We can enhance our capacity to be more resilient in the face of life’s small and great challenges. Resilience is a potential within all of us to rebound from stress and feelings of fear and overwhelm. I’ve always been impressed by people who can spring back from great difficulty, and over the years have explored ways to strengthen resilience in myself and others.
Here are some tools to help you cultivate resilience:
1. Access your resources
If you feel “off center,” you can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is engaged during times of rest and relaxation, by bringing awareness to your internal and external resources. Think about people, places, or, perhaps, fond memories that evoke feelings of ease and well-being in you. Take this in deeply for a minute or two, and your system will begin to calm and regulate itself.
2. Relax and accept
Practice relaxing your body-mind in response to stressful events. Start with small things first, like the long line at the checkout stand. Typically, our first reaction is to tense up, then, perhaps, become frustrated or agitated. Instead of that, you can actually start using stressful situations as triggers to do the opposite of what you would normally do. As soon as you enter the store and see the long lines, take three deep, long breaths, letting the exhalation be longer than the inhalation, which activates the PNS. Then, sense your feet and legs, and continue breathing from your abdomen. As you do this, gently remind yourself that this is what is so right now. The situation is what it is, and you can relax and accept it even if you don’t like it.
3. Be prepared
Before a potentially stressful event, take a few minutes to imagine that you are in the presence of someone who loves and supports you, someone you feel safe with. Take this in deeply in your whole body-mind. This imagery activates the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone of calm, trust, and safety. You are then less likely to have a strong reaction to the stressor.
4. Turn to your inner wisdom
Practice shifting attention from your thinking mind to your intuition as soon as you sense that a stress response may be triggered. Boundless wisdom is an aspect of who we are, and is available to us at all times. We need only turn toward it. Pose simple questions, such as: How shall I respond here? What do I need to see, or do, in this moment? What is right action for me now? How shall I handle this? The more that you turn to your wise knowing, the clearer your responses will be.