In today’s day and age of pop psychology, often teetering on toxic positivity, we’ve forgotten an all-important and all-determining aspect of well-being: resilience.
Resilience is an often forgotten concept, which has been defined in a variety of ways, for example:
“…the ability to bounce back from adversity, frustration, and misfortune…” (Ledesma, 2014: 1);
“the developable capacity to rebound or bounce back from adversity, conflict, and failure or even positive events, progress, and increased responsibility” (Luthans, 2002a: 702);
“…the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully” (Masten, 2014; Southwick, 2014).
Simply put, resilience is one’s ability to adapt to difficult life situations & inadvertent setbacks. When adversity strikes, a resilient person is still able to keep functioning. This does not mean one does not experience anger, stress, grief, and the blues, but that one is able to cope and bounce back. Note that it is not about being cold, or suppressing one’s emotion; in fact, being in touch with one’s emotional state, and reaching out to others for support are both key components of resilience.
What does a lack of resilience look like? Prolonged dwelling on one’s problems and hardships, feeling victimised, getting overwhelmed by life, turning towards unhealthy coping mechanisms, and building up stress to eventually break down.
The most important part to focus on in all of this, is that resilience is a *developable* life skill. How? Using everyday resilience building practices and activities.
There are five pillars to building your resilience, and all of these can be developed by you during your fellowship as per your interests:
1. Connecting: Activities such as talking to friends, joining local groups that make you feel connected, belonging, and like a part of a community.
My tips for fellows: Most US cities, and definitely DC, have plenty of social and professional networking events & hobby groups on Meetup.com. Plus, make sure to connect with other fellows over your shared experiences.
2. Staying active: Keeping one’s body moving is a great way to trigger happy hormones, improve mood, and plus stay fit too.
My tips for fellows: Most US cities, including DC are bicycle friendly, and have bike sharing options such as Capital Bikeshare, DC also has a free MyFitDC program offering dance, yoga, and more. Also look for sports clubs, hiking groups etc. on meetup.com.
3. Intellectual engagement: Whether it be learning something new, or working on new work projects, keeping your mind engaged is equally important.
My tips for fellows: During your fellowship, you can enrol in a new online or offline course (check with your host organisation too), join a hobby class, and definitely go to conferences, university events, and workshops of interest.
4. Being mindful: There are many ways of practising mindfulness on an everyday basis- it does not need to be profound, life-changing, or technically sound.
My tips for fellows: In my experience, most US cities are more pedestrian friendly than not- take plenty of walks by yourself & visit parks, waterfronts, lakes etc., if you haven’t already, try journaling, affirmations, and practising gratitude daily.
5. Compassion & Giving: Being a positive contributor to other people’s lives is a great way to build a sense of purpose, and do good in the larger scheme of things.
My tips for fellows: While donating funds might not be possible for fellows, donate what you can, especially if it’s going to waste otherwise, try cooking your national dishes for other fellows, and don’t forget to compliment people instead of holding it back.
So how are you planning to build your mental resilience on a daily basis?
Photo by Pragati Singh