When you’re challenged by a personal crisis – whether at work, home or in your social circle – it’s normal to feel anxious, drained, stressed or even distressed. But allowing these feelings to take hold too long will take a toll on your overall health.
We talked with OhioHealth family medicine physician and our medical director of Provider and Associate Well-Being Laurie Hommema, MD, who shared how building resilience can help you cope with change and put emotions like these to rest.
Hommema says resilience looks different for everyone, but that it usually can be explained as:
- Whether or not we bounce back or break when we’re faced with a challenge.
- How we cope with the resources we have.
The importance of resilience
Facing crises, challenges and feeling overworked is common. Building resilience can help you take control of situations and feel recharged.
“Resilience is important because it helps us to move forward instead of being held back,” says Hommema. “No one wants to suffer, so when we build our resilience, we are also fighting burnout and building our tolerance for future instances.”
“Taking care of ourselves is the foundation of resilience,” says Hommema. “We must make sure we are eating nutritious meals, sleeping well, exercising, feeding our minds with positive thoughts, and taking time for ourselves.”
In order to thrive, we as humans need to do things that are productive and benefit us. Consider taking a short walk, engaging in a hobby, or meditating when taking time for yourself.
And be careful of your time spent watching the news or scrolling through social media.
“Lots of times, people think taking a break to scroll through social media or to watch the news is taking time for ourselves to recharge, but it’s not,” says Hommema. “This can actually lead to more anxiety.”
Another part of building resilience is allowing yourself the space to feel emotions. Don’t bottle them up. Instead, write how you are feeling down on paper or talk to someone. Greif is a common feeling during a crisis and as you move into your new normal, especially if you have suffered personal losses. Give yourself the time and space to process your feelings.
You can start building resilience by reflecting on your past few days. Keep a journal and record what you are feeling and when. This will help expose any patterns in your behavior. Be sure to note what you were doing at those times. Being aware of what makes you feel a certain way and why it makes you feel that way, as well as how you respond, will help you determine what to do about it.
Building resilience isn’t a one size fits all approach
Everyone has different needs and resources available to them. Some are further down the journey of reflection and more self-aware. Others may need more time.
Your environment plays a huge role in resilience, too. Those with more resources may find it easier to build resilience. Those with limited resources will have more strain and stress, and resilience may be more difficult to build. For example, someone who has a job may have an easier time building resilience than someone who has recently lost their job.
Making it a habit
In order to make resilience a habit, you must commit to yourself and make time for it every day.
“Even 10 to 20 minutes is beneficial,” says Hommema.
Be aware of when is the best time for you to practice resilience-building techniques.
“Look to when you are feeling more anxious, sluggish or tired, or find yourself mindlessly snacking, scrolling social media or less focused on tasks,” says Hommema. “This is your brain telling you that you need a break, and if you don’t give it one, it will find a way. I generally feel a slump around 3 p.m. This is typically when I practice resilience techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or taking a short walk.”
When you know your work is paying off
You’ll know when you are successful in building resilience when your emotions feel more manageable. You’ll have the coping mechanisms to deal with them and will bounce back quicker than you did before your resilience journey.
You’ll also be able to find new and creative solutions to solving your problems.
In general, you’ll have a more positive outlook. Being kind to yourself at this time is of upmost importance. As you process difficult emotions, you need to have compassion for yourself and recognize that you might not be a productive as usual. Refrain from judging yourself for this, and instead support yourself with self-care.
Recognize signs of distress in yourself and others, and call for help
Stress, worry and fear burden your health. These emotions can lead to sleep or eating challenges (too little or too much), difficulty concentrating, feelings of isolation, fighting or tension in relationships, unexplained aches and pains, thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, or drinking or smoking more than you should.
If you or someone you know is in distress, get help. The Ohio Department of Health recommends calling the National Disaster Distress Helpline at 1 (800) 985.5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746. The helpline is open 24/7.
Your employer may also have resources, such as an Employee Assistance program.