Peta Sigley explains how to find all of the good from the tough lessons we had to learn in 2020, and take them with us – well into 2021.
It’s safe to say this year has tested us like no other, but the good news is that if you’re reading this, you’ve made it out alive – and whether you realise it or not, you’ve likely come out stronger for it.
In almost every area of our lives, we’ve been forced to deal with the unprecedented and adapt in order to get by. And as difficult as this may have felt in the thick of it, its challenges like these that help us develop resilience — and understand why it’s one of the most important life skills we can have.
But what exactly is resilience? Believe it or not, it’s more than just a 2020 buzzword. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and grow through challenging times. A learned competence that can be purposefully built and skilfully maintained, resilience enables us to bend without breaking, to thrive rather than just survive.
So, although most of us are desperate to hit fast-forward on the remainder of 2020 and finally put the chaos of this year behind us, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the resilience we’ve developed – and how we can harness it to make the most of 2021.
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Prioritise rest, reflection, and recovery
Building resilience requires conscious work, and in the aftermath of a crisis, the most important work you can do is actually not work at all – it is rest. After the mentally and emotionally draining year we’ve all had, making time to properly rest and recuperate is paramount. Take the time to reflect on the year just gone, recognising the behaviours, practices and attitudes that served you well, as well as those that didn’t, and consider how you can bring only what is helpful into the new year.
Resilience comes from recovery, so taking the time to slow down and care for your body and mind should be top priority for the remainder of the year.
Look after your body
Months of lockdown and isolation has taken its toll on our bodies and minds, leaving many of us feeling sluggish, fatigued, and unmotivated. For this reason, focusing on our overall well-being will be vital over the next few weeks.
Regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and daily mindfulness form the foundation positive well-being, yet too few people recognise the power of these practices – which can ultimately make or break a person’s emotional strength and determine how they respond to challenges.
If you feel like you’ve neglected your well-being over the last few months, now is the time to get back on track and master the basics.
Make time for daily exercise. Try to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day, but don’t forget as little as five minutes of high-intensity exercise can help decrease stress and emotional exhaustion, too.
Feeding your mind and body with nutrient-rich foods is integral for achieving positive health and optimal brain function. Of course, don’t deny yourself the foods you truly enjoy, but remember that moderation is key.
And lastly, breathe through it. Consciously regulating the rhythm of our breathing has been shown to have a profound physiological effect on how we feel, and provides a powerful way to manage stress and build resilience. Whether it’s early in the morning or before you wind down for bed, take time to practice mindful breathing and see if you can notice the difference.
Work smarter, not harder
After almost a year of remote working, it’s safe to say the lines between work and home are well and truly blurred. However, as we enter into the New Year, developing clear boundaries between the two will be important when it comes to maintaining our mental health and resilience in both work and life.
Start by leaving your emails at the door as soon as you arrive home – there comes a point in the day where you are no longer productive and that’s perfectly okay.
Try dividing your day into segments. Allocate time for certain work tasks, time to move your body, and time for mental breaks. Taking breaks – whether it’s a few minutes of stretching, or a walk around the block – are critical for mental clarity and focus. More than this, they also go a long way in building resilience and mitigating against the effects of occupational burnout.
Resilience thinktank Springfox commissioned a survey recently, titled The Australian Workforce Response to COVID-19, and found that connection with others was a key driver in positivity and optimism at the peak of the pandemic.
As we begin to move away from one-on-one FaceTime calls and slowly return to group social events, make an effort to maintain healthy and emotionally stimulating relationships and explore ways to connect meaningfully with those around you. Having someone to talk to or simply spend time with is an effective way to get your mind off any challenges you might be facing, and while also providing comfort and perspective during tough times.
Take a glass half-full approach
Whilst it’s often easier said than done, practicing daily gratitude and adopting a ‘glass half-full’ approach to life goes a long way in boosting happiness, reducing stress, and improving our overall level of resilience. It may feel a little strange at first but start by writing down three things you’re grateful for each day and monitor your shift in perspective as the days go on. As the saying goes, the secret to having it all is believing you already do, and this daily action encourages us to focus on all the positives in our life, effectively minimising the negatives.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s the little things that mean the most. A coffee with a friend, a child’s first birthday, or a hug from a grandparent are all things we’ve learnt to value this year – and the same is true when it comes to our mental well-being.
Listening to our bodies, allowing ourselves to rest, taking time to breathe, take a walk, or simply enjoy the company of a friend are things we likely took for granted in the past, but not anymore. As we look ahead to the New Year, these simple practices will enable us to harness the resilience we’ve developed and truly put our best selves forward in 2021.
Peta Sigley is the co-founder & chief knowledge officer at the online resilience platform, Springfox.