By Debra LeClair Psy.D
Resilience as an idea is not the sexiest of concepts but it is one that can greatly color your experience going through life. It is generally defined as the “ability to bounce back” especially in the face of stress, setbacks and adversity. Over the next few blogs, we’ll explore simple and doable ways to enhance your ability to feel like you are in control of a calm heart, rejuvenated body and sharp mind.
Keys to Resilience—Helping The Body and Brain
1) Create times to rest in both body and mind during the day—especially during the workday. Take 2 minutes to close your eyes and just focus on your breathing or the sounds you may hear. Take your 2 minutes while using the restroom if the distractions and interruptions are too much in your actual work area. (This is actually one of the few cases where multi-tasking can help you to be more mindful). By taking this time, you’ll help to bring down the stress that has been accumulating, as you have been moving through your day. This will help you feel more centered, focused and less fatigued.
2) It follows that if having a chance to rest during the day is important, that getting sleep that your body needs, in terms of quality and quantity is also crucial to building resilience. Many of us can “get away” with some sleep deprivation, especially if we have ways to cope with it like drinking multiple cups of coffee, eating copious amounts of chocolate, etc. However, sleep is a time when the body repairs itself on the physical plane and the brain processes psychological and emotional material (i.e. dreams). If the body does not get a chance to complete these processes, you function on less of your cylinders—which increases the likelihood of breakdowns. Memory, mood and metabolism can all be negatively impacted by a lack of sleep. Simple ways to gain more rest is to allow yourself a few hours to downshift in the evening. Dim lighting, calm non-work activities and herbal tea such as chamomile all help to signal the mind and body to unwind.
3) What also helps to promote resilience is the way you breathe. Breathing more fully helps the brain in particular to get more oxygen, which helps the mind to be more focused. Breathing that is fuller and involves the diaphragm also assists in maintaining calm and again, preventing stress from accumulating. When looking to de-stress, especially before laying down to sleep, try counting while you inhale and then taking double that count to slowly exhale. For instance if you inhaled to the count of 3, you could exhale to the count of 6. Please note that there should be no strain. This breathing technique gives the thinking mind a task while the breathing itself calms the nervous system