5 Practical Strategies to Increase Resilience and Decrease Stress
Resilience is how well we handle and adapt to stressful events or changes in our lives.
When we are resilient, we can set goals to help us move forward, we can be more present and accepting, we feel confident in ourselves and our abilities, we engage in helpful self-care habits and we enlist support.
The exciting news about resilience is that it’s a trait we can learn, develop and nurture to become stronger over time.
Discover five meaningful ways to strengthen your resilience by cultivating a growth mindset, using mindfulness techniques, taking responsibility and more!
1: Strengthen your relationships and create a solid support network
Unfortunately, when faced with stress, change, or challenge, many of us avoid relying on our supports. We might become defensive and avoid communicating openly with our loved ones, become angry or frustrated more easily, refuse help when it’s offered, or disconnect and isolate ourselves.
It’s not always easy to accept support, let alone ask for it!
However, relationships are an important component of resilience.
Imagine your resilience is a tree and your relationships are the roots of that tree. They hold the tree in place, even when they can’t be seen. They nurture the tree and help it grow and heal. They keep the tree stable, anchoring it firmly in solid ground.
Here are some simple tips to help you strengthen your relationships and create a solid support network:
- Be open and honest with your friends and family about important thoughts and feelings.
- Practise communicating and mindful listening.
- Spend quality time with people you care about on a regular basis.
- Regularly remind yourself that you’re loved and supported. I like to use the affirmation “I am safe, I am loved, I am supported” whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Below tip 2, you can download your free workbook (and gain access to my complete Members area!) to discover 6 important and action-based questions to help you understand and strengthen your relationships, such as “Which three actions can you take this week to be more supportive of someone you care about?”.
2: Practice coping with change
Many of us respond differently to change. Some of us embrace it, some of us are more resistant.
Our resistance might also differ depending on the type of change because we may perceive some changes as positive and other changes we might perceive as negative.
One thing we can be sure of is that change is inevitable.
So how can we be more resilient and mindful when faced with change? Let me first share a story to help get you thinking about change and what it can mean.
About three years ago, I went through a huge time of change in my life. My parents separated and my own long-term relationship ended a few weeks later (which not only meant saying goodbye but also moving out of the house we were living in). I was trying to figure out a new career as I knew I didn’t want to be a registered psychologist anymore, I cut off my long hair, I got a new job, I moved house again and not much longer after that, I started my first blog (which later morphed into the website I have now). In that time, I also started dating my current boyfriend, I bought a new car, I met many wonderful people online through a blogging course I enrolled in and developed new friendships.
My perspective of change shifted during that time and I realised that change was what I’d been craving.
I had been feeling stuck and purposeless and like I was putting one foot in front of the other, without really choosing where I was going or what I actually wanted. It was a time when I realised that even though I didn’t particularly like or want change in the past, it was necessary and it did lead to good things happening.
Try to practice coping with change; see if you can embrace it without too much resistance. For five tips on how to do this, make sure you download the free workbook below!
3: Cultivate a growth mindset
There are two different types of mindsets: fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.
Someone with a fixed mindset will believe that their characteristics are largely unchangeable and they learn to judge those characteristics based on their performances. So, for example, someone with a fixed mindset might say “I’m a terrible cook and I have no natural talent for it.” Maybe they’ve cooked things in the past which haven’t worked out and so they see themselves as being a “bad” cook.
Whereas someone with a growth mindset might believe their characteristics are changeable and that they can improve and grow. So, in that same situation, someone with a growth mindset might say “I haven’t learned yet how to cook things properly and over time, I will become better at cooking.”
Carol Dweck spent decades understanding mindsets and a study she did with her team analysed fixed and growth mindsets in children. The children in the study were given a puzzle to complete. After that, they were given a choice- to either complete the same puzzle again or to try a harder one. Children with a fixed mindset opted to complete the same puzzle to demonstrate their ability and not risk making a mistake on the new puzzle. Children with a growth mindset often chose to complete the new puzzle and couldn’t understand why anyone would even want to do the same puzzle twice.
To watch an interesting video about the study, click here.
Dweck found that one of the key things about growth mindset is that it maintains a passion for learning and growing, rather than simply seeking approval or perfection. So, with a growth mindset we want to learn, we want to improve, we want to understand more.
4: Learn to take responsibility, rather than placing blame
As you can imagine (or maybe you know from personal experience), it’s difficult to be resilient when you’re mentally beating yourself up.
How can you adapt to change when you’re constantly thinking about all the mistakes you made and asking yourself why you hadn’t done things differently?
How can you handle stressful situations when you’re looking for reasons to blame yourself for those situations?
How can you pick yourself up and move forward after failing something, if all you can see are your faults and all you can tell yourself is that you’ll never be successful?
Blaming ourselves can make us less resilient and, instead, increase our susceptibility to stress, anxiety and depression. So, what can we do instead?
I don’t often say something like this, but just stop placing blame. It is rarely useful.
You can, however, take responsibility. You can apologise. You can search for a helpful solution. You can learn. You can resolve issues. You can forgive. You can move forward.
A wonderful resource I read several years ago was a book by Brene Brown, called “The Gifts of Imperfection.” I highly recommend it if you would like to discover more on this topic.
Something else we can do sometimes is blame external factors for our mistakes, or challenges and changes we might be faced with. Again, it may be important to take responsibility for our own roles in the situations and to be open-minded, pro-active and solution-focused in dealing with external factors (rather than just laying blame and becoming resentful!).
In the free workbook, you’ll discover a fun activity to help you practice taking responsibility and to understand the different ways of dealing with challenging situations.
5: Use simple self-care strategies
Simple self-care maintains our general wellbeing and allows us to be the best we can be, even during times of challenge.
Simple self-care practices might include:
-Gratitude journaling. This practice gives us great opportunities to focus on the good in our lives, to appreciate the things we might otherwise take for granted, and to slow down and appreciate the smaller (but still meaningful!) moments in our days.
-Meditation. Give your mind and body a break by sitting down comfortably and focusing on your breath for a few minutes. There are many ways to meditate, but this is a simple way to get started!
-Taking a relaxing bath. Light a candle, use some bubble bath, read a good book, and enjoy!
It can also be important to practice compassion and non-judgement. When we practice compassion and non-judgement, we tend to become less stuck in our ways, less worried about not being perfect, less frustrated by things we can’t control and more aware of the fact that everyone has their own lives to lead.
I also think we become more helpful towards others and more open to accepting help when it’s offered to us, which is a great way to become more resilient.
For more tips, stories and resources about resilience, be sure to check out The Resilience Series of The Mindful Kind podcast! You can download the episodes for free via iTunes or Stitcher, or click the links below to listen via my website.
Don't forget to download the free workbook below for fun, simple and interactive activities to help you build your resilience (plus, you'll gain access to all my other free resources, too!).