BY: Andrea Lardani
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When our economic, political and social context is adverse, uncertain and insecure it is impossible to ignore the emotional, physical and interpersonal impact it generates. While each person reacts according to his or her own characteristics and situation, we can identify two types of responses in the same context: “resilient” and “debilitating” responses.
We call resilient responses those that function as buffer of the negative impact and at the same time lead us to develop a new skill or reinforce an existing one. For example, a man who had to close his hardware store because he contracted an illness that prevented him from leaving his home. He started doing carpentry to entertain himself. He eventually discovered that he enjoyed the activity and that his technique improved day after day. He encouraged himself to publish his furniture on the internet, he concreted some sales, his self-confidence increased, as well as the orders.
Debilitating responses, on the other hand, are those that increase or expand the negative impact of the stressor producing detrimental consequences to our physical and/or mental health. An example would be that this same man, after having to close his business, began to isolate, stopped seeing his friends and family. This reaction would begin to negatively impact another area of his life – his relationships– that was not initially affected. We propose four resilient habits to implement during difficult times:
- Think resiliently: Our thinking style is a habit like any other, so we can modify it if we propose. To do this we suggest thinking about difficulties as: a) Temporary, b) Affecting a particular area of your life and c) That you can learn from them. Each time you are in an adverse situation, you may ask yourself: a) How long is this negative situation going to last? Or what will be the duration of the impact of this situation? Try to be as specific as possible and determine how many days, weeks, or months it will last. b) What area/areas of my life are being affected by the situation? Try to narrow it down. For example, if it impacts your work life, what aspects of work are being specifically affected? d) What can you learn from this difficult situation you are experiencing? Would you do something different the next time something similar happens to you? Have you developed or can you develop a new skill? Have you strengthened any skill of your own?
- Generate positive emotions: We have long known that positive emotions do well. “Joy is the best promoter of health and is as good for the mind as it is for the body” (Joseph Addison, English poet and playwright, 1672-1719). However, relatively recently we have studies to prove this. According to studies by Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotions have the function of “antidote” to the consequences of negative emotions – such as fear, anger, anguish, sadness, anxiety, etc.- Positive emotions such as love, gratitude, joy, calm, hope, satisfaction, interest and curiosity can be generated with certain actions. Listing the things, we are grateful for, rather than taking them for granted, is a way to generate gratitude, for example. Connecting with nature produces calm and satisfaction. Practicing meditation, breathing exercises and/or muscle relaxation produces tranquility, calm and relief. Carrying out activities that interest us, generate curiosity and pleasure are also ways to increase positive emotions that protect us in times of adversity.
- Strengthen your social support networks: During extreme adverse situations, such as wars, terrorist attacks or natural disasters, those with the capacity to receive support from others and also give it are the ones who succeed. In difficult times it is essential to connect with our loved ones, seek support, ask for help, companionship and affection. It is also an opportunity to generate new spaces to give and receive support. In this sense, during difficult times it is extremely important to make ourselves the time to connect with others, since it is quite common to do the opposite (“I have so many problems that I do not have time to see my friends”).
- Maintaining healthy habits: In times of adversity we run the risk of weakening ourselves with unhealthy habits such as sedentary lifestyles, inappropriate eating and little or bad sleep. In the long term, negative health consequences arise and of course, we run out of energy to deal with the difficulties. For this reason, we suggest paying much more attention to our habits during difficult times. We must prepare for a “demanding competence”. Moderate and regular physical exercise, healthy nutrition, as well as good sleep are key to “competition” as well as for a healthy living.
Organizations may not be able to do much to change the adverse context of a country. However, they can offer specific tools to help their employees develop or reinforce resilient habits to cope with difficulties. When the going gets tough, the resilient – persons and companies – get going.
Lic. Andrea Lardani
Grupo Wellness Latina