No matter what you do, it is just not possible to avoid or prevent stressful situations and events. The COVID-19 Pandemic is proof of this.
However, you can strengthen your capacity to deal with stressful or difficult situations and events.
This is called building resilience – the ability to cope with tough times in life, unexpected changes and challenges; the capacity to endure adversity such as physical illness and mental and emotional distress; and to “bounce back” and recover.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has certainly created a tough time, an unexpected change and challenge for all of us. It is an unexpected challenge that threatens physical and mental health, jobs, financial security, relationships, and the future.
Building resilience is about cultivating and maintaining a sense of control amongst the chaos by being educated and prepared with coping strategies and tools. Having these strategies and tools up your sleeve can help you to feel more confident and able to face each day, each challenge, as it arises.
There are thousands of great books, podcasts, videos etc about this very topic, and I encourage you to educate yourself as knowledge is a powerful tool. I always like to keep things simple, and from my experience, research and health sciences study, there are 5 simple things you can do to help build and maintain your own resilience.
- Eat healthy
- Breathe and be mindful
- Move and exercise
- Sleep well
- Stay connected
Eat healthy – food is the foundation of health, and by eating healthy foods you give your body the best chance to be physically and mentally strong. A diet rich in real food with quality proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds will nourish your immune system and overall well being. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits as well as a rainbow of colours also helps to make sure we are getting the nutrients we need. Broccoli is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables we can eat but eating broccoli every day and nothing else is not the way to go! Different coloured vegetables are rich in different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Breathe and be mindful – while we don’t have control over what’s happening in the world right now, we do have control over our minds. Breathing exercises and meditation/mindfulness practices can make a huge difference to switch off overactive and anxious minds by creating space and calm in our minds. Practice breathing mindfully daily. Take a long deep breath in through your nose, mentally count for 4 seconds or more, pause and then exhale through your nose for the same amount of time as the inhale. Repeat as many rounds as you can.
Move and exercise –the benefits of exercise and being active are too long to list! Walking the dog, gardening, bushwalking and parking the car away from the shops are activities that can help a person move and be more active. While going to the gym, brisk walking, cycling, jogging, swimming etc are about increasing physical fitness. Aim for 30 to 40 minutes of physical exercise/movement most days and try to incorporate practices like yoga, tai chi, pilates and dancing into routines.
Sleep well – sleep is critical for the body to repair, for hormone balance, weight management and blood sugar control as well. Adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours of restorative sleep a night. Good ‘sleep hygiene’ techniques such as no TV or computer time for at least half an hour before bedtime and avoiding caffeine in the afternoons can help improve sleep quality.
Stay connected – social isolation can lead to loneliness and mental health issues. This makes maintaining social connection with friends, family and neighbours critical in this time of enforced isolation. Technology and social media apps really make it easy to stay in touch but don’t forget to check in on neighbours or loved ones maintaining physical distance guidelines. So many communities have found wonderful ways to connect, for instance in Italy people have started singing from their balconies, out their windows and across rooftops at appointed times, all coordinated via social media.