Strategies for mind and brain resiliency during stressful times
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that the world can be a scary place, and that life is full of events that are simply out of our control.
This is especially true if you work in the caring professions and dealing with others’ trauma is part of your job.
While we can’t stop bad things from happening to us and others, we can control our response to them. This is resilience, and we’re going to take a look at strategies to build it and manage stress in these ever-changing times.
Strategy 1: Switch off
The key theme is that even though you can’t change events, you can change how you react to them.
We are surrounded by “events” all day long. We are living in an information-rich age, bombarded with images and messages from our ever-present smartphones.
Cue strategy one: learn to switch off, literally and figuratively.
Schedule points in the day where you step away from screens and sources of information. This includes your phone, television, radio, tablets and smartwatch.
It’s time to just “be.”
And commit to a cut-off time for technology at the end of the day. This should ideally be two hours before bed to ensure that you get the restful night’s sleep you need to restore your body and mind.
Strategy 2: Reconnect with yourself
Once you’ve disconnected from technology, it’s time to reconnect – with yourself.
During your daytime technology breaks, reconnect with the miraculous way your body is keeping you alive. Sit in a quiet space and simply tune in to your heartbeat and your breath.
You can take this exercise one step further by meditating. Numerous studies have shown it to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance memory and improve sleep.
All these benefits – and more – contribute to a more resilient brain, equipped to deal with the challenges we face every day, big or small.
A simple meditation exercise involves turning off your devices and sitting in a quiet and comfortable location. Slow your breath, inhaling and exhaling deeply. Allow your body to relax. Be aware of any thoughts that pop into your head without dwelling on them. Let your muscles relax, and continue with your regular and deep breaths.
All it takes is a few moments of meditation to reset your body, mind and soul and refresh your resilience for the rest of the day.
Strategy 3: Reconnect with others
Now that you have reconnected with yourself, it’s time to reconnect with others.
The old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” couldn’t be truer today.
Sharing your thoughts with colleagues, family or friends will give you perspective and help strengthen your resilience to deal with difficult times.
Even simply picking up the phone to chat with a friend or reaching out in your community to do some volunteer work will have a similar effect.
While it’s common for health and social care professionals to be reluctant to seek help, remember that you can’t drink from an empty cup.
If you could benefit from seeing a therapist, think of it as a way of refilling your cup of resilience.
It will help you understand your pressure points and devise strategies to tackle them. You will emerge a stronger, more resilient individual with much more to give.
A simple 3-part strategy
Committing to disconnecting from pressures then reconnecting with both self and others is a simple three-part strategy that anyone can carry out.
Keep in mind that life will always throw at us events and challenges, highs and lows.
The key is acknowledging that we can change our perspective.
This self-awareness is what helps build our brain resilience, seeing us through the most trying of times, present and future.