Resilience and Mindfulness

In the past few posts I have outlined many mental health challenges that people face, from eco-anxiety to imposter syndrome to burnout etc. No one just wants to hear all about the bad stuff, they want to hear about the solutions and how to help. Well resilience is one of the solutions to these challenges.


Resilience explained by the American psychological Association 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 problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.” It is important to recognise that resilience doesn’t get rid of adversities and challenges in your life, it is just the way you deal with them to be able to get through it.

In short term, when you hear resilience think of an elastic band being extended and when it's let go, it bounces back. However if the elastic band is stretched more and more and too far, the ability to bounce back fails and it becomes limp. To make sure something like that doesn't happen to you, you can strengthen your resilience.

When asked in the forms, 'What would you recommend to people struggling with the above mental health challenges to do to cope (e.g exercise, meditation, self-love)' the answers are as follows:
  • "If it becomes too much, take a break for double whatever you think is enough"- if you think you should break for ten minutes, break for 20 instead.
  • "Self love if the most important thing, valuing yourself, your time and your boundaries helps. Regular exercise also helps with focus"
  • "Be compassionate and kind to yourself"
  • "Honestly I’m trying to figure that out myself- meditation helps some people, taking time away and doing something you enjoy helps to distract yourself and helps you relax, but be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole of using distractions all the time to stop you thinking about things you don’t want to think about, because then you just push it aside and eventually emotions and problems will come out all at once in the form of a panic attack or a mental breakdown, so just do what you enjoy and allow your mind to process things at it’s own pace."
  • "Therapy if possible, if not, researching mental health and coping mechanisms and trying what you feel might be helpful"
  • "Take the time out that you need, even if it means not going back to elements of activism. You're much more use in and to the climate movement with good, stable mental health. Also, don't feel the pressure to go the same activism route as everyone, do what makes you feel good and find a way to be active through that"
  • "Exercise definitely, and talking to people about climate change."

And many of the incredible answers above were being repeated in sources online about ways to cope with mental health. I have coping mechanisms split up into different sections below.

One important message to point out is everyone's mental health and life is very different and some exercises might work for someone and not the other person. Balancing and caring for your mental health is a personal journey that only you can do for yourself.

In the moment: If you are experiencing major stress, anxiety, imposter syndrome in the moment:

  1. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and take 1 deep breath - This can take your mind of your anxiety and slow everything down by coming into the present moment. You can notice the chair near you, the birds chirping, a table you have your hand on, a sandwich in your back, and then by taking the deep breath you tell you body you are relaxed and the spiralling into the anxiety can stop.
  2. Breathe. There are many different breathing techniques out there to deal with different stresses and anxieties. One of my personal favourites is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Firstly you breathe out completely, then you take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, you hold it for 7 seconds and let it out with a whooshing noise for 8 seconds. This can make you light headed so make sure to sit down before doing this.
  3. Stretch or walk - by moving your body around you can take your focus away from your mind and thoughts to your body.
  4. Challenge the negative thoughts causing the stress or anxiety in that moment. Put the thoughts on trial. Have them on a stage and ask them why they are here and what is their purpose, the advantages and disadvantages and decide whether they should stay or not. Example: 'I'm getting nothing done and my list is getting longer.' The thought appeared because I can see my list in front of me getting bigger and it is getting later and later into the day. The purpose of this thought is to remind me that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing fast enough. The advantages of this thought is it could encourage me to work faster. The disadvantages of this thought is that it is distracting me from my work, it is impacting negatively on my mental health, it is wasting time. Then take a deep breath and once you've thought through the thought you can realise it isn't necessary and let it go and return to your work. The replacing thought to take that ones place should be, I am working hard and doing my best and what I can. These will get done when they get done.
  5. Don't jump on the train. This one is related to the one above but you can think of your thoughts as little trains passing by in your head and you decide whether to take the train or to remain on the platform and watch the train pass by. The train could be labelled 'I'm getting nothing done' and you have a split second to decide whether to get that train and follow the thought or to stay on the platform and wave the thought away. This also takes practice and training and can be difficult to do straight away.
  6. Ask for help. If there is someone near you that you trust and are comfortable asking help from ask them. You could talk to them about how you are feeling or get help with the work you are doing etc.
  7. Take a break. If the situation is getting worse walk away and take a break. You can come back to it in awhile and you're thoughts will be new and refreshed.
  1. Re-evaluate your schedule or goals and try to organise them to suit you if they aren't working. If you schedule into your day that you have 20 minutes to write an essay that takes an hour then you will never be satisfied with the result. You will have to re-schedule it and make more time for it.
  2. Commit to loving yourself and self-care. The journey to self-love can be a long one that can be difficult at times, but it is worth it by the end. Some ways to commit would be to decide to exercise everyday with kindness to yourself, saying you are exercising to take care of your body, not to punish it.
  3. TAKE CONTROL! Design your life to support you. This is your life and only your life. You deserve self-love, you deserve good mental health and your life can be organised to support that. If your social media page is full of soul-crushing posts and stories that upset you and make you feel awful you can take a break from the social media and take care of yourself etc.
  1. Join a group - by joining a climate activist group, a local group in your community or a sports group etc you can create a network of support for yourself to have people around you who can help.
  2. Focus on relationships - many times when people are going through tough times they can isolate themselves from those around them. This can cause loneliness and make the tough time even worse. During these times try to turn to the people closest to you for help and support. Maybe go for a walk with someone or get lunch.
  3. Raise awareness. Since mental health challenges can be invisible because they are happening inside someone, it can be hard for people to recognise them. By raising awareness about your own mental health and mental health challenges in general you can help yourself and others.
  1. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we can be the cause to our own mental health challenges and can be the worst bully to ourselves. If you didn't get your list done today, that is okay. If you made a mistake, that is okay. By becoming our own friend we can become stronger to deal with the challenges of life and activism.
  2. Educate yourself. There are many ways to educate yourself about your mental health and mental health in general. You could read about it, attend workshops online or in person and tune into yourself. By putting time aside to journal or focus on your thoughts and feelings you can tune into your own mental health and what you have to do and what suits you.
  3. Mindfulness. In the past few years mindfulness has burst into popularity across the world. At the bottom of this article I have a section on positive mindfulness if you want to find out more about that.
  4. Do something that you love everyday - There are many stressors and challenges in everyday life but by doing something you love and enjoy it can counteract these stressors and keep everything balanced. These activities could be gardening, listening to music, meditating, art, sports, playing an instrument, playing with pets, praying, walking in nature etc.
  5. Find the value in what you are doing. When doing something over and over again, like a job, the value of it can be lost. You may have started a project for a purpose or out of love but overtime that is forgotten. Anytime you are doing this project or job try to remind yourself the purpose and value and why you started it in the first place.
  6. Accept change. One of the most difficult things for humanity to do is accept change. If change could be accepted overall it could be better for everyone because everything is always changing.
  7. Learn from the past. Mistakes are so important to be able to learn and grow from. By making mistakes and looking back at them you can learn from them and improve your mental health from that. Example, in the past you would work for 6 hours with no genuine break and this led to burnout. Now you take a 5 minute break every 30 minutes to regain your strength and tune in to your mental state in that moment.
  8. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. When stressed you could go for a walk or do some yoga and pound out the stress and have the peace to think and sort out why you are feeling this way.
Tips for Designing your Day:
  1. Write down and recognise thought and emotion patterns - by journaling you can keep track of positive, negative and neutral thoughts and emotions that cross your mind on a daily basis. By doing this you could get an idea of what is causing the mental health challenges.
  2. Each week you could make a food plan to ensure you are eating well and getting all the nutrients you need. This could make you feel prepared and organised for the week ahead.
  3. Set a cut off time from technology. This can be mentally set in your mind that at 8pm you turn off your phone completely and read. It could also be physically set that your phone shuts off at a specific time for you to go about your self-care.
  4. Try to schedule breaks for yourself throughout the day as many times as you can. If not as many times as you can, try to focus on every 2 hours to take a break. You could use a timer on your phone to schedule these breaks and you have a few minute rest to breathe, ask what your feeling and where your thoughts are, to eat, drink, stretch or walk.
  5. Try to avoid time stealing activities in the day - if you are doing something that is consuming your time and energy but doesn't really need to be done try to spend less time at it or do something else instead.
  6. Turn off notifications when you are focusing on a project or specific work so it doesn't distract you.
At the end of the day:
  1. Check your schedule or calendar to see what you have for the next day and mentally prepare yourself for it.
  2. Write 3 annoying thoughts down in a book that were taking up energy during your day and have 5 minutes to think about them and them let them go.
  3. Have a journal that you can reflect on the day.
  4. Tidy your room or space to clean your area.
  5. Switch off from the day and accept what has happened and leave it behind.
  6. Self-care; Read, dance, sing, shower, light some nice candles, eat.

And these are only some of the millions of ways to different ways to cope with mental health challenges in your life. Try to experiment with different ones to see what suits you or what doesn't. Of course, all of these coping mechanisms are easier said than done and take time to actually make a difference.

To educate yourself further there are many websites, books, podcasts, social media accounts etc to help. Here are some resources:



Mindfulness and Positive Psychology:

Lately, mindfulness has burst into popularity as many people around the world have started practising it and seeing the benefits of it. Even though it is not a new concept and has been around for a very long time, people have only taken interest in it lately, and therefore there is no set definition. Here are two different definitions I found:

  1. Thich Nhat Hanh: (Spiritual Leader)“I define mindfulness as the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment.”
  2. Rick Hanson: (Neuroscientist)"Mindfulness is simply a clear, non-judgmental awareness of your inner and outer worlds. In particular, it’s an awareness of the flow of experience in your inner world – an alert observing of your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, desires, memories, images, personality dynamics and attitudes."

Here is the long explanation of these definitions.

Every day, when doing daily tasks like walking or eating or filling the dishwasher or washing the dishes do you realise that you can do these tasks while thinking about other things. We have a setting in our brains called automatic - pilot which lets us do ordinary tasks without having to think about them. Many neuroscientists think automatic-pilot evolved in the human mind to be able to conserve energy in the body and because the brain likes to form habits and have a routine.

This state of our brain, when in auto-pilot is known as mindlessness because our minds are not focused on the task. Our minds may be thinking about what will happen tomorrow or a bad thing that happened in the past.

Auto-pilot can be great so that we don't have to focus intensely on how to walk every day and then we are able to multi-task. If overused, which it is in our society, auto-pilot can become damaging to us. We can live too much in the past and future and miss out on the present moment that is happening to us right now.

Mindfulness is the opposite of auto-pilot or mindlessness. It is about living in the present moment and feeling everything that is happening to us right now. Instead of rushing through our dinner to get to watch television afterwards or eat chocolate after, we focus on the dinner and really taste it and feel the texture and think about the journey the food went on to get to this plate and everyone involved. We immediately become connected to the present moment and the whole world around us. Instead of living in our head and brain, we live in the now.

Mindfulness recognises, in the moment, the mind, the body and the emotions without judging them or criticising them. It is about knowing that where we are, how we feel and how we are in this present moment is exactly how it should be. With mindfulness we recognise that life is full of up and downs and accept this, knowing that whatever mental state we are in right now - positive or negative - won't last forever.

Mindfulness can be very useful as we can learn to respond calmer in situations and be fully present in our lives which improves our quality of life.

Respond calmer in situations, what does that mean?

That leads me to positive psychology. Neuroscientists have discovered that 50% of our overall happiness is dependent on our genes, 40% is dependent on us and only 10% depends on our environment and surroundings.

This means that 40% of our overall happiness depends on how we want to feel in a situation.

We could wake up in the morning and it is raining and immediately we could think about how horrible everything is and how our day is ruined because of the rain or, we could respond calmer and realise that the rain is out of our control and we could be grateful that it is growing our plants and food at that moment.

Now, gaining this positive mindset can be difficult and has to be something we train for and work at. Why? Because we have something called the negative bias inside of our minds. This is where we automatically gravitate towards the negative things in life. Before, in caveman times this helped us to survive as we focused on the negatives to be able to survive and avoid death. We would see the rain and know our fire will go out and we could die from the cold. Nowadays, we don't need this negative biased thinking to survive any more and this negative thinking mind frame impacts on our mental health negatively. This means that we have to work harder to see the positives in our life but it can benefit our overall mental health.

There are many ways that we can cultivate and train ourselves to see the positives in life, as well as seeing the negatives; which we see automatically.
  1. Be grateful. Every morning we can think of five things we are grateful for in the morning to start the day off on a positive note. By being grateful we recognise that what we are grateful for is benefiting us and is making our lives better. When eating we can be grateful for the food, and then grateful for those who grew the food and those who transported it and the weather for helping to grow it and the soil for housing it and suddenly we are grateful for everything around us and feel connected to everything.
  2. The Loving Kindness Practice. The loving kindness practice is a practice where you wish everyone and everything love and kindness. We are good at wishing love to animals or friends or family or someone who wishes us love. But then we extend that to a random person we see on the street and we mentally wish them well in life, making a positive connection. This defeats the thought that we might think they are looking at us weirdly which would create a negative connection. Eventually this practice leads to us wishing those who have hurt us well and letting them go so the experience with them doesn't burden us.
  3. Exercising can release positive hormones and emotions which make us happy straight away.
  4. Socialising with others can make us happy as we are social animals and need to make connections with others.
  5. New experiences. By doing something new we can make ourselves happy and excited as it makes life more enjoyable and not as repetitive.
  6. Smiling. If we smile to ourselves many times a day and to other people we can spread happiness.
  7. Hobbies. Doing things we love and that we know brings us happiness can make us happy.
  8. Meditation. Meditation can bring us into the present moment and can make us happy by being present.
  9. Self-care. By taking care of ourselves we can feel grateful and happy as we feel like we deserve to be happy.
  10. By walking in nature we can release positive hormones that make us happy.

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Thank you for reading this. I hope that this may be helpful!