5 Tools to Build Your Resilience as the Seasons Change (and COVID Continues…)

These last couple of weeks I haven’t been my usual self. In part this is due to feeling trapped while I recover from my knee surgery – and am severely limited in my abilities and activities. And in part it’s because I’ve been thinking (possibly a little too much) about everything that’s going on in the world. I think I’m probably experiencing weltschmerz or “world sadness”.

Weltschmerz explained on Wikipedia.

And of course COVID is also limiting us. It’s been over 6 months now, and small pleasures like a dinner out, a day thrift-shopping with friends (a favourite treat for me), or having a fun party are all still off-limits. Never mind the challenges of grocery shopping, visiting elderly relatives, getting kids back to school, exercising and many more. There have been so many changes in our lives and we’re still having to adapt to new rules.

And the seasons are now changing…

In addition, we’ve just passed an Equinox – one of two dates annually where the hours of daylight and darkness are equal.

This means that in the northern hemisphere we’re heading towards fall – and winter. And our southern hemisphereal friends are heading into spring and summer.

What do we have to look forward to? We can’t book vacations, romantic dinners, have gatherings or our big celebrations.

And I find myself wondering how us “Northerners” are going to get through the coming winter? COVID will likely bring increased socialising restrictions, and many businesses remain closed – or have to close for good.

Of course then I start feeling guilty as I remember that many people are struggling financially, have lost jobs, businesses, loved ones. And in less industrialised countries people are struggling just to get food and survive…

And yet. This doesn’t negate how we feel, and the very real restrictions we are all under. Remember that “loss of autonomy” is one of 5 universal human fears.

This week’s featured inspirational quote

I was reminded of this beautiful quote by author and all-round rebel Albert Camus:

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

So, as we head into a change of season with a continuation of – and possibly increase in – restrictions, we need to find and connect with our own “invincible summer”.

Specifically, we need to focus on finding and building our resilience, even – especially – as winter and more difficulty beckons.

5 Tools to Build Your Resilience:

1) Be thankful (but don’t force it)

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie

I have a complicated relationship with gratitude. It comes from being called selfish and ungrateful as a child – so I prefer the word thankful. But it’s more than that. There is a part of the self-growth industry that insists we must be grateful, as if this alone will solve the world’s problems. And it can become all too easy to shame people for NOT feeling grateful for their life situation.

For example, right now:

  • I am NOT grateful for COVID. Yet I can see that there are good things that can and will come out of it.
  • I am NOT grateful for my physical restrictions – but I have definitely learned, thought and grown a lot from it.

So gratitude is undoubtedly a spiritual practice, and an important one. But don’t force it.

Instead work towards making gratitude a healthy habit, a positive way of looking at our life and world. AND be sure to acknowledge what you truly feel FIRST without forcing yourself to feel grateful when you’re upset or struggling.

Tool 1) 3 Steps to Thankfulness

Take 3 minutes and a deep breath…

STEP 1) Begin by acknowledging how you truly feel in this moment. And if necessary, be kind to yourself.

  • Just take a moment to notice what you’re feeling right now.
  • And if you find that you’re judging yourself (as I mentioned I did above), connect with your “Fiercely Kind” Self. This self knows how to listen and soothe you, without judging.
  • TIP: Try The 3 As Process to manage difficult feelings here

STEP 2) Ask yourself, “What do I have to be grateful for in this moment?”

  • Find 3-5 things to be grateful – or thankful – for. If you struggle, think “smaller” until you can truly feel grateful.
  • TIP: Try the 5 Finger Gratitude Exercise – simply counting off 5 things on the fingers of one hand.

STEP 3) Take a moment to really feel into the gratitude.

  • BE grateful. Really feel it in your body. Notice how it feels – and what happens in your body.

A couple of extra ideas for you:

  • You could also keep a gratitude journal, where you make a daily list of the things you’re grateful or thankful for.
  • Extend the benefits by sharing this exercise with your family – as a healthy habit. For example, you could turn it into a family “ritual” by making it a daily talking point during dinner. Again, be sure that no-one is judged for how they feel, so follow all three steps!

2) Create things to look forward to (that keep you “alive”!)

Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive. Robert H. Schuller

Aliveness is a quality where we are connected to – and engaged with – life. And often when we feel bored or disengaged from life it’s because we don’t have things to look forward to.

  • Small things we look forward to – and enjoy – give our physiology a boost, and can create a helpful distraction from difficulty and challenge.*
  • Larger things we look forward to, assuming they go well – and especially when they don’t – become markers in our lives, breaking up the routine of everyday life and creating lasting memories.

