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Three key elements to boost mental well-being in challenging times

Three key elements to boost mental well-being in challenging times

Learning how to boost resilience will make us better equipped to cope with life’s challenges

I saw a funny meme on Instagram the other day.

It was a drawing of a person riding a rollercoaster with a variety of moods. It was a perfect illustration of the ups and downs that most of us are experiencing in our motivation these days.

As therapist and author Esther Perel recently explained we feel these peaks and valleys because we’re all dealing with “prolonged uncertainty – the sense that, not only do we feel uncertain, we don’t know when our feeling of uncertainty will end.”

Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.”

Resilience is a quality we all need, now more than ever. Learning how to boost our resilience will make us better equipped to cope with the challenges we face in life.

Here are a few simple tips for cultivating more resilience in our lives:

Complete a task
A great way to escape the cycle of uncertainty is to find a task to complete. Any task that can be done that has a beginning, middle, and end can give us a sense of completing a pattern of expectation. Did you notice the surge in social media posts about baking banana bread and working on 1000-piece puzzles? The fact that so many people turned to puzzles and home baking during the lockdown is no coincidence.

They may not have even known, but the satisfaction of completing these small projects gave them some relief from the stress of not knowing what was going to happen in the coming weeks. Following a recipe has a satisfying beginning, middle, and often a delicious end. So does sorting through hundreds of tiny pieces and finally clicking that final piece into place in a giant puzzle.

Move your body
We secrete stress hormones in order to give us energy to cope under extreme situations. Like the energy we need to stay up all night with a sick kid or to change a flat tire on a lonely stretch of road. Being locked in our homes, either by government order or by our own fears, prevents us from releasing our stress hormones with action. If you noticed unexplained changes in your energy levels, unexplained breakouts on your face, or digestive problems during the lockdown it’s probably because stress hormones really start wreaking havoc with your own internal system. As long as you get out and move, you are going to be fine. Try joining an online yoga programme, a daily push-up challenge, or even a commitment to meeting a friend for a daily walk.

Not only do these activities have rewarding beginnings, middles, and ends – as we become stronger, or more flexible by physically moving our bodies, we switch off vicious cycles of rumination, release stress hormones, and replace them with endorphins and improved levels of serotonin.

Get some sleep
If you’re still working remotely, your commute now consists of walking from one room to another so you’ve got more time for sleep. As tempting as it may be to stay up late binge-watching the latest series on Netflix, playing Fortnite, or Zooming with friends back home, going to bed and dreaming is an important part of maintaining your overall well-being.

Not only is sleep the best diet and exercise routine out there, trust me on this one, it is also the natural way in which we deal with difficult stuff. We go to sleep and we dream, and next day we usually feel better.

Think about the times you came home after a bad day wanting to quit your job and run away to start a new life. And the next morning, you wake up, and you get dressed for work, and everything’s fine. That’s because sleep is an important way in which we restore ourselves.

Although we’re now returning to work, and travel and movement restrictions are lifting, shadows of uncertainty still loom over us as we confront the evolving changes to what seems to be the “new normal.” That’s why now is a great time to increase our resilience in the face of prolonged uncertainty by taking deliberate steps to add activities into our day that create a sense of structure and reliability so we can boost our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

So go ahead and bake a cake, take a daily walk, turn off the TV and get some sleep, and notice how you start to feel stronger and more capable of handling the challenges that life brings you.

Lashley Pulsipher is a ICF-certified executive coach and training facilitator

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