We are living in times of great uncertainty and fear, which leads to heightened levels of anxiety. When confronted with uncertainty, we often seek out additional information — wanting answers that can’t be found, and this heightens the cycle of distraction and agitation.
This is where mindfulness is incredibly helpful. It allows us to recognise how we are feeling and then ask the question, ‘What would be most helpful now?’ We become better equipped to respond skillfully, rather than in an automatic way that often magnifies the challenge.
A commonly accepted way of understanding mindfulness is ‘present moment awareness, without judgement’. These qualities of being aware and non-judging underpin mindfulness and allow us to break unhelpful patterns with kindness and self-care.
This ability to pause and respond skilfully, rather than leaping in with an automatic reaction, is key. Research indicates that during stressful times, we often throw out the very behaviours that support our resilience and wellbeing. It helps to recognise this and acknowledge that this is the time when we really do need to take care of ourselves.
Here are six ways of remaining resilient during challenging times:
- Acknowledge that we are in uncharted territory and it is a stressful time
- Create a routine and pace yourself. For example, get up at a certain time; set a ‘no later than’ or ‘no earlier than’ time to check email; and schedule time to get outside and exercise.
- Stay informed, but not 24/7. Set aside a specific time of the day to get up to date and choose your source of information with care.
- Connect and communicate. We are a social species, so being socially connected is vital for our wellbeing. But recognise that our ways of communicating are now different and endless virtual meetings with no breaks leads to exhaustion and lack of focus.
- Practice self-care: exercise, sleep and nutrition are the building blocks of wellbeing.
- Be kind to yourself and others. Ensure that each day you do something that brings you pure pleasure.
Emotions are contagious. As you take better care of yourself, you are better placed to engage most effectively with colleagues, clients and family members.
As a species, we have a tendency to look for threat. This serves us well in terms of survival, but not when it comes to thriving. Practicing ‘seeing life as it is, but focusing on the good parts’ supports your ability to thrive and flourish. If you do this daily for 10 weeks, your immune system becomes stronger, you start to notice the positive more easily, report a greater sense of wellbeing and exercise more, the research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky explains in her book The How of Happiness.
How can you practice seeing what is good? Take a moment. Stop, pause and acknowledge three things for which you feel appreciation. Or think of a kindness shown to you, and something kind that you have done for someone else.
‘A moment of self-compassion can change an entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life’— Dr Christopher Germer Clinical psychologist and Harvard Medical School lecturer