Right now, as many of us head into winter and more COVID restrictions, it’s important to find a way to create things to look forward to. And then of course (hopefully) enjoy them.

It’s a little like setting a series of mini-goals – commitments to yourself – that will keep you looking ahead with a smile.

So, choose some things you’ll enjoy doing, plan them in your diary – perhaps spreading them out over the next few months to maximise the impact. Then, make a conscious effort to “look forward to” doing them!

Tool 2) Maintain Your Aliveness

7 ideas to create things to look forward to!
  1. Make a list of what makes your heart sing. Without giving too much away, the whole purpose of this exercise is that these items will likely be small and easy to do (although some may be more challenging during COVID). Make your list, and then make a plan to do some of them.
  2. Make birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations EXTRA special. Get creative. Make a fantastic cake, carve some vegetables (yes it’s a thing – I even have a book!) try out a new recipe for dinner, create a personalised video, make a super personal gift. TIP: Brainstorm ideas with others asking questions like, “What creative things could we do to make this celebration FEEL special, given that we have COVID restrictions?”
  3. What would you like to bring forth? What fun projects can you work on – alone or with loved ones? For example, I am planning on creating a red crushed velvet back cushion for our dining room bench.
  4. Create beauty. Beauty lifts the soul. This could be as simple planning to buy yourself – and arranging – some gorgeous flowers. You could also get started on a creative hobby – writing, painting, cake decorating, engraving etc. Or simply plan to tidy/redesign an area of your home – and make it look beautiful.
  5. Plan a date night with your partner. Brainstorm together, how you can make it special even though you’ve been stuck at home with each other for months now. Ask, “What would it take to make the evening extra special, fun and/or relaxing?”
  6. What do you secretly dream of doing? Ask yourself, “Where may I have to shift my expectations – and yet – what is still possible during these COVID restrictions?”
  7. Plant something! This could be flowers, a tree, herbs. It’s the perfect time to plant flowering bulbs for the spring like daffodils, croci, tulips and snowdrops. And whether you plant something outside in your yard (or on your balcony), make sure you can see it from your window…

* Of course we shouldn’t overuse pleasurable activities as a distraction from life’s challenges. But when used consciously, these things can be helpful.

3) Take control of your own destiny

“What is opportunity, and when does it knock? It never knocks. You can wait a whole lifetime, listening, hoping, and you will hear no knocking. None at all. You are opportunity, and you must knock on the door leading to your destiny. You prepare yourself to recognize opportunity, to pursue and seize opportunity as you develop the strength of your personality, and build a self-image with which you are able to live — with your self-respect alive and growing.”  Maxwell Maltz

Whilst the concept may seem tired now, the idea that we can use this time to grow – and learn something new – is still extremely valid.

What new perspectives do you now have on yourself, life, the world? Because there is still much we can do to take control of our own destiny…

Tool 3) Create Your Own Destiny

7 ways to take control of your life
  1. Get clear on what you want from your life and what’s getting in the way with this journaling exercise:
    • Describe your ideal day. Imagine waking up, and write out how you would feel, what you would do (or not do!), who’s around you – and all the things that would make up your ideal day. Then consider, “What stops me from creating this?”
  2. Look ahead and make yourself more valuable. If you’re working (from home or otherwise), take a moment to consider the future of your job, career, your industry – and where you might fit going forwards.
    • Do some research on the internet and read articles on what’s happening in your field – as a result of COVID, technology and any other relevant factors.
    • Think about what you can do now, to ensure you still have work – or make yourself more valuable going forwards.
    • What training, learning or even experience could you add to your resume?
  3. Consider your relationships – and who is most important to you?
    • How will you spend time with them over the coming months (especially if you’re heading into winter)?
    • What can you do now to make things possible later?
  4. Stay on top of your finances. Have you been tracking your finances? For most of us, our spending has decreased along with our incomes. But this doesn’t mean all is well…
    • What do you need to do to stay financially sound? What do you need to prepare for?
    • What actions can you take now to minimise negative impact – or maximise positive impact – on your finances?
  5. What is it time to let go of in your life?
    • Where do you hold yourself back in  life?
    • What has this COVID crisis highlighted that is not working for you?
    • Make a list, and see if there are things you can let go of – and free up precious time and energy.
  6. What are your strengths?
    • Here are 10 questions to help identify your strengths
    • What new ways can you use your strengths – at work, home, in your life in general?
    • Finally, identify specific opportunities to grow yourself or make a difference.
  7. Or simply choose one of these 15 Fabulous Ways For You to “Grow” While Staying Home

4) Make Your Life Meaning-Filled

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. Victor Frankl

Meaning doesn’t magically exist. We must create it for ourselves…

What do you value? What is most important to you in life? And how can you ensure you’re spending time being and doing what matters most to you?

Well, a great way to feel fulfilled is simply to live your values – every day. This doesn’t have to be done perfectly – but knowing we are living our values is one way to create meaning in our lives.

Tool 4) Consciously Live Your Values

How well are you living your values right now?
  • Step 1) Make a list of the 10-12 things that matter most to you in life, and put a star next to your “Top 3” most important.
    • Ideally these would be your “values” (click here for a list of sample values. PDF if you’d like some ideas).
    • If you haven’t identified your values yet, simply make a list of whatever pops into your mind eg. family, friends, career, home, freedom, creativity, fun, financial security.
  • Step 2) Now give a score out of 10 as to how well you are honouring each item (where 0 is not at all, and 10 is fully).
  • Step 3) Review your scores.
    • What do you notice? Which items (if any) have high scores?
    • Do the highest scores correspond to your most “Top 3” important items?
  • Step 4) Finally, choose 3 actions to raise your scores. Some questions to help you choose actions include:
    • How could I raise the scores on my Top 3 items?
    • Which are the lowest 3 scores – and what could I do to raise those scores?
    • Which 3 actions would be easiest and most straightforward to implement

5) Take good care of yourself!

“Something’s got to give. Don’t let it be you.”
Stever Robbins

There is a truism: If you don’t make time for health, you’ll have to make time for sickness.

So, last on this list is that we must take care of ourselves, not just physically – but mentally/emotionally too. Because when we don’t take care of ourselves physically and mentally, we end up exhausted (and when we’re exhausted we’re more likely to get sick).

This self-care goes includes acknowledging how you truly feel (not how you think you should feel), being kind to yourself and taking care of our needs.

And while the “oxygen mask principle” tells us that we must take care of ourselves first so that we’re in a position to help others, we shouldn’t be taking care of ourselves just so we can help others.

Remember that you are valuable. You deserve your own care and attention.

And as the COVID pandemic continues, we’re all going to have to get better at accepting reality, learning how to unconditionally love ourselves, and managing difficult feelings.

Tool 5) Self-Care and Kindness

The 2 most important self-care tools:

TOOL 1) Sleep. There really is no better self-care tool than sleep, and most of us operate with far too little sleep – both in terms of amount (hours) and quality. Yet there are many easy ways to practice good sleep hygiene; we probably know them already, we’re just not making them a priority.

    • Here is a fairly comprehensive article on Sleep Hygiene (from SleepFoundation.org)
    • Or get the book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker PhD

TOOL 2) Connecting (and Listening) to Yourself. This is really the ultimate in self-kindness. To deeply listen – and meet our own needs.

  • Step 1) Notice you’re feeling agitated, sad, anxious, angry etc.
  • Step 2) Ask yourself, “What do I truly need right now?”
    • Listen beyond your first or initial response – which may suggest distracting ourselves with a cookie, checking the news or social media.
    • Instead listen more deeply to the true need that lies underneath – for rest, self-connection, to do some journaling, a hug, quality food or an early night…
  • Step 3) Do it! Take care of your need/s.
    • If you can’t meet the true need right now, acknowledge it – and decide when you can meet that need. Then make a commitment to yourself – and follow through!

Wrap-up

Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle. Christian D. Larson

We have more power than we realise to influence our reality and take control of our lives – even (especially!) during this pandemic. We can build a greater resilience that we thought possible – if we work at it, take care of, and believe in ourselves…

Remember these 5 ways you can build resilience:

  1. Find a way to be THANKFUL for what you have.
  2. CREATE things to look forward to.
  3. Take CONTROL of your own destiny.
  4. Importantly, we must find a way to make our lives MEANING-Filled.
  5. And lastly, be kind to – and take GOOD CARE of – ourselves.
Change the world, start with you!

If you liked this article, you may also like:

Image of Feature Image of Strong, Resilient Woman by Carlos David via Shutterstock

Image of Moon with sun in background by LoganArt via Pixabay

Image of Thankful Woman on Tan Background Building Resilience by Free-Photos via Pixabay

Image of Woman Planting Bulbs by Victoria Kondysenko via Shutterstock

Image of Resilient Woman Pondering Ideas (Chalkboard) by ESB Professional via Shutterstock

Image of Woman with hand over heart to build resilience by michaelheim via Shutterstock

Image of Flowers and Mug with Zzzs on by mepsita via Pixabay

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