The word “resilience” has been getting a lot of airtime during the COVID-19 pandemic. But research suggests that resilience requires calmness. Calmness, in turn, relies on having an attitude and demeanor that don’t allow anyone or any situation to aggravate you. It requires the ability to pause and reflect before responding or reacting. Self-talk can help you remain calm, to calibrate your reactions to the people and situations you face.
As examples of self-talk, consider saying to yourself, “I will remain calm and clear-heading through this situation”; “I know this will pass quickly if I don’t react right away”; “I will be calm and listen without reacting immediately”; “I will be more reflective.” Simple mantras like these can help to keep all of your resources available, to be resilient.
Resilience is powerful; it allows you to build on strengths with a calm and realistic demeanor. It is a learned trait. The current coronavirus pandemic presents a clear challenge to the process of building resilience. But the process can help a person to learn the characteristics and behavior to adapt with confidence and courage to the most adverse situations, like our current crisis. Resilience, ultimately, is adapting well to adversity.
Adaptation involves preparation. If you have time before the adversity is at hand, you can plan and adapt well. Calmness in preparation is crucial. Listening to others, reading relevant literature, talking to family and friends, deciding on an initial approach — all are included in preparation for adversity. But often adversity arrives in an instant. An accident, the sudden loss of a loved one, losing a job, these situations arise without warning; they are difficult — but not impossible — to prepare for.
Can you rehearse your reactions to any adverse event? Yes, if you are free from anxiety and can remain calm. Most of the information you need to prepare, for example, for coronavirus-related adversity is available on TV, online, from local experts, your physicians, and close family and friends. Consult the resources available, find the consensus, and learn to recognize and avoid the negative sources; those steps are key to preparing well.
But as much as such preparation can help, it’s also good to detach periodically, to rejuvenate and refresh your mind. Some people use mindfulness for this purpose. Others seek the friendship of people with whom they can relax before returning to their challenges. Prayer, for those so inclined, is a personal and quiet way to arm yourself to move forward in a crisis. Whatever your relaxation method, use it to replenish and re-energize your full resources.
You can get through any crisis by being calm, preparing as much as you can, and with self-talk that says, “I am strong, I am prepared, and I will get through this.” And weathering each crisis further prepares you for the next challenge. As you learn more about yourself, that next challenge becomes that much easier to surmount.
Closely related to resilience is courage. Courage entails releasing control, loosening up, feeling vulnerable. The current crisis can offer an opportunity to break new ground in your development of courage and resilience; just make sure to retain a realistic point of view.
Resilience and courage are competencies that are built over time. Together, they can inspire hope in the face of crisis.