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Self-care habits to build your resilience

Published by: LifeWorks,


“Taking care of yourself,” writes the American Psychological Association, “helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.” Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, such as when you may be experiencing personal or family issues, a serious health concern, work stress, money worries, or other difficulties. It’s the ability to bounce back from challenges. One of the key ways to build resilience is to focus on self-care.

Here are some ways to take care of yourself to help build your resilience:

Make time for your closest relationships.

Strong ties—to family, friends, co-workers, and community groups—help you find the social and emotional support you need to bounce back from whatever life throws at you. Have dinner with your family. Carve out time to be with friends. Connect with co-workers—for coffee, lunch, or a walk. Spend extra time with your pet if you have one.

Talk about what you are going through with others.

Family, friends, and co-workers can be a lasting source of emotional support as well as “reality checks”. Even when the circumstances seem beyond your control, connecting with others who feel similarly can help form an important bond. Ideas on ways to manage, take action, or cope may arise from such bonds. Doing so will make you feel less alone.

Really prioritize exercise.

This is especially important during challenging times. Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise that makes you breathe harder on all or most days of the week. Whether it’s walking, swimming, biking, working out at the gym or at home with an exercise video, find a workout that you truly enjoy.

Follow a healthy diet and good sleep practices.

Avoid junk food and limit how much alcohol you drink; over time, it depletes your energy and resilience. Establish a bedtime routine and try to stick to it. It can be as simple as drinking a cup of herbal tea, turning off your electronic devices about an hour before you go to bed, or taking a bath and then turning out the lights at the same time every night. Try to unload what’s on your mind before you go to bed.

Reframe a difficult experience.

Reframing means changing the way you think or “talk” to yourself about a stressful event. Instead of saying “I will never get through this,” you might try a more positive and realistic thought such as, “I will get through this by using the techniques that have helped when I’ve had difficult experiences in the past. I will ask others for help and find strength in my community.”

Turn stressful situations into learning opportunities.

Try to identify these, so they can help you in the future. For example, if you are dealing with significant financial concerns, try to understand the things that contributed to your situation and what you could do in the future to avoid repeating the same mistakes (i.e. fewer credit cards, not carrying a balance, making a budget, etc.)

Learn from others who are role models of resilience.

Think about other people you know and admire who are resilient, whether they are public figures or people you may know in your personal or work life. What are some of the strategies you’ve noticed them using to deal with and stay strong through adversity? Think about how you could adapt and use some of those strategies in your own life.

Try to avoid catastrophic thinking.

Try to see your situation as temporary, no matter how difficult. Life tends to ebb and flows in ways that are impossible to predict. This view can help you gain perspective and maintain momentum to work through the current circumstance. During times of uncertainty, we often try to fill in the blanks. We may wonder “what if this happens” and imagine worst-case scenarios. While it is good to be prepared, it is rare that worst-case scenarios come true.

Give yourself a break from media.

When a national or world event is dominating the news, avoid over-exposure to media, especially if it is making you feel ineffective, anxious, or unable to have control of your life. Many media-worthy events can be presented in an exaggerated or false manner to attract attention. Unplug for part of each day from all your sources of media and news.

Keep your life simple.

Streamline your routines and set limits to protect your time. Plan simple meals. Resist signing up for too many activities or over-committing yourself. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. Make time for simple pleasures, such as watching the sunset, playing with your pet, or simply sitting and drinking a good cup of tea with someone you love.

Practice relaxation techniques.

Deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are four widely used relaxation techniques that can help improve mental and physical well-being. Try relaxation techniques from NHS in the UK, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the US, or Anxiety Canada.

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