How to Build Your Resilience

How to Build Your Resilience

By LaBrena Friend, LMSW

We hear a lot about resilience these days, and for good reason. If you’re human, your life will include emotional challenges and setbacks — and for many people, the pandemic is now an ongoing contributing factor.

In my social work practice at CJFS, I recently met a client whose life has included more than a fair share of emotional trauma. She suffered the death of a child and the suicide death of another loved one, as well as her own substance abuse and related emotional, spiritual and financial issues.

And yet, my strongest impression of this new client was her incredible resilience. In more than a decade of sobriety, she has assembled an array of tools and supports that have enabled her to remain sober and rebuild her life. For her, these include a 12-step recovery program and her faith, as well as the help of a therapist and a supportive community.

The tools that worked for this person might not be the exact same ones that would work for you or me as we face our own stresses and emotional challenges. The important thing is to develop tools and habits that make it easier for us to bounce back from a setback – so that if we realize we are growing too stressed, too sad, too anxious or too overwhelmed, we’re able to address those issues effectively and recover.  Below are some tools that can help just about anyone become more resilient:

Actively manage stress – Notice when your stress levels are beyond what you consider normal and put a name on it. By acknowledging the problem, you’ll be better equipped to implement the tools that will help.

Move your body – Many of us have been hunkered down in isolation for much of the past two years, and that can affect both physical and mental health. Even if you’re in quarantine, move around your living space. Any amount of exercise will help you feel more in control and relaxed.

Experience the outdoors – Go for a walk or a run. If that isn’t possible, step out on your balcony or open the window.

Sleep – Sleep naturally restores our minds and bodies, and without enough of it, our thinking can become muddled. For some people, establishing a strict sleep schedule can help.

Watch for negative means of coping – If you’re sleeping too much, abusing drugs or alcohol or engaging in other self-harming behavior, seek help before this behavior leads to other problems.

Consider how you can help others – These months of isolation have interrupted the everyday interactions through which we normally support the mental health of others – the smiles and friendly hugs, the casual chats and encouragement. Remember, you can still write a note, text or email someone who might need a boost—and the phone still works!

Maintain your social ties – It’s easy to lose touch with other people when so many normal gatherings have been suspended. If your regular worship service or club meeting is no longer meeting, reach out to some of the people you miss and find a way to reconnect.

Consider therapy – A professional counselor may be able to help you identify sources of stress and develop simple strategies for addressing them.

CJFS offers individual and group counseling for people of all ages — in person, by phone or via video apps such as FaceTime and Zoom.  Insurance is accepted. To learn more, contact Clinical Director Marcy Morgenbesser, marcy@cjfsbham.org or 205.879.3438.