Train your ability to face difficult moments with these strategies
(CNN) — Kendra Kubala finishes her last telehealth session after a long day of dating. She spends many of her work hours as a clinical psychologist offering online mental health screenings, something she had to quickly adapt to when the pandemic hit.
Kubala provides guidance on how to practice resilience — the ability to bounce back from adversity — which allowed him to treat frontline workers like grocery store employees early in the pandemic, he said.
Being resilient is harder when the hardships seem endless, like living with Covid-19, said Kubala, who practices in New York and Pennsylvania.
Human beings intrinsically want things to be logical and we like to have a beginning, a middle and an end, he said.
“When we don’t have that easily identifiable ending,” Kubala said, “it can create excessive worry that can lead to anxiety.”
Resilience is a skill, not a personality trait, he said, so it can be bolstered with a variety of strategies.
Practice mindfulness or “mindfulness”
Many people mistakenly believe that mindfulness only includes meditation, but it’s also about being present in the moment, Kubala said.
One way to do this is to pay attention to all five senses, he said. Focus on what you can hear, see, taste, smell and touch when you feel overwhelmed, Kubala said.
“Acknowledging what’s going on in the moment can sometimes calm us down in a way that allows us to move forward in a more predictable and stable way,” he said.
Have a consistent routine
Some people like to maintain a daily routine, which can help them feel more in control of their lives, said Jason Moser, a professor of clinical science, cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Routines can include anything that has positively affected your mental health in the past, such as having a sleep schedule or eating healthy foods, she said.
Exercising outdoors is another healthy activity to include in your toolbox, and it can be done with a partner, Moser said.
Nature can also allow you to broaden your perspective, said Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology and management and organizations at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. When he’s out for a walk, he makes an effort to look at the trees, some of which may be hundreds of years old, he said.
“I’ve only been here a few decades,” Kross said, “and this tree has weathered all kinds of things, like tornadoes, and it’s still standing.”
Build a strong community
One of the strongest strategies for coping with adversity and improving our resilience is building a strong support network of people you love, Moser said.
Having a strong community allows you to talk about what you’re going through in a safe space and get advice from others with different perspectives, he said.
When you’re in pain, you may feel like you’re alone, but it can be comforting to talk about your problems with other people and realize you’re not alone, Moser said.
Other people can also increase your level of responsibility for healthy habits or meeting goals, he said.
If you have someone to report to for a morning walk or run twice a week, that social aspect can help keep some of those healthy habits sticking, Moser said.
Talk to yourself like a friend
People are much better at giving advice to others about emotional issues than they are about advising themselves and following through, Kross said.
One coping strategy is to change your perspective and start talking to yourself as if you were talking to someone else, he said.
For example, in a difficult moment, ask yourself, “How are you going to handle the situation?” Then give yourself advice like a friend, Kross said.
“This helps change their perspective so they start talking to themselves as they would to another person,” she said, “which often leads to wiser ways of handling situations.”