Growing Resilience

By: Hannah Smith, M.S

Resilience is defined as the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress”-American Psychological Association. In these stressful times, resiliency can feel far away. Promoting resilience in your own life may look like:

  • Building Connections-Prioritizing your relationships and surrounding yourself with compassionate and empathetic people. Join a group at your place of worship, civic groups, or a local organization to fuel that connectedness to others.
  • Foster Wellness- Take care of your body through nutrition, prioritizing sleep, hydration, and regular exercise.
  • Find purpose- It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, but it’s also important to help foster self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If the problems seem too big to tackle, break them down into pieces.
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How we handle our stress now, will help us be more resilient in the future.

Stress. We’ve all experienced it in some capacity in our own lives. However, there are two distinct types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress are positive sources of stress such as awaiting a promotion, having children, a wedding, etc… Distress are negative sources of stress that enter your life such as a pandemic, loads of paperwork, a huge workload, etc…

With the current distress in our world, it is important to recognize it in order to avoid burnout.

Burnout is described as ““A syndrome of emotional exhaustion,

depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among

individuals who do people work.” (Maslach and Jackson, 1986, p. 1).

Symptoms of burnout are:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Irritability/Aggression
  • Physical/mental exhaustion
  • Problems in work relationships
  • Reduced work performance due to pessimism
  • Cynicism
  • Callousness
  • Hopelessness

Although feeling stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, there is hope.The coping strategies list can help you to avoid burnout by counteracting the effects of stress. The acknowledgment of your current stress levels is a good indicator to how your brain is responding to your environment. By creating a habit of positive coping skills, the less distress you may feel each day.

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Positive coping strategies may look different from person to person. It’s important to find ones that fit you.

‘Coping strategies’ has become a popular sentiment in many mental health circles. Some people confuse coping strategies with an automatic cure to their problems. However, coping strategies are ways that may help you to zero in on your strength, or the strength of a higher power, in order to combat the stress or problem(s) you are facing. Below are some easy coping strategies:

  • Practice Mindfulness- Try to create a habit of mindfulness each day by intentionally quieting your mind for a few minutes each day. Self-guided meditations are available on YouTube or check out the app list below.
  • Keep Things in Perspective- How you think affects how you feel. By re-evaluating your thoughts, you may change the way you see a certain situation or issue.
  • Learn to say no- Saying ‘no’ to prioritize your self care may not be a natural thing to you. Practice saying no in order to form healthy boundaries in your life.
  • Remaining hopeful- It’s hard to remain hopeful when life isn’t going how you planned. Try to visualize what you want or write it down as a goal that you can reach with small efforts everyday. Expect that good things are going to happen, good things are coming your way.
  • Sleep, exercise, and nutrition- The triple threat. By taking time to feed your body what it needs, it can be better equipped to respond to high levels of stress.
  • Do an activity you enjoy- Make time during your week to be fully present in an activity that you like. This can be anything from reading a book, playing or listening to music, visiting with friends, journaling, or anything else that is a positive outlet for you.
  • Reach out! If you feel that you are unable to cope or just need someone to listen, please reach out to your school counselors, administrators, or a trusted person in your life.
  • Smart Phone Apps for Wellness- WYSA, Calm Fear, Action for Happiness, Iona-Mind Guided Self Care, Calm App, Headspace for Educators, Mindfulness Coach, and Simple Habit.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence
*Trigger warning for depression, negative self talk, and narcissism abuse

I’ll never forget the day I walked into my room, and my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. As a twenty-something, and just like most twenty-somethings, I had a plan, a vision, a picture of what my life was supposed to be during this season. It wasn’t supposed to be me staring at my twin bed. I flicked my shoes off and tossed my things in a dusty corner as I collapsed onto my bed, sobbing. My sobs would turn into crying, my cries into screaming, my screams into silence.

There were many factors that lead up to this moment not just one, or two, but quite a few.
First, which is probably most typical I suppose, a long-term relationship had ended. One that I had invested so much of my time, effort, and emotions into…was done. I found myself put in a place with a major learning curve.

It was an experience I never imagined I would EVER find myself in or closely related to… having to rebuild myself in all aspects. I was sinking slowly, my feet being the first to disappear, keeping myself from taking the proper steps into healing and moving forward. I was in quicksand, continuing to sink.

grayscaled photography of person's hand spreading sand

 In this season of life I had fallen victim of verbal abuse, from someone that was supposed to be my “sidekick” “best-friend” “my plus 1”.  A developing pattern that happened slowly over time. Years, and years went by before I could identify, and acknowledge the pattern of mental abuse. Constantly being told what is “wrong” & “right”, having things being held over my head constantly, degraded, inferior, “don’t do this” or “don’t do that”, “grow-up”, “you’re so immature”, “get a life”, “you’re so dumb”, “get a clue”, “your parents think the same of you”, “you can never do anything right”, “you’re wearing that?”. . . I was compared to others, controlled, put into an imaginary box unable to step out, and be ME.   

There are many of you that can slap a label and connect the dots to this behavior. I can too! Narcissism can be icky, sticky, and tricky. Separating myself was the hardest, and not because of a broken heart. Sure, my heart was broken, but not because of “love”.  My self-esteem, confidence, personality, mental state… Everything a part of me was broken. The process of repairing myself was far different than the healing process of a healthy break-up. I had feelings of guilt, and shame. I felt unworthy. I felt disgusting, gross, ugly. . . I hated myself. I had fallen into a deep depression. I began to spiral into poor choices both socially and financially sinking deep into the quicksand that had taken over my life.

My only hope was my family, and friends. They were the ones who came to my rescue. I was given direction, and hope. I was given a hand to hold through this time of healing. It was in this time when I had a “Ah-Ha” moment of self-realization, and reflection of the importance of mental health, and wellness. I entered upon the realization that “It’s Okay Not To Be Okay”, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of Strength.

Emily Ann

Emily is a Registered Behavior Therapist that works with children on the Autism Spectrum. She is also in her last year of college and plans to graduate with a Bachelors in English Literature and History. When she’s not teaching kids to better themselves, she loves to explore new places and write about her experiences in her life. She’s inspired by fierce female protagonists such as in the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. She’s also a lover of all things coffee, pizza, and painting.

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