Taking Care of Yourself Key to Staying Resilient

Sadly, trauma and tragedy are inevitable parts of life. Jobs can end unexpectedly and loved ones can die without warning. However, resilience, the ability to adapt in the face of sudden and significant change, can be very helpful in preventing the development of serious emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.

Bridget Richard, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who has worked for the last eight years to help Ohioans cope with their mental health issues, believes that resilience can improve a person’s quality of life. In this interview, Richard’s speaks about how you can strengthen your own resilience, the important role self-care plays in maintaining good mental health, and how forming bonds with other people, even if they aren’t particularly deep, can help you lead a happier life.

What are some steps individuals can take to strength their resilience?

I’d say by looking at things from an evidence-based perspective instead one that is emotion-based is usually a good way to start. Often our reaction to change is excitement or panic, but once you set aside those emotions and look at things objectively, with a pros and cons list, for example, you are better able to see if a change is a real threat or just something that is uncomfortable, but manageable. Also, one good way to deal with a big change, like a move or a new job, is to break it down into several smaller, more easily achievable steps that you can work towards completing. Change seems overwhelming and difficult to adapt to when you only look at the end point. When you look at the beginning of a change, you’ll see that it’s really made up of a series of tasks that are w ell within your abilities, like calling a realtor and updating your résumé.

What role does self-care play in maintaining resilience?

Self-care is very important. There are so many physical health problems, that are reasonably easy to address, that can contribute to mental health issues. For instance, thyroid problems, diabetes and vitamin D deficiency all can cause you to feel more depressed and anxious, which can in turn make it more difficult to cope with change. Getting a yearly physical, keeping up with your blood work, eating well and getting proper exercise all contribute to having a healthy body. As we grow older, it’s important to stay on top of any changes we go through so that they don’t negatively impact our mental health. Likewise, exercise doubles as an outlet for frustration. Focusing on achieving goals that are tangible like jogging for 30 minutes. That has nothing to do with where you’ll be in 10 years, but you can carry that sense of accomplishment into other parts of your life.  

Additionally, it’s important to be engaged. Reading, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, things of that nature, gives us something to ponder and discuss with others. That keeps us engaged in the world around us instead of being stuck thinking about problematic issues, or issues that maybe aren’t problematic that we make problematic by overthinking them. Part of self-care is self-development, just having things in your life that you can mentally engage with.

A big part of resilience is forming bonds with people you can call on when encountering times of difficulty. Can you speak on the role interpersonal relationships have on maintaining resilience?

Once you have confidence that you have something to contribute to a relationship, because you’ve been cultivating interests and hobbies, you can create bonds based on shared interests. That common ground will allow you to start forming relationships and once you do, it becomes easier to find other things that will strengthen those bonds so that they will become part of your support network. Different relationships have different strengths, and it’s important to have relationships at different levels. You should have people in your life that you can tell absolutely anything, but when those people aren’t available, it’s good to have mid-level relationships. Having people in your life that you don’t necessarily want to share your heart and soul with is valuable for feeling connected to a community. Those connections will make you feel more supported and happier, and consequently, more resilient.