How we cope or endure the dramatic changes in life requires practical approaches. Whether it is the contagion of pandemic and the collective anxiety it has generated or disaster displacement to personal setbacks or sorrows, we need to harness our inner strength to rebound. Considering that toxic emotions keep us away from the right priorities during distress, we need to build resilience.
This ability steers our creativity and clarity of thoughts to make smart, informed choices from mental fatigue, fear, or panic in times of tribulations.
No matter what has happened, the impact can begin all the way physiologically to our minds and become chronic. The term “Allostatic Load”refers to extreme harm to our overall wellbeing. It occurs when demand on our internal resources exceeds our capacity. Hence the fear puts excessive pressure on our capabilities and resources, resulting in poor decision-making and burnout.
So how do we get back stability and build mental resilience? Let’s start with a Buddhist parable of the second arrow.
The Buddha once asked a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?” He then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”
Here are a few suggestions to restore physical and mental strength by building resilience:
First, calm your mind – Take notice of your thoughts, especially when they running away towards apocalyptic scenarios. Focus on one positive fact: “it is marvelous that I am safe at my home” versus the bad news. You can also use mindfulness apps such as Headspaceor be mindful in support of your initiative to unhook the negative emotion.
Connect with your moral compass. Resilient people are guided by compassion, have a solid sense of fairness, and consider right and wrong.
Believe in something greater than yourself to give you courage and strength – for instance, “a life purpose or a mission.”
Engage in philanthropic activities.
Accept that you cannot change what has happened, but you can focus on what you can change.
Identify meaningful wisdom in the dire experience
Create a social support system with individuals who have a positive outlook in life and a nurturing spirit.
On a final note, a good diet and regular exercise to boost our good health should be part of our daily life.
You can be isolated, knocked down, lose your reputation or your business, your lover may call it a day, well many things can go wrong, and consequently, you want to crawl under a rock and stay there forever! The truth is that heartbreaks, sufferings, and pain are real and part of life. By acknowledging this fact, you realize that quitting or withdrawing to a dark abyss is not an option unless you want to be part of the extinction club’s honorary member.
Human history proves that positive adaptation, better known as resilience, is part of our survival regardless of our different predispositions or vulnerabilities. We dare to learn and face dire circumstances, pick up the pieces, and triumph. While traumatic experiences shape our resilience, the good news is that this quality can be cultivated.
“Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even being withstood if they have been trained for in advance.” – Seneca
What Seneca refers to is your ability to intervene and forge your resilience by conforming to Stoic philosophy. The school of thought encourages thoughtful analysis into the dark web of your fears and agonies by distinguishing between what you can control and what you don’t have control over, even more between the reality and our perception of the situation.
All this considered, whether you are currently experiencing difficult times or have undergone one, whether you are fearful of what