"You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
We have learned so much about the need to cultivate resilience after living through a pandemic for more than a year. In these challenging times, many of us have experienced more anxiety and stress than in any time in recent history. We have felt fearful about our own health and the health of our loved ones. We have experienced profound loss and grief as our lives have been upended. Being at home more has highlighted the tension of living together and blurred the boundaries of work and life responsibilities leaving us feeling even more stress. While we are all experiencing this collective crisis, we may also be experiencing our own personal life transitions and difficulties. Many of us may be feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as a result and in desperate need of self-nurturing.
Since we do not have a clear sense of when the pandemic will be over or what our new normal will look like we need to find new ways to manage our stress and cultivate resilience. Choosing to focus our attention and intention on what we can control is a wise choice that empowers us to “learn to surf” when we cannot control the waves. Choosing to intentionally cultivate our ability to bounce back from difficult experiences and develop a reserve to draw upon will support us in feeling confident, grounded, and hopeful. In truth cultivating resilience will allow us to thrive even in a pandemic and create ripples of hope and inspiration in the world.
Here are three ways to cultivate resilience to thrive:
- Cultivate Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is one of the most powerful self-nurturing tools to cultivate resilience. Learning to treat ourselves like our own best friend is healing and nurturing. When we respond to ourselves with self-compassion, we are able to transform our shame about making a mistake or having a setback and recognize that we made a mistake but are not a mistake. Being understanding and compassionate with ourselves allows us to bounce back more quickly and focus on what we can learn from the challenge, rather than getting stuck in self-pity and despair. When we shift from shame to self-compassion, we are empowered to recognize new choices we can make and grow from difficult experiences.
Choosing self-compassion is also critical because shame and a sense of unworthiness can prevent us from consistently nurturing ourselves, leading us to feel chronically stressed and overwhelmed rather than resilient. Choosing to respond to ourselves with self-compassion is a transformational act of acceptance and love. As Christopher Germer reminds us, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
- Nurture a Growth Mindset
Understanding and embracing a growth mindset is critical to empowering ourselves, decreasing our stress, and cultivating resilience. Carol Dweck a growth mindset expert said "In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work - brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
In Dweck’s research she found that people with a fixed mindset - believing they were born with their talent and intelligence - were more judgmental and critical of themselves and would not push themselves outside their comfort zone thinking they were not intelligent or talented enough. Over time those individuals did not challenge themselves to learn more and stopped growing, which reinforced their original belief about themselves.
People with a growth mindset, however, believe that talent and intelligence are not a gift and can be developed with effort and new strategies. As a result, people with a growth mindset were more likely to take on new challenges, be more resilient in face of setbacks, and learn more. Choosing a growth mindset empowers you to not give up and to find new ways to address challenges, making you infinitely more resilient!
- Acknowledge Yourself and Your Growth
Another way to reinforce your sense of resilience is to acknowledge your effort and your growth. This practice focuses your attention on what you did well, the progress you made, and what you learned in the process. When we acknowledge all our effort both large and small, our motivation is fueled, and our confidence grows. Focusing on your growth also reinforces the resilient, compassionate, growth mindset mantra “progress not perfection” and provides you evidence of your progress.
Journaling is a wonderful self-nurturing practice to capture your growth. A recent study found that spending 5-10 minutes each day writing about things that “went well” and “why” resulted in lower stress levels and people’s mental and physical health complaints decreasing. In addition, when we acknowledge what we are grateful for in our lives, recognize our accomplishments, identify our growth and blessings, and celebrate the joy we have experienced, we rewire our brain to focus on what is going well in our lives which provides intrinsic motivation to keep moving forward.
As the remarkable Anne Frank wrote, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Cultivating resilience allows us to bounce back from difficult experiences and feel more empowered and confident. Recognizing that we are stronger and wiser because we overcame our challenges is the hallmark of resiliency. Since we are likely to experience more challenges in our lifetime, cultivating resilience is a wise and empowering choice. Embracing the self-nurturing practices of cultivating self-compassion, nurturing a growth mindset, and acknowledging ourselves and our growth are three excellent strategies to begin the process.
May you be inspired to cultivate more resilience to thrive as you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!
Sending you peace, love and gratitude!
Kelley Grimes, MSW