Resilience is the ability to adapt to the demands and challenges in your life
We all have stress in our lives, so it’s important to learn flexibility and resilience to cope with circumstances beyond our control. A little stress is good for you – it allows you to finish your project before the deadline or to make a quick decision when driving. Too much stress, however, takes a toll on our physical and mental health. This can show up as feeling sad or irritable, excessive worrying, not wanting to eat or do things you like to do, sleeping poorly, or having stomachaches or headaches.
Lots of things can bring on a lot of stress and make you feel out of control – your parents getting a divorce, losing someone important to you, moving & changing schools, financial worries, problems with friends or bullying, even dealing with changes in your body.
Resilience is the ability to adapt to the demands and challenges of life, to rebound and recover from disappointments and struggles. Part of being resilient is developing your ability to recognize and manage your emotions. When your emotions control you, you are not in control and may feel helpless to change things. You can learn to become more aware of and to control your emotions – this is called emotional intelligence and can develop with practice. When you understand yourself better you can understand others better. Feeling in control and managing your emotions frees up a great deal of energy to put into other activities, like enjoying time with friends, trying out new activities, and planning for the future.
These are a few simple things you can do to get a head start on your emotions.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle – eat well, stay active and get good sleep.
- Ask for help when needed – this includes asking to have your parent’s full attention and making sure it’s a good time for them before starting to talk.
- Stay organized and keep to a routine – break problems into smaller steps, keep lists, make a timeline, and stick to it.
- Take a break from devices and try a new activity, take up a new hobby, listen to your favorite music, or take a walk outside.
- Spend time with people most important to you – your family and friends
- Plan and cook a meal together
- Play a board game or do a jigsaw puzzle
- Plant a garden
- Dance or do yoga to reduce stress
- Read a book
- Volunteer in your community
- Practice gratitude – journal or share what you’re thankful for with others
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you work through things that may be bothering you
- Try progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing
- Practice mindfulness or meditate – tune into your inner awareness, understanding, & strength
- Ask for extra support if you need it – from a family member or a mental health professional
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: tensing then relaxing muscle groups in a sequence
- Close your eyes and empty your thoughts, focusing only on your body
- Focus on muscle tension then relaxation, warm and heavy sensations
- Start with clenching your fist (count to 3-5) then relaxing it (same count)
- Add your lower arms, first tensing the muscles then relaxing them
- Progressively add your upper arms & shoulders, neck, face, jaw & chest
- Then add stomach, back, legs & feet
- Focus on distinguishing the difference between tense and relaxed states
- This provides temporary physical and mental changes; relief from unpleasant emotions
- Daily practice is most helpful
Deep Breathing Practice: a shorter exercise you can do anywhere
- Inhale and hold your breath for a count of 4 then exhale, counting to 5
- Focus only on air going in and out
- With each breath think “calm” or “relax”
- Work up to 5-10 minutes of daily breath practice
Breath Awareness Practice: a longer exercise for a deeper experience
Sit in a comfortable position with eyes open or closed, alone or with others. Turn off digital distractions but you may want to set a timer. Start with 2 minutes and work up to longer sessions.
Start by feeling the air go in and out at the level of your nostrils. Feel the breath like a wave, in and out – notice that for a few breath cycles.
Move your attention from your nose to your chest. Place one hand on your chest. Feel the rise and fall of the chest for a few breath cycles and notice that.
Move your attention to your abdomen and place your other hand on your belly. Notice how your abdomen moves out when your lungs fill with are and it moves in when you exhale. Feel the breath like a wave, moving the abdomen in and out.
Focus on where breath awareness feels most natural – your nose, chest, abdomen or your whole body and note that. Leave your hands where they are or change positions. If it feels more natural, place them by your sides, palms facing up.
The mind is like the ocean – deep beneath the surface it is calm and clear. From this place of clarity you can look up and notice what the conditions are like at the surface – is it flat or choppy, are there waves, or is it storming? Then return to the deep where it is calm and clear.
Sensing the breath brings you beneath the surface of your mind. From this place you can observe the activity at the surface – your thoughts, feelings, memories, and ideas. The deep place is calm and clear.
Sensing the breath brings you to the place of clarity and tranquility.
Focus on the sensation of breath– ride the wave in and out. Let the sensation of your breath fill your awareness.
If distractions take your attention away from your breath and your awareness shifts, notice the distraction then let it go and return your awareness to your breath. Name the distraction if it helps you let go, such as remembering.
Regard yourself with kindness, without judgement. Accept that your mind will wander. Practice redirecting your attention to strengthen and refocus your attention on your breath.
At the end of your practice take a slightly deeper breath and open (or close) your eyes to transition.
Book: The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help you Handle Stress One Moment at a Time by Dzung X.Vo
**Mindfulness is the ability to be present with what is happening in the moment without judgement, accepting life as it is rather than how we expect it to be. Focus on your intentions, awareness, sensations, remaining present with a stance of kindness and compassion. You can bring mindfulness into any activity.