Ten Ways to Strengthen Resiliency

  • By Andrée Beauchamp
  • 26 Sep, 2017

My daughter has left for University.  After 18 years of being rooted raising Misia, I  feel as though i have lost my anchor,  without my daughter to hold, and be held by in times of loving kindness & vulnerability.  This feels both extraordinary and scary. I began reaching, looking for something to ground me. Resiliency announced itself, as i hugged my favorite oak, cultivate resiliency, as a tool to be held and support by, in these times of change and uncertainty.

Resiliency requires being able to bounce back, to adapt, to go with the flow and cope with challenging times or adversity, while all the while being calm and focused and grounded. What can we do, to become more resilient in times like these?

Strengthen our resiliency muscle. Building resiliency is like building a muscle that can be strengthened at every opportunity. Children and adults alike, can strengthen this muscle by working with, and handling stress. Healthy stress builds our capacity for resiliency.

During times of stress, the body goes through a number of changes utilizing the sympathetic nervous response to make us faster, stronger and more alert. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure increases, and our adrenaline and cortisol surge. Over a shorter period of time this works well, however over the long stretch too much stress leaves cortisol running rampant, emotions riding high, impulses unregulated, and inflammation ongoing.  

When the sympathetic nervous system is left on, our immune system weakens, our energy levels plummet, and the feelings of anxiety and depression rise.  Science has now proven 80% of illnesses are caused by stress. What can we do to prevent this?

Our executive functions are controlled by the pre-frontal cortex and involve attention, problem solving, impulse control, and the regulation of emotions. Resilience is related to the capacity to activate the pre-frontal cortex and to calm the amygdala, (the part of the brain that initiates the stress in the first place.) When the amygdala is calmed, through mindfulness, the physiological changes reverse, expanding the capacity to recover from and adapt to, or find a solution for, the present challenge or adversity. 

Here are 10 ways to strengthen your resiliency

1. Build loving and respectful relationships. People really just want to be loved and feel loved. People build resiliency when, there are a number of strong and caring role models to encourage us, which also include mentors, teachers, coaches and friends.

 2. Practice Optimism. There is no better way to strengthen a sense of resiliency than to practice being positive. Utilize a strong witness to notice negativity and change our attitude for something more optimistic.

3. Studies show that people who are capable of accepting their reality and who can take responsibility for their situation are far more likely to overcome their difficulties, and succeed than those who cannot. This includes a capacity to make realistic plans and carry them out.

4. Develop tools to take decisive actions during times of stress to help us through them.

5. Understand our strengths and abilities. Develop skills in communication and problem solving and learn to manage strong feelings and impulses as they arise.

6. Reframe our perceptions to find positive changes out of adversity. Avoid blowing things out of proportion to better ride the waves of difficulty.

7. Practice self care, with mindfulness training, daily movement, optimal nutrition and forms of relaxation, meditation and play time.

8.  Creative play. Learn to Improvise. Improvisation has been shown to support strong resiliency muscles during times of adversity.

9. Studies amongst a group of military commanders show, those who demonstrate high levels of gratitude, thrive.

10. Cultivating a deeper sense of resiliency, requires having strongly held values, with beliefs that our lives are meaningful, and that we have a sense of purpose in life.

Matzu-kazi is a kata,(a set of self defense techniques against an imaginary opponent) that I continuously  practiced in preparation for my black belt test, and means "wind in the pines."  I also look to the support of trees when I seek resiliency.  Healthy trees are both rooted and flexible and capable of bouncing back during all kinds of conditions. Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a medical botanist and passionate about trees. Diana shares In her film, The Call of the Forest  ~A Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, that trees emit chemical aerosols, like pinenes and limonenes, that trigger our relaxation response.  Hug a tree today to support your deepest sense of resiliency.  Hug yourself.  Hug  another.  Hug humanity. OM.

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