Three Simple Strategies for Increasing Resilience

In the past month, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve had several panicked moments. I’m sure you also experience times when you panic and feel threatened. We are currently living in a time of high stress, where we are easily triggered into a fight-or-flight response. This state isn’t helpful in making decisions, problem-solving, or increasing the strength of our immune systems. I’d like to share with you three simple and highly effective strategies to increase your resilience and help you navigate challenging times.

  1. Press your internal pause button when you feel like panicking. I had to press my pause button many times in the past month: my dad had a botched surgery where he lost his cognitive and physical capacities, and then my daughter had high blood pressure that sent her back into the hospital after having her first baby.

Why use this pause button? One, because panic doesn’t feel good. It causes us to go down all kinds of scary “What if?” rabbit holes. It decreases functioning in the immune system, disallowing our ability to solve problems or make decisions effectively.

Pressing the pause button and taking three deep breaths supports you in increasing your emotional regulation and, hence, your resilience. Don’t you admire people who are able to handle life under stress with grace and ease?

I call this a “resilience breath.”

It is a simple process where you close your eyes, take a deep breath into your belly through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth as if you are blowing out through a straw. This signals to your brain that you are safe. It is a way of recalibrating your nervous system from a state of fight or flight into rest and digest.

You may want to repeat many times.

I practice this breath often throughout the day for it to become an automatic response. Once I close my eyes and begin the focused breathing, my body knows to relax. I’m training by practicing the resilience breath many times a day. Bonus: it feels good. You have more clarity, calm, and ability to focus.

  1. Another strategy to increase your resilience is changing your perception or belief around an event or situation. What thoughts about an event have you suffering (suffering = fear, anxiety, worry, self-doubt). What new thoughts would be empowering? What good or golden nugget could come out of it? Ask yourself: What do I control? What don’t I control? Focus on what you do have control of!

One of my favorite sayings to calm my nervous system is “The universe works for me. I may not know how right now, but I know it is right, now.”

  1. One of the most powerful ways to shift your mindset is to begin a gratitude practice. Write three things down that you are grateful for each day. Watch a video on gratitude. Here is one of my favorites, with Brother David Steindl-Rast:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSt7k_q_qRU

Whenever I am changing a habit or beginning a new one, I start with just one. Once I have that one down, I implement another one. You will have more success in incorporating new positive habits by implementing them one at a time. Choose one that you would enjoy the most.

To your resilience and well-being,

River