American author Martha Beck argues that resilience comprises four qualities: honesty, humility, flexibility and patience.
It starts with an honest appraisal of our circumstances. In a pandemic, that might include a recognition that we’re in the vulnerable category and need to take sensible precautions in keeping with the circumstances.
Humility acknowledges that in real life we’re often not in control or looking terrific.
While many of us were brought up to pretend we’re on top of everything and to plaster over difficult emotions, a key step towards developing resilience is allowing ourselves to admit when we’re feeling stupid, lonely, lost, weak, sad, flat, worried, needy and so on.
Some people refuse to wear a face mask purely because they think it looks odd and they’ll feel silly.
Overcoming those emotional hurdles takes courage, but it’s a skill worth developing, along with a willingness to seek help when we need it.
Flexibility is about adapting. A good metaphor might be bending like a sapling in the wind.
When we’re flexible we allow ourselves to absorb what’s going on, then respond, rather than reacting with anger, denial, drama or rigidity.
Finally, there’s patience, and this year has taken that in spades for many people. Even if we’ve avoided long periods of lockdown, we’re over the endless news updates, the political squabbling and not seeing the special people in our lives.
The truth is that no one knows what the future looks like and waiting for life to return to ‘normal’ is pointless. Our challenge is to make the most of it as it is.
There are things that can help. For example, learning something new keeps us engaged, gives us a challenge, and helps train us to deal with uncertainty.
Being in nature is calming and reinvigorates our sense of wonder.
And exercise triggers a release of chemicals in our brain, gut and spinal cord that boost our mental health.
Life has a habit of throwing curve balls, and not only in the form of a wildly infectious virus. Bad news from the doctor, a family that doesn’t behave the way we think they should, so many things can put us on the back foot.
But looking at difficult circumstances through the prism of honesty, humility, flexibility and patience is a useful tool for teaching us how to bounce back. From anything.
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