Resilience For Dummies
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Life isn't always easy, and how you deal with difficult situations can make or break your life. Achieving resilience doesn't require extraordinary ability. Resilient people see challenges as opportunities, maintain a positive outlook, find meaning in the struggle, and successfully adapt to adversity. If these skills don’t come naturally to you, you can develop them. Humans are innately wired to adapt to difficulty. The key is to be able to tap into this wiring by practicing behaviors, habits, and strategies that help us to thrive.

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Calming yourself with mindful breath

Resilient people are able to successfully deal with adversity, and one of the tools they use is mindfulness, or the practice of witnessing the present moment without judgment. You can use mindfulness to calm yourself when stressed. When you are in the moment, witnessing with wonder and awe and not thinking or worrying, your stress levels will drop, and you will be able to cope more effectively.

For this exercise, you may want to sit or lie down. Whatever position you choose, ensure that you’re comfortable and that you can stay alert yet relaxed. Follow these steps:

  1. Begin by breathing slowly, in and out.
  2. Count 1-2-3-4 as you breathe in, and then count 4-3-2-1 as you breathe out.
  3. Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth.
  4. Let the breath simply flow without trying.
  5. Observe your experience of breathing. Notice the temperature of your breath as it moves in and out, the rising and falling of your chest, the expansion and contraction of your belly, and the way your lungs fill and the way they let go.
  6. Allow your thoughts to rise and fall with your breath.
  7. Allow yourself to be aware of how the breath fills your body with life.
  8. Notice your connection with the breath of life.
  9. Notice how you aren’t holding on to anything, letting go with your breath.
  10. Simply observe your experience. Witness the breath of life filling your body and then being shared with the world.

Decluttering your environment

To build and hold on to your resilience, you want to make the choice to find and create more balance. The environments you inhabit reflect and affect your physical, mental, and emotional health — and, therefore, your resilience. If your external world is messy and disorderly, it can have a negative impact on your mental and emotional health, on your coping behaviors, and on your time efficiency.

Decluttering and creating more organization in your environment can help keep your mind clear, reduce your stress levels, create a feeling of more spaciousness, and, ultimately, enable you to feel more energized, capable, and resilient. These 10 steps can help you declutter:

  1. Gather containers to put stuff in. Get yourself plenty of trash boxes, inexpensive containers, or bins in which to store things.
  2. Set aside time. You might set aside 15 minutes a day to start and maybe more time on the weekends. You probably want to start with small blocks of time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re better off being consistent with your efforts over time than trying to do it all at once.
  3. Start small. Start small and focus on one space at a time in a specific room. You might start with the drawer of a desk and then slowly move on to clear the entire desk, followed by the area surrounding the desk, the closets, and other cabinets, for example.
  4. Completely pull everything out. Whether it’s a drawer, a closet, or the trunk of your car, pull everything out all at once. Clean the area thoroughly, and then begin sorting through the stuff.
  5. Separate everything into piles. As you clear items, put them into one of five piles, labeled accordingly:
    • Trash: It has to go—it’s not worth anything.
    • Donate: Give it to charity or give it to a friend: It has to go, and it’s worth something, so it should go to someone who can use it.
    • Sell: It has to go, but it’s worth a lot. Use this category only if you’re adept at selling things and you have the time to do it. Don’t even attempt to put things in this category if selling used items isn’t in your wheelhouse.
    • Keep: I need it or I love it.
    • Not sure: I can’t decide what to do with this item. I’ll set it aside for later.
  6. Put your Keep items back. The Keep pile can be split further into two piles — one for storage and one to use regularly. If it’s meant for storage, like your tax files, put it in labeled storage bins to be set aside in your designated storage area. Keep only the items that you know you need to store, like your taxes for the past seven years. If the paper is ten years old, chuck it. If it’s something you use regularly, place it back in the drawer, and so on.
  7. If you don’t use it, let it go. If you love it but never use it, bless it and think about the person who will be grateful to have it and use it. Give it away. You can take a picture of it if you need, but if you really can’t let go, put it in a storage bin and label it.
  8. Ask for help. You may be uncertain whether to keep or let go of specific items. When in doubt, get a second opinion by asking a friend or family member. You can always hire an organizing professional if you’re overwhelmed and confused. If you feel that you can’t let go of anything and suspect that you’re hoarding, seek help from a mental health professional.
  9. Maintain upkeep. As you declutter and become more organized, make a concerted effort every day to keep it up. Here are some suggestions:
    • Set aside five to ten minutes a day to put away all stray items.
    • Make a habit of cleaning dirty dishes.
    • Clear your desk or even your computer desktop when you’re done using it.
    • Keep a balanced karma in your closet. Basically, if you’re going to get something new, you give away something you have or get rid of it.
    • Regularly shred papers you don’t need.
    • Regularly file papers according to a labeling system that makes sense to you. Do the same with files on your computer.
    • On your desk or where you do most of your work, designate an area where you keep the things you need for the current project you’re working on. Everything else should be stored away in your filing system.
    • Regularly review your emails, delete old or unimportant ones, and create files for the ones you need for the future. Label them in levels of priority.
  10. Celebrate. Reward yourself when you have completed a big task, like fully organizing your desk, a closet, or an entire room. Treat yourself to a relaxing bath, massage, nurturing dinner, or fun event with friends. Organizing needs to be a balanced process, where you dig in and then take time to relax. Over time, this rhythm of organizing and then enjoying free time should become the habitual flow in your life.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Eva Selhub, MD is a physician and resilience expert. She taught for 20 years as an instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and served as the medical director of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital for six years.

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