Resilience doesn’t mean armouring your heart so you never feel crappy again. Resilience is about building up your “mental muscles” and support networks so you bounce back more quickly when things don’t go according to plan.
When we’re feeling stuck, it isn’t always easy to do the things that improve our headspace. Here are some tips on how to reflect on hard times and get through them strategically.
Look at the challenges by themselves
It can be hard to see out of a rough patch. Even when things are getting better overall, when we’re in the belly of the beast it can seem like nothing ever changes.
Of course, this isn’t true. Everything changes, and even terrible days pass.
Being distressed can make other stressful things seem even harder. When it seems like everything’s going wrong, it can sometimes help to list down all the specific things that are contributing to this. That way, you can see which things you can control, and make a plan to do something about them.
Look at each of the things on your list independently, rather than all at once, and they could become a lot easier to deal with. Remember the parts of your life that support you – the people that love you, the things you enjoy – and focus on building them up.
It might seem tricky at the moment – but is it possible to view what’s going on as an experience you can learn from? Often, that’s how we feel about hard times after they’ve happened. Thinking about your situation that way while it’s happening can give you a helpful sense of perspective.
Work out where you’re at
When’s the best time to look at things strategically? Right now! Wherever you’re at, there are real benefits to learning new ways to deal with tough times:
- If you’re feeling solid, you’re in a great position to put strategies in place to avoid those pitfalls and grow even stronger.
- If you’ve noticed that things seem to be starting to head downhill, it’s a great idea to look at some new ways to handle what’s going on. The sooner you start, the easier it will be.
- If you’re having a rough run, it’s not too late. In fact, as much as it might not feel like it, there's always stuff you can do to build yourself up.
Think about how you’re feeling, and remember that this will colour the way you see things. If you're not feeling your best, it might be hard to see the positives. It may help to think back to what you enjoyed when things were good in the past, or what you'd like to head towards in the future.
Notice your thoughts and feelings
Being conscious of our thoughts and feelings is a really important step towards handling tough times.
“Sure,” your mind might say, “you might feel better if you had a run – but right now we’re staying on the couch!” It’s important to remember that you don’t have to believe your thoughts. There are heaps of times when you’ve doubted you could do something, and then did it anyway.
Practise recognising your mind’s tricks, traps and patterns. There are lots of ways we can get in our own way. Try thinking of some creative ways to make things easier, such as:
- Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Note down events in the day that either boost or lower your mood, so you can be aware of these next time they happen.
- Talking out your feelings with a friend or mentor. Often, someone else's perspective is more valuable than our own, and it helps to get another opinion.
- Expressing your thoughts or feelings through art. This may be drawing how you feel, or putting on some music that matches your mood and dancing it out.
Noticing and acknowledging your emotions is also very important. Difficult times suck, but your experiences and feelings are valid and valuable. When we process our emotions by talking about them to someone or writing them down rather than avoiding them, we can have more control over what’s going on and can work our way through situations.
Reflect on the tactics you use now
Everyone goes through hard times, and we all do things to try to find relief. A lot of these tactics work – but if time is going on and you find that your current tactics aren't working, it might be time to try something new.
We’re all different, after all, and a strategy that works okay for one person might not work for someone else. Take a look at your current tactics, and think about if they're working for you or if you need to try something different.
Here are some new things you could try to boost your headspace:
- try to reduce alcohol and/or other drugs (maybe even nicotine or caffeine)
- go for a digital detox by cutting back online time you don’t find meaningful (maybe that’s scrolling through social media, online shopping, web browsing, YouTube, gaming or porn)
- make a deliberate effort to reach out and connect to someone whenever you feel like you want to retreat and hide.
Resilience doesn’t mean going it alone. It's as much about your own coping skills as it is about your support networks and the people around you. It's important to help them help you, so that everyone can get better at bouncing back and feeling better. Family, friends and partners can shed light on the situation from a different perspective and help you keep on track with your plans.
It could be a good idea to speak to someone with experience dealing with the issues you’re dealing with. If you have any questions, give your local headspace centre a call.