The COVID pandemic, although in the last stretches of its reign, hopefully, tested our resilience, in an unprecedented global level. Through this experience, most of us used different ways to become resilient amidst this challenging era we called “the new normal”. What resilience techniques can we use in this ever-changing world so that we can push-through and triumph over personal and global challenges like recession, wars, pandemics and other threats to our well-being?
Having something to look forward to
I learned this technique a few years ago based on interviews I did among my colleagues at work. That’s during one of the phases in my working life when I felt lost and depressed due to my uncertainties about career and some of my life choices at that time. One of my coworkers said that to combat her depression or sadness, she always makes sure that she has at least one thing she can look forward to. When I heard this, it stuck in my mind and it has since become an effective mental tool to keep my sanity and which helped me through the toughest times of my life.
Remembering past successes
Remembering past successes helps us focus on our “blessings”. This reframes our difficulties as we try to view them within the backdrop of other things which have happened to us, including the good and positive things. For example, we had a bad day at work, but then we just received a promotion recently, that context can lessen the blow of the bad emotion since we are looking at the situation from a broader perspective. Having this mindset also somehow serves as our regular “feel-good” fix amidst the sea of daily challenges and stressors.
Remember what you want
This is somehow similar to the prior item but more forward-looking. Focusing on our goals not only brings us back to what matters to us, it can also remind us of the things that make us excited. For example, when we are feeling down because we encountered a seemingly insurmountable blocker to one of our goals, thinking about our “why” can be a valuable energy boost which can get us back on track.
This item can still be applicable to you even if you are not a very religious person. The idea here is basically reaching out and going back to our spirituality. Even if you are an atheist, you can think of this as the practice of remembering our deeper connection with the universe and revisiting the central driving force in our life, be they about a certain philosophy, idea, or mantra which have helped us live a more meaningful life.
Go back to recurring habits
Order and routine can be valuable tools in making sense of our lives amidst the chaos that happens in the world. This also applies to structuring our beliefs and learnings as much as having a well-structured schedule or calendar, or a well-organized workspace or bedroom. A sense of order can be our anchor when tumultuous times arrive. It gives us a baseline to “return” to instead of just going through life without some sense of pattern or rule.
Get-better(challenges are opportunities to get better)
Changing our mindset on how we view challenges has been proven by psychologists through various studies as one of the most effective mental tools we can employ to have a more resilient disposition. This is also true from a physiological standpoint as discussed in the book, The Telomere Effect, wherein, it’s been found that how we view stressful events affect the way our cells and telomeres react to those stressful events. Viewing stress as “challenges” lessens the chromosome damage it can cause when compared to data in the control group, or those who were not instructed to employ the “challenge” mindset.
The best analogy here is a ship. The way huge ships are designed is that they are subdivided into several compartments. Partly, this is to segregate different areas of the ship, like where the engines would be, the sleeping quarters, equipments, electrical rooms, etc., but another purpose this serves is that if the ship gets damaged and holes are formed, seawater would not sink the ship as fast as it would a non-compartmentalized structure. Think of your life as the ship and the different aspects and priorities you have as the compartments, for example, health, finance, relationships, career, etc. If you have a problem with your financial situation, it doesn’t mean your entire existence is suddenly thrown into this uncontrollable chaos. Why? Because you still have your health, you still have your family and friends, you still have your faith or your philosophy to carry you through. This is what it means when you have a compartmentalized life. One area going wrong does not automatically mean everything is going wrong.
Worst-It could have been worst
This can also be explained via the cognitive bias called the Absence Bias. Some people would call it by its opposite: The Presence Bias. We tend to only notice the things that are there, of course, duh? But what this means is that we often fail to notice the things that aren’t in our lives, at least not directly: war, famine, sickness, accidents, calamities. We do notice the heavy traffic on our way to the office though, or how we spilled coffee onto our favorite shirt, or how our child had a bout of tantrums this morning, or how our boss called us out due to a missed deadline. Yes, these could ruin a good day or week, but they could have been worst! Our house could have been burned to the ground, we could have been fired from our jobs, we could have been in a serious accident, but we didn’t. Framing a bad situation from this perspective has helped me countless of times and has made life more bearable during challenging times.