your own personal truth.
Strength It may come as a surprise to us, but we all have this inner strength that maybe we weren’t aware of. Tap into your strengths, talents and abilities. These attributes can be very useful as they can serve as a distraction if we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. A good example of this would be creativity, painting, writing as a form of expression to literally get something, or an emotion, out of our system in our journey of healing and realignment.
Imperfect We are all imperfect, striving for perfections is not healthy. What is perfect anyway? There is always room for improvement with imperfection and that makes everyday life interesting for all of us. Let us try out acceptance around our imperfections and I know you will find that you will feel less stressed when setting out accomplishing your goals and everyday tasks,
Look after Yourself. Selfcare is so very important and should be your priority. Develop an awareness regarding your feelings, needs and desires. Make a conscious effort to engage in activities you enjoy that enhance your wellbeing. Exercise regularly and eat well. When we feel fit and nourished, it gives us feelings of joy and happiness. Taking care of yourself will help to keep a healthy balance of your mind, body and soul and this, in turn, will help you to deal with situations that will arise in your life that require resilience.
Invest in Yourself. Try something new. Tap into your natural talents and abilities. Place more focus on yourself. Take the time out to make the necessary changes in your life for betterment. Invest time and energy on our own personal development.
Engagement Interaction and development of good strong relationships is important. We all need support from time to time and it is important that this is reciprocal too. Accepting help and support from other people who care about you and will listen to you, strengthens resilience.
Needs & Desires Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Simplyspsychology.org, 2020). It is a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted in a pyramid according to prioritisation of needs. The bottom layer of basic needs must be met in order to be able to move up the pyramid to have our psychological & self-fulfilment needs met.
Compassion Starts with the self. Show yourself compassion daily. This is a good habit to form as part of your selfcare routine. I feel many people are very hard on themselves. Instead of listening to that inner critic that is developed early on in life, bring yourself back to the here and now. Become more aware of your surroundings and environment as part of a grounding tool/technique. It takes some practice and awareness to get to the space whereby you will be more forgiving and kinder to yourself. Treating others with compassion can seem much easier to do than on ourselves. Try being compassionate to yourself, thus helping you to build up resilience.
Exercise Kindness and Gratitude It is such a lovely uplifting habit. Showing kindness and expressions of gratitude are positive and beneficial attributes to our wellbeing. Something as simple as noticing things to be grateful for in our own lives, regardless of how significant or insignificant they may ordinarily seem. Also, showing kindness to ourselves and others has its rewards as it enhances our sense of wellbeing and reminds us of how important we are. We are simply enough! Realisation around this will strengthen our self-esteem as we are honouring our own personal truth.
In conclusion, I feel that the pressures put on us through expectations of modern society can take its toll on our wellbeing. As I am writing this chapter, we are currently amid a global COVID-19 pandemic which has forced many of us to slow down. I have certainly been given time to re-evaluate my life and priorities. I have come to realise that self-belief or trust in one self is of the utmost importance as it helps us to feel confidence around our decision-making and every day thought processes. Having the courage to be imperfect is a good starting point. It is ok to make mistakes and to treat them as learning curves. The important thing is to not dwell on such mistakes and to move onwards from them. We have power of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Taking ownership of our actions and thought processes is very doable. We have the innate capacity, to decide whether or not to embrace other people’s words or opinions about us. I know we can become easily triggered by another, but we can choose not to react or believe them. We can let it go and move on.
The following are a few key strategies millennials can use to build and maintain their resilience and wellbeing
Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in a trying situation
Do you tend to think negatively or catastrophise? If so, try to change the language around that, for example, “I can get through this” or “I have the inner strength to solve this issue”. Some situations will be more difficult than others, but having a positive mindset leads to coping and thinking more logically around the situation. Notice your ability to cope and feelings around dealing with such issues or situations. According to Karas (2015) ‘Human beings are resilient and have the capacity for healing after traumatic life experiences. We define resilience as the ability to identify and use individual and collective strengths to live fully in the present moment and to thrive while managing the tasks for daily living.
Make selfcare a priority, look after yourself and your wellbeing every single day. Try to maintain a positive mindset through perspective, think positively and try to distance yourself from negative people and environments.
Look after your self-esteem by refraining from comparisons of any nature. Become aware of your achievements, safe in the knowledge that you are good enough. This will help build resilience. Take care of your emotional intelligence.
If you encounter setbacks and or difficult situations, decide to view them as temporary. Remind yourself that you are resilient, and this too shall pass.
Always choose your response carefully, think before you speak or react. We are responsible for our own behaviours and actions. Make the right choice for you.
Take care of your body. Exercise daily, as keeping fit has so many physical benefits, as well as contributing to maintaining good mental health and maintaining resilience. Sleep and rest are of equal importance as the body needs to recharge in order to function at its fully capacity. Sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of stress. it also has negative effects on mood, concentration and cognitive function.
Mindfulness is a fantastic way to wind down and ground yourself. This can be achieved through meditation, spiritual practices and gentle forms of exercise such as yoga. This will help to build a positive mindset and train a person on ways to remain calm when faced with a difficult situation. Learning grounding tools are very beneficial and can used throughout a lifetime.
Aten, J et al, (2020) https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/basics/resilience 2020 [Accessed 10 July 2020]
https://spunout.ie/health/article/pmh-resilience-and-mental-health June 13th, 2017 [Accessed 02 July 2020]
Hanson, R., (2018), Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. Harmony Books NY
Millar-Karas, E, (2015), Building Resilience to Trauma: The Trauma and Community Resiliency Models Routledge: NY
McLeod, S Maslow’s hierarchy of needs www.simplypsychology.org [Accessed 11 June 2020]
Tolle, E, (2003), Stillness speaks, Namaste Publishing: Canada
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.
https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html March 20, 2020
*From the book, Mental Health For Millennials Vol 4 ‘On Wellbeing’. Galway: Book Hub Publishing (2020). pp.59-66. Copyright Jocelyn Cunningham.