Over the last 12 months, with the impact from the covid pandemic still being felt, I thought I would explore the topic of how to maintain our resilience, during times of challenge.
The dictionary has two definitions for resilience:
- the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
- the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Both words – toughness and elasticity – can be applied to us! The human body is designed to be resilient; it changes and adapts to the environment in which we live fairly quickly. However, the longer a difficult situation continues, the harder it can be to bounce back, unless you prioritise your health and wellbeing for at least a small part each day or week. In this short article I include some of my top tips for maintaining resilience, which I hope can be of some help if you are feeling jaded, anxious or worn out.
Tip 1: Set time aside to re-group and recover
Having some dedicated “you” time, can help you to re-balance and re-energise. Creating a little pocket of time every day is ideal, but might not be practical for everyone, so find a few times each week.
But what is the ideal “you” time, for you? What is it that helps you to spring back into shape? What do you need to do, what can you currently do, to support yourself to recover from difficulties?
We are all unique, so what works for one will need to be different for another. Two activities that work for me personally, and also the guests here at the retreat, are yoga and meditation. In both of these “activities” we spend time in silence focusing on the present moment.
Walks in nature can also help, as can quality time alone and also quality time with others – a good chat with friend(s) can really make a difference.
In neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) they say there are two main types of people:
Whilst we might commonly think these words refer to our outward interaction with the world, here at the retreat we think about them as our preferred way of regaining our energy.
So, consider, do you prefer to spend time with others – does the interaction with other people (one or more) lift you up and give your energy a boost? If yes, then you could be considered an extrovert. My sister-in-law is a great example of someone who literally shines after spending time with others! Or, do you prefer to curl up in a chair with a book or a film, listening or playing music, doing art, sky-watching or other activity, usually on your own?
The flip way of looking at this is to consider if spending time with others in a big group leaves you feeling tired, then you might consider yourself as an introvert, for recovering your energy. If the thought of sat looking at the stars on your own, or other solo activity, leaves you feeling empty, then you might consider yourself more of an extrovert.
Usually, we are a combination of both (needing time alone and also time with others), however you might identify one side that appeals more to you than the other.
The cautionary note with this is that spending time with some people can lift us up, but spending time with others can drag us down. This is more about choosing who to spend your time with. I think all of us know someone who is a real moaner and no matter what happens they usually see (and share!) the downside of things. Know that you can choose to see this person or not – even if it is a family member. If you must see them, create a situation where you can manage it better for you, e.g. watch a film together, bring a friend to support you or aim to limit the time with them. John wrote a blog post about how to deal with negative people, in which he shares lots of tips and tools to use.
Tip 2: Eat good food
Eating healthy nutritious food and drink can help to maintain your immune system and the overall health of your body. This is a core part of the programme here at the retreat and it’s something that I know personally makes a huge difference to me.
When I’m feeling tired or worn out, the last thing I feel like doing is going into the kitchen to cook for hours, so instead might choose to buy a takeaway – it can feel like someone is looking after me. However, I know that most takeaway options available to me are not particularly healthy or nutritious. So, when I do feel like cooking, I make large batches and portion them up for freezing, giving me a home-made “takeaway” option for those times when I am tired and need a quick meal.
The balance part to this statement is knowing that, on occasions, a little bit of something special can act as a lovely pick-me-up, giving me time to re-group.
Tip 3: Practice your adaptability
One definition of health is the ability to adapt to change, according to Dr John Demartini, the human behavioural specialist.
Our cells, organs and indeed our whole body is always changing and adapting. When we eat something our digestive system has to respond and adapt to whatever it is that we consume – think of the different response our body has to alcohol or water. Our immune system needs to respond to “threats” all the time, be they a virus, bacteria, pollen or dust.
Being able to adapt to situations is a natural part of life, life is constantly changing. Saying that, if you feel you are constantly having to adapt, you might choose to create a situation where you can do the opposite, i.e. have some stability. Notice or create something that can be constant or similar each day or week. For example, having a similar routine for getting up or your morning activities can help to create some stability, if everything else around you feels like it is constantly changing.
Tip 4: Learn to choose your response to situations
One thing I learnt in Vipassana meditation is that we as human beings respond emotionally to things that happen on the outside and that, if you focus, you can identify the root of this response and interrupt it. Whilst we practice this in meditation, you can take this skill out into the world in real life. To me, this means I have a choice on how to respond to any given situation and it’s this choice and flexibility that helps build and maintain resilience.
If you think about driving up towards a set of traffic lights, we have a choice about how we respond when we see a red light:
- Hurray! A red light! I get chance to take a look around me and see what is going on – oooh look a lovely bird. What a stunning tree. Sing, smile, lightness.
- Oh <swear words> someone up there has really got it in for me, I´m going to be really late, change why don’t you! Fume, growl, steam rising.
- It’s just a red light, I´ll sit here for a minute and wait for it to change before continuing my journey. After all, it is a red light, there for my safety. Calm – no huge emotional response.
Which of the three responses do you think will drain your energy the most? Which is the most stable? (And which one do we think some self-help gurus tell us to do?!).
If you notice that you are responding very emotionally to everyday situations, it might be that you are overwhelmed, over-tired or need to rest and recover (try the earlier tips!). It might also be that you need to start to observe your response, to interrupt the knee-jerk reaction and choose to respond differently.
Tip 5: Be aware of and choose your thoughts
As we can monitor our responses and emotions, so too know that you can also be aware and choose your thoughts.
Meditation and mindfulness can help us to become aware of our thoughts. As we practice meditation, being the observer of thoughts as they arise, you start to notice and learn that you can choose to respond to a thought, or choose not to respond. Stopping the mind chatter, turning off the “awfulizing”, can help to maintain our resilience.
Over the past few months I have found myself getting into the habit of reaching for my phone to check the news before even getting out of bed. I realised that this was not a particularly healthy mental start to my day, so I’ve changed this habit. I’m not advocating ignoring the world, just choosing when to read about it all.
Tip 6: Get adequate rest
Poor sleep habits and a bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling not only tired, but grumpy, irritable and more anxious. This can seem like a downwards spiral. So, consider now, what helps you to get a good night’s sleep?
There are many useful techniques that can help us to unwind and get ready for a good sleep. Some of my personal favourites include listening to a Yoga Nidra or guided visualisation, and practicing Yin yoga. Other things like reading a good book, having a warm bath, not going to bed hungry, making sure you have a clean natural environment in which to sleep (clear out the clutter in your bedroom, clean bedding, comfy nightclothes etc) can also help. It’s about finding what works for you personally. I also suggest that you set one day a week to wake up naturally, without the alarm.
More tips to maintain resilience
There are lots more resources available on our health and wellbeing blog, including:
- If you are feeling burnt out, read our three steps on how to overcome burnout and get your energy back.
- Time alone can help every one of us to rejuvenate and re-energise. John discusses some useful tips in his article, how to overcome loneliness and enjoy your own company.
- Learn how to use your breathing to alleviate depression, anxiety and panic.
- John wrote a great article a while back about the essential ingredients to a healthy relationship. In it he shares some great tips, if you want to improve or maintain a relationship.
Come on a retreat
Taking time out for yourself on a retreat can help to build your resilience, as it allows you time to re-group. Here at La Crisalida, you can meet likeminded people, enjoying some time with a group, and there is also plenty of time and space for you to enjoy some time alone. All of the activities and our holistic programme is designed to help you to relax and rejuvenate. Read more about our life makeover retreats and relax and rejuvenate retreats.
I hope these tips help to maintain your resilience. Do let me know if you have any other useful tips! Lisa x
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).