During the first months of the pandemic, I was listening to a podcast about how business owners in New York were handling the closing of their businesses due to the COVID-19 virus. One particular comment by a pub owner really struck me. Tuuna said “We’re been tested before and this is a test. We’ll take it day by day and if you feel if you are paralysed and feel that you cannot do anything about the situation you are in, if you can’t take that first step, try to lift your foot and if you can’t lift that foot then wiggle your toe and we’ll get through it.” She explained that the tragedy of 9/11 taught New Yorkers resilience and they are utilising this skill in this newfound situation.
In fact, most if not all people have experienced some type of hardship in their lives that they can learn from. It made me wonder about the strength of resilience and how we can teach it to one another.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back and recover from difficult situations. Highly resilient people are able to find ways of coping and do not let a traumatic or challenging event from overcoming them. The following are some tips to build your resilience:
Build your friendship group and seek support in friends and family when things get tough – Having a wider friendship group means having a larger support network. When things become too much, avoid keeping it all bottled up and share your difficulties with loved ones. Sharing your struggles will support you to share the burden and even allow you the opportunity of seeing your difficulty from a different perspective. Be grateful for the support you receive and practice compassion and empathy in return.
Change your narrative and practice self-compassion – Going through a challenging experience can leave us feeling alone, as if the world is against us. Acknowledge the pain and suffering that the experience left you with, but also reflect on the fact that you did what you possibly could in that specific moment in time. You did your best in a tough situation; in that moment you did the best that you could, and that’s ok.
Learn from your mistakes and identify how this experience can support you in future situations – Take the time to reflect on past “failures” and identify how you could have gone about it differently. Then practice this different approach. Remember, different situations might need different approaches, so flexibility is also important and having to start from scratch or rethink your position is ok.
Focus on what is in your control – You may not be in control of what happens around you, but you can choose how you respond. In order not to get overwhelmed, identify what you are in control over and focus on that, no matter how small. This will help you develop a stronger sense of what you can do, no matter how dire the situation is, and eventually build your self-confidence.
Practice being in the moment – When we look into the past, we can be filled with regret or focus on things that went wrong. It’s too late to change the past and we cannot know what will really happen in the future. The only moment we can be in with full awareness is now. Practice being present in the moment by taking the time to look around you, check in with yourself, how you’re feeling, what’s happening in your body right now. Taking care of yourself can help you identify when things are becoming too much and take action faster, thus reducing the possibility of things becoming too much.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Mind Tools. (n.d.). Developing resilience: Overcoming and growing from setbacks. Author. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/resilience.htm
Newman, K.M. (2016). Five science-backed strategies to build resilience. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_science_backed_strategies_to_build_resilience
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Resilience. Author. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience