Guest Author : Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician who writes extensively on spirituality and medicine, especially at the end-of-life. She is the author of the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.” Connect with her at karenwyattmd.com, on Facebook at fb.com/WhatReallyMattersWithKarenWyatt and on Twitter @spiritualmd.
The word resilience technically describes the ability of an object to return to its original form after being bent, compressed or stretched. For us human beings resilience is a quality that determines how well we cope with adversity in life, whether it comes to us as physical, emotional or spiritual difficulty.
This is an important subject for all of us right now because life on planet earth is becoming more and more precarious, exposing each of us to new difficulties all the time. The good news is that resilience is a character trait we can improve upon that will serve us well as we face aging and other changes later in life.
How resilient are you?
If you’ve encountered a lot of stress in the past you probably have a good idea about how you handle adversity. But many of us have not been seriously tested in this way and might wonder if we would be able to bounce back easily from tough times of if we would fall apart. There is a quick and easy assessment you can take online if you would like to determine your own level of resilience: The Resilience Scale.
But no matter how resilient you are right now, there are certain steps you can take to become even better able to handle life’s ups and downs. Then you can work on some changes to help improve your resilience if needed.
How can you become more resilient?
As mentioned before, greater resilience can help you cope with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges, so let’s look at some ways you can get stronger in each of these areas:
- Take up some form of regular exercise – walking, swimming, running, aerobics, dance, cycling, etc. and do it for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Start slow and gradually work up to that goal.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables or take a vitamin supplement if you can’t always eat healthy food.
- Get adequate sleep. Around 7-8 hours per day is optimal for most people, but you should find your own perfect balance between rest and activity.
- Stretch on a regular basis to maintain flexibility. Yoga can be helpful or just learn a stretching routine you can do on your own. This is extremely important as you get older.
- Read books of interest to keep broadening your knowledge, whether actual physical books or ebooks.
- Do crossword puzzles, other word games or Sudoku to stimulate your memory and problem-solving skills.
- Visit museums and art galleries to see and learn new things.
- Take up a craft or hobby that you find stimulating.
- Join a class at a local community college and study something new.
- Laugh every day! Watch funny videos, read humorous literature or view comedy shows.
- Keep a journal. Record your thoughts and dreams, challenges and celebrations. Use the journal to reflect on life and your experiences.
- Use meditation or relaxation techniques to help quiet the mind and body and reduce the impact of stress.
- Take a “joy break” at least once a week and see something beautiful in nature, listen to inspiring music, or some other pleasant experience that reminds you “Life is good!”
- Give love to others in creative ways, like making a gift, performing a favor or planning a special surprise for a loved one.
- Take up a spiritual practice. Try yoga, tai chi, mindfulness or any other regular practice that helps you learn stillness and to just “be” rather than “do.”
- Spend time in prayer or contemplation every day to deepen your own sense of meaning and purpose in life.
- Express gratitude. Find at least one thing you are thankful for every day.
- Practice forgiveness to help you let go of the past and stop feeling resentment over old events.
Adopting any of these activities can help you become more resilient in the future so you can bounce back more easily when you have a challenge to overcome. Of course you don’t have to do all of them! Just pick one or two that sound appealing and start working on your own resilience capacity.
And when you are faced with difficulty, just remember to hold on and keep the faith because eventually everything changes and often it changes for the better. Everything that happens in your life can be fuel for your growth and transformation, so maintain a positive attitude and stay strong, no matter what comes your way!
Check out Dr. Wyatt’s home study course “The 7 Lessons Wisdom Path” to find out how you can find a new sense of meaning and purpose as you contemplate life, death and everything in between. This course will help you live an authentic life and provide you with the tools to develop a spiritual practice as you proceed on your own journey through “Earth University.”