Are you feeling it? Today’s “normal” seems to include doing more with less and having to adapt on the fly. It’s as if time sped up and change became a daily exercise that we’re all required to engage with.
There is no doubt our world is changing at an accelerating rate and as a result it is demanding a new level of mental and emotional resilience. So how do we build our resilience to keep up with the accelerated change we’re all facing?
How do we build our resilience?
Think of your emotional resilience capacity like the amount of gas you have in your car. The more you have, the farther you can go.
Building a reservoir of emotional resilience gives you the confidence to know you can make it through a potentially stressful situation; it gives you the energy to continue down the road following an unexpected challenge; and it gives you the ability to quickly reset your system mentally and emotionally when needed.
When does our resilience deplete?
Our resilience depletes when we feel resistant or compressed. For example, think about the resistance you feel when you find yet another major work project has landed on your plate. Or you last healthy check appointment revealed something you weren’t expecting? You’re already feeling overloaded. Who wouldn’t feel resistant or compressed?
Building up our resilience capacity
We don’t know about you, but more and more people we talk to are having multiple health and/or financial problems or life events they never imagined could happen. To get through these tough times, we all need to build up our resilience capacity.
Building up our resilience capacity is so important because it helps reduce the emotional and physical effects of time crunch, overload, edginess, financial pressures, unexpected changes … you know the list.
Research is showing that these standard daily stressors have a cumulative effect that translates into resilience depletion. Plus, when we’re low on resilience, we tend to add extra drama to a problem which magnifies the situation and creates even more drain. And that’s when we spin out of control, make mistakes, say things we later regret, ignore our health, and so on.
bending without breaking
In physics, resilience is the property of a material that enables it to bounce back and resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed. (How often do you feel bent, stretched or compressed?) Bamboo trees are wonderful examples of being able to bend without breaking.
Bamboo trees go through stress from nature, but they bounce back in a remarkable way. You may have no control over external factors but you can build up your internal resilience to maintain flexibility and balance in your life, like the bamboo tree, as you deal with challenging circumstances.
We all need resilience for optimal health, happiness and reducing stress. Building our emotional resilience capacity involves simple actions that can be easily learned. Here’s one way to stop the drain and start building resilience:
Activate Your Super Power, ‘Be Neutral’
By learning to activate the Power of Neutral you can prepare for a potentially stressful situation or stop a reaction in the middle of a stressful experience. Think of all the times you’re listening to the news, surfing the web or in a meeting and you hear something that makes you angry or worried.
Instead of letting the anger run or projecting fear into the future, you can use the Power of Neutral before and as you watch the news, surf the web or attend a meeting to build your resilience capacity and save all that emotional energy.
how do we shift into neutral?
Here’s a simple tool to shift into Neutral to build your resilience capacity. It’s a lot like shifting into neutral in a car. Your engine is still running but you get to decide which way to go before you engage the gear again.
Shifting into Neutral inside yourself gives you more vision and stops the emotional surge and energy drain so you can maintain resilience as you sort your options and choose how to respond.
3 steps to neutral
- Take a time-out, breathing slowly and deeply. Imagine the air entering and leaving through the heart area or the center of your chest.
- Focus on your heart and breathing instead of focusing on your stressful thoughts and worried feelings.
- Continue until you have neutralized the emotional charge and you feel calmness throughout.
Use Step one as soon as you feel your emotions start to react. First you want to take a time-out by choosing to step back from your emotions.
Heart breathing in step one helps draw the energy out of your head, where negative thoughts and feelings get amped up. Breathe slowly and deeply in a casual way. Imagine the air entering and leaving through the center of your chest and heart area.
In Step two, disengage from your stressful thoughts and feelings as you continue to breathe. Just having the intent to disengage can help you neutralize a lot of your emotional energy.
In Step three, continue the process until you have chilled out and neutralized the emotional charge. This doesn’t mean your anger or anxiety will have totally evaporated.
It just means that the charged energy has been taken out and you have stopped the stress play out in your body.
the benefits of building resilience and practicing neutral
Practicing the Power of Neutral often brings a sense of empowerment, confidence, appreciation and other positive emotions. When you’re experiencing positive emotions more possibilities come into your view.
Positive psychology researcher, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has found that: “Through experiences of positive emotions people transform themselves, becoming more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated and healthy individuals.”
Resilience should be at the top of all of our “must-have” lists if we are to effectively deal with today’s time constraints, overload, financial worries, and the unexpected challenges to come. There are many ways to build mental, emotional and physical resilience. This is just one tool to get your started. Practice this resilience tool daily and watch your resilience tank fill.
Whether we’re caring for our self or for others, to maintain our composure and poise we need quick and effective tools that can help us refocus, reset and connect with our deeper heart center – our authentic self.
About the authors:
Doc is founder of HeartMath® Inc., and the non-profit Institute of HeartMath. He’s co-author of Heart Intelligence; Connecting with the Intuitive Guidance of the Heart and The HeartMath Solution. Deborah is CEO and President of HeartMath Inc., and a behavioral psychologist and business executive, and co-author with Doc of Transforming Stress, Transforming Anger, Transforming Anxiety and Transforming Depression.