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Resilience in the making

In 2019 The Selwyn Institute focused on Resilience in the context of ageing and wellbeing. Little did anyone know that so early in 2020, with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, that the learnings would be so relevant and useful.     

Given the importance of resilience at this time—particularly for caregivers, people in lock-down, or those doing their utmost to keep positive in these challenging times—some thoughts on the topic might be of help. 

The definition itself is empowering

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health issues  or workplace and financial stressors. It means, "bouncing back" from difficult experiences.  In the case of the COVID-19 ‘lock down’, it also means tapping in the well or resolve to remain upbeat and connected. 

 Kindness is part of the equation

Kindness, compassion, and giving are known to boost mental well-being and resilience.  Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end there are shared benefits and opportunities to consider.   

For example:

  • We’re all social distancing, so how are you finding ways to give from afar?  Time, and social contact through technology connections, are worthwhile ‘investments’. 
  • Are you finding that you’re more patient with others knowing everyone is going through a difficult time? How has the pandemic made you more empathetic?
  • What about self-compassion? How are you being kinder and more giving to yourself right now?

Speaker at the Selwyn Institute Aging and Spirituality Conference 2109, Dr Lucy Hone, says resilience is helpful to:

  • Overcome the obstacles of childhood (poverty, abuse, neglect)
  • Steer through everyday stresses (injury, bullying, rage, anxiety)
  • Adapt to major life changes/loss (death, divorce, illness)
  • Reach out (take on new challenges)

She recommends taking the time to choose where you focus your energy and attention. Particularly at this time of uncertainty.  She recommends being mindful to understand that struggle is part of life. 

Understand that struggle is part of life

Be focused on what you hope to happen, or achieve, each day. 

Be kind and helping and avoid harmful thoughts, actions or experiences.

Gratitude leads to resilience. 

Three mindsets Hone in on the benefits of stopping to acknowledge reasons to be thankful.  Take the time each day working with these formulas. 

3GT = 3 Good Things

HTGS = Hunt the Good Stuff

ATG = Accept the good. 

Telling or remembering stories is powerful

At the same conference, writer Richard von Sturmer told the following story: 

A king once summoned his wise man and presented him with a golden ring. He told the wise man to engrave four words on the inside band of the ring, words which would give him solace in times of difficulty and act as a warning in times of happiness. He then added the usual proviso: “And if you can’t do this for me, then it’s off with your head!” The wise man went away, and on the following day returned and presented the ring to his ruler. On the inside band there were inscribed the four words: “This too will pass”.

The point being that even in the darkest and most challenging of moments there will always be hope. Sometimes it takes effort and sometimes it takes support to find ‘it’. Whatever it takes is worth focusing on and then moving through. 

The School of Life is a global organisation helping people to lead more fulfilled lives. Their 5-element formula for creating resilience building capabilities picks up on the notion of This Too Will Pass.

  1. Every trial we face is temporary. For now, we struggle and suffer; in time our pains will lessen and fade.  Even the longest and blackest of nights must be followed, eventually, by dawn.
  2. Catastrophes are common. The threats we face are countless.  In the past we dealt with famines, floods, predators and tribal warfare. Today it is disease, downturn and sudden isolation. We should steel ourselves to expect it.
  3. You’re stronger than you think. We are very robust; we need surprisingly little in our lives to get by. We are able to sustain an awful lot of ‘hits’ and still keep going. Focus on this truth; remind yourself of your ability to persevere.
  4. Suffering is a great teacher. Most of what we’ve ever learned has come to us in periods of suffering.  It helps put the past, and future, problems in perspective. And shows us, through their absence, the good things in our life that truly matter. 
  5. You’ve done this before. The fact that your reading this sentence is testament to your fortitude. Your past is a record of trials overcome. You’ve endured setbacks, conquered obstacles and passed every test life has thrown your way. Take courage from you great examples. 

Compared to many other places in the world New Zealand has taken a most resilient stand in dealing with the many, varied and challenging aspects of this global pandemic. As part of this community you have helped to create this response. 

Watch this space

Ironically, just prior to New Zealand entering Stage 4 of its response to dealing with the virus, The Selwyn Institute was in the final stages of preparing Resilience: An Integral Part of a Global Ageing Agenda

When the world returns to some semblance of ‘business as usual’ the publication of the White Paper Resilience: An Integral Part of a Global Ageing Agenda will be a priority. 

Active participants in our 2019 Resilience focus Maya Nova and Dr Lucy Hone are regularly updating information related to the realities of the ‘new’ post-COVID-19 world. 

Visit Maya Nova at https://www.mindbalance.co.nz/

Visit the NZ Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience: https://nziwr.co.nz/

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Date published: 4 May 2020

Review date: 4 May 2023