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.

Mind The G a p

By Dr. Carlos Salazar

You look around a mildly packed compartment riding the Piccadilly line to Arsenal, unsure if the stale, sour odor of one too many pints and kabobs is native to the cart, or hitching a ride on someone’s coat. In either case, your nose wrinkles at the slight affront to its senses. The train comes to a slowing halt, a squeal of the brakes ringing through the cabin as your momentum arrests, but not before being slightly jostled in the reverse direction. The doors open and the scent redoubles its efforts on your nose with a warm whoosh of air, now carrying the smell of slightly damp concrete. What was once a nuisance is now a foul insult. Seems everyone had too good a night. As you step from the train into Arsenal Station, careful not to step in a puddle of… well, you’d rather not guess, you see the famous words on the floor: MIND THE GAP. Finally, you step up the stairs, grateful for a breath of fresh air.

Take a second before we go over what all this has to do with mental wellbeing, and think about any reactions you just had.

Maybe you shrank back a bit at the smells. Or you identified with the physical feeling of coming to a stop in a train cart. Maybe the sounds connected with you. Whatever it may have been, chances are you put yourself in a London Underground cart as best you could. If I did this right, you had a genuinely disgusted reaction. Let’s focus on that. Did your stomach drop or flip a little? How about your salivation, does your mouth feel a little drier than it did before? Yes? Why? “Well that story was gross!” Ok, yes. But. Why? Where are your feet right now? This particular Underground ride never happened, none of us were there. It wasn’t real. Really think about that. Your mouth dried up because for a few seconds, your mental environment was more real than wherever you may be now.

You see, we tend to prioritize what happens in our mind over what is actually happening in real time. This has been a boon to our survival as a species. No other animal can “what if” their way through a problem. But do you mind the gap? How many times have you acted out in anger? Or been so happy, you splurged on something? Been so sad that you cancelled all your plans for the day, or the week?

You didn’t mind the gap! It is worth repeating, your mental environment is more real than your physical one. If you experienced a reaction from the brief exercise above, imagine what you do to yourself from hours of worrying and ruminating day after day.

Austrian neuropsychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, is credited with this quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Noticing and connecting with that space is minding the gap! To be more precise, we are talking about being mindful of the gap between a stimulus, both external and internal, and our response. Dr. Frankl was being generous in calling our behavior a “response.” A response, to me, requires choice. If you are not mindful of the space, then I would say you react to a stimulus, not respond. A reaction is mindless, it’s when you set yourself to autopilot and fall back to base programming. And our base programming is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. When we mind the gap, we have the ability to acknowledge the situation as it is, acknowledge our own internal experience, and then choose how we want to respond. So, how do we mind the gap?


Wait. That thing where you breathe and pay attention to your breathing? Yes! I love mindfulness, but far too often mindfulness is given as the solution to helping cope with anxiety, depression, fear, that terrifying last minute when you’re pulling into your home and really, really need to use the bathroom.

Here’s the deal though, mindfulness is a means to an end, it is a vehicle, it is a tool, it is not the goal. Mindfulness exercises help you be more aware of the gap, so the next time you get upset, or start down the rabbit hole of “what ifs,” you are more likely to stop, pause, and consider how you would like to respond, instead of react to the situation.

So, how do you engage in mindfulness? 

The simplest exercise is to sit back and breathe. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest and shoulders. To the air coming in and out your nose and those pesky thoughts that interrupt you. Yes, really. Notice the thought, give it a second of attention and bring your attention back to your breathing. If anything, be happy that you noticed that thought! You can’t notice that you are distracted without being mindful, so every time you recognize you are distracted, you’re working out that mindfulness muscle. 

Practice this, do more challenging exercises and soon enough you will have built up the mental muscle memory to bring your attention back when you want to. Check back next time for a few resources for you to take advantage of and get your (mental) workout on. You can do this.

Just. Mind the gap.

Written by Dr. Carlos Salazar, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Salazar is a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology and currently resides in Georgia. When he’s not chasing around his young son; he enjoys traveling, cooking food from all over the world, and anything to do with cars. He also revels in mindful moments🧠, matcha lattes🍵, and is an amateur photographer📸.
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