This year has been really challenging for most of us. It seems like one bad thing after another keep happening. Sometimes it can feel difficult, but we need to keep going. What can we do to cope and keep going strong? How can we carry on in the face of so many tough situations? Today I want to share with you ways that we can not only survive hard times, but even thrive!
Resilience can be defined as the capacity to recover from difficulties quickly. It’s basically mental toughness, and right now, I think that’s something we all need. The good news is that we can cultivate resilience by taking intentional actions and building habits that make us stronger. We can then use these difficult situations to learn and grow from, so that we can become more resilient and overall better people. And importantly, having resilience protects us from mental health issues like anxiety or depression. So, let’s get into how we can do that!
There are five major areas that can help us build resilience: community, staying present, avoiding rumination, doing regular check ins with yourself, and being intentional with how you spend your time. Consider sharing your reflections on this post with your loved ones so they know how to help you on bad days!
1. Build your community
Having a community to support you is a major predictor of good outcomes for your mental health. If you have friends and family members who you can count on for help and support, that’s great! But don’t worry if that’s not true for you right now. There are also local communities, which you can look for online based on your interests. You can also find online communities, on social media or otherwise. You could also look into finding themed communities online or locally. One example is Black Tech Pipeline, which is a platform for black technologists. You might also have a community with the people you work or volunteer with. It’s important to make connections with people that you relate to, so everyone can cope with what comes their way!
2. Stay present
Living in the present moment instead of worrying about the past or future is one of the most important tools we can have. In the present moment, you have only what is around you to think about, like the sky outside, the pattern of wood grain on your table, or the sound of the rain against your windows. Easier said than done, right? Don’t worry, I have some ideas for activities that might help, like diaphragmatic breathing and my guide to mindfulness apps.
The good news is that if you learn how to cope and practice that exercise enough, you can change the way your brain works. So in a future difficult situation, your mind or body might engage you in your coping mechanisms before you get too stressed or even notice something is going on. If you’re having trouble with any of this, consider finding a therapist. You don’t have to do this alone!
3. Avoid rumination
Rumination is when we continually think the same sad or negative thoughts over and over again. We want to avoid over thinking about something really traumatic from our past, because sometimes this can get even worse or more traumatic the more that we think about it. So instead we need to find healthy ways to cope with that trauma. You can engage in activities that you enjoy or help distract you, like baking or taking a walk.
And the more you notice that you’re ruminating, the more you can understand your patterns. Maybe every time you start thinking about that one time you got rejected, you start feeling depressed and maybe you’ll have a stomachache. It’s important to know your patterns so you can start attaching healthier behaviors to that trigger. You can think of this as hacking your habit formation. When you think of that rejection, maybe your new trigger could be practicing gratitude. Sometimes we need time to be sad or upset, and that’s OK, but a lot of times it would be more helpful to get out and do something that brings you joy.
4. Check in with yourself regularly
You can’t be on your “A” game every single day. Some nights you won’t have gotten good sleep, and you might not feel like you can cope with your day ahead. That’s normal. So if we check in with ourselves often about how our minds and bodies are feeling, we can decide what we can get done that day. Sometimes we have all these things on our agenda, and we get in the mindset of “I have to do everything on this list perfectly”.
Some days you might be able to get everything done easily, but other times you are actively fighting against yourself all day long. Ask yourself, is there something else that you can be doing that’s worthwhile? Is there anything that could bring you joy or comfort, so that tomorrow you can come back and do those things on the list? You can try journaling each morning about how you’re feeling, or try doing body scans. Try creating a daily routine, then reflecting on how you felt throughout the day- did this work for you? Do you need to make some changes? Be flexible and kind with yourself whenever possible.
5. Be intentional about how you spend your time
You might have a lot of time now that you have gotten rid of your rumination and living in the past or future! Try using that time for engaging in activities that give you a sense of joy. You can try activities that make you feel productive and proud of yourself, like cleaning your room or taking a shower. We can often feel very out of control when we’re in difficult situations, so doing activities that make you feel in control are really important! We have to find ways that we can take care of ourselves, even if we’re still in isolation from the pandemic.
2020 has been a tough year, but we can get through it if we use these five tips to help us cope. You got this! Comment below with any any ideas for joyful activities we can do, or great communities for finding support. And please share this post with friends or family members who are also potentially struggling through these times. Add me on social media to be my friend: you can find me as Coding Blonde.
And for anyone out there struggling with this year, consider saving this information for crisis situations:
- Call 911 if you are having serious thoughts of suicide or go to the nearest emergency room.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Look up your state’s “warmline”, which is for less intense crises and simply gives you a caring person to talk to.