Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors”. Other sources define it as “the ability to recognize and acknowledge that a situation has become difficult or painful and choose a response that leads to growth”. So it’s less about reducing stress and more about improving our ability to bounce back after. If we have learned anything from 2020, it’s that we can’t control everything. As a meditation & breathwork teacher, this is exactly what I work on with my students- we can’t eliminate stress from our lives but we can learn to adapt and RISE from it.
As a thank you for reading this blog post, please feel free to use my discount code- “SAM” for a discount on your Cured Nutrition products!
Before we get into how to improve your stress resilience, let’s talk about what might be getting in your way first…
COMMON BLOCKS TO YOUR MOST RESILIENT SELF
- Perfectionism: This is a biggy. If we are too afraid to mess up, we never give ourselves the chance to fail and grow from it. Raphael Rose, a stress resilience researcher with UCLA and NASA, says “Not only is failure an option but it’s necessary to build resilience”.
- Avoidance: Avoiding the issue will only make things worse. Not only does it rob you of the opportunity for growth but avoiding stressful thoughts hijacks the brain and makes it impossible to think of anything else. Try not to think of a penguin. Did you think of one? Thought so… Trying to avoid a stressor only makes your brain think about it more.
HOW TO BECOME RESILIENT
- Embrace challenges and new opportunities: This is your chance for massive growth as well as meaningful experiences and connections. Either you achieve your goals (yay!) or you fail/make mistakes and have the opportunity to learn to rebound from stress and build resilience (yay again!). It’s a win-win situation.
- Be compassionate to yourself: When you make mistakes, instead of beating yourself up, show yourself compassion and grace. Being mean to yourself only makes you feel worse which makes you more likely to doubt yourself and less likely to try again. Loving-Kindness Meditations are wonderful way to embrace compassion for yourself and others.
- Exercise: Exercise is an incredible microcosm of the stress resilience process. Not only can it help you manage emotions and improve cognitive function but it puts the body through the process of stressor > recovery > growth, aka the same cycle as life stressors and stress resilience.
- Embrace the “5 pillars of Resilience”: By focusing on these 5 areas, you strengthen your ability to be resilient in the face of stress.
THE 5 PILLARS OF RESILIENCE
- Self Awareness: The ability to have a clear perception of your personality including your strengths, weakness, thought patterns, beliefs, emotions, and what motivates you. Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident, more creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. Mindfulness-based awareness, a meditation technique I teach my students, is incredibly beneficial for this process of self-discovery.
- Mindfulness: The state of actively being in the present moment. Allowing yourself to be with your thoughts and feelings without attachment or judgment. Not only does this improve your self-awareness but it prevents you from avoiding the stressor and numbing out. Instead, you see the challenge clearly and decide to grow from it. Mindful activities like meditation, journaling, yoga, and prayer are extremely beneficial here. These practices help us to connect (to ourselves and greater powers) on a deeper level, cultivating hope and faith which strengthen our ability to cope with stressful situations and improve our resilience.
- Self Care: Self-care is crucial for mental AND physical health which affects resilience. Stress is equally mental and physical— stressors can look like an argument with a spouse but eating inflammatory foods is also a stressor on the body. The effects of stress are also mental AND physical— leading to anxiety and worry but also lowered immune function, cardiac issues, and poor memory.
***Quick tip: If you find you breathe primarily into your chest rather than your belly (your abdomen doesn’t rise on your inhales), you are likely in a chronically stressed state.
You can’t pour from an empty cup and you can’t drive a car that the tank is empty. Healthy lifestyle habits like proper nutrition, hydration, high-quality sleep, regular exercise, and supplementation (especially with functional mushrooms and adaptogens) can strengthen the body’s ability to adapt to stressors of all kinds.
- Positive Relationships: Connecting with empathetic people who “get you” can remind you that you are not alone. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, this will support your resilience. We as human beings like to think we can do it all on our own but we weren’t meant to— we are tribal creatures by nature, and there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, getting support is one of the strongest and most honorable things you can do.
- Purpose: Pursuing purpose reminds us that we are serving and affecting something much bigger than ourselves. A few mantra that are helpful to remind yourself: you are important, you are necessary, and you are here for a reason. Once you realize and embrace that, you become far more motivated to pursue your goals, even if it means failing then trying over and over again. Additionally, pursuing your purpose involves coming from a place of service and service is one of the highest vibration emotions there is, along with love and gratitude, which will position you even better for success and resilience.
You see, it’s not about avoiding stress or trying to have a perfect life, it’s about embracing every obstacle life throws at you as an opportunity to RISE up. So don’t let fear hold you back, visualize your dreams and go after them! If you need help doing so, join me for a visualization meditation on Cured’s Instagram Page on Wednesday, January 13th at 9 am PST/12 pm EST. We will walk through a daily practice you can do to help pursue your dreams even when challenges arise.
Written by Samantha MacFarlane, founder of Spoonful of Sam
Sam is committed to redefining wellness and empowering people to live their best life by taking a truly holistic approach to their health. Connect with Sam on Instagram @spoonful_of_sam where she shares *spoonfuls* of easy to ~digest~ information on all things meditation, breathwork, nutrition, nontoxic living, mental health, & more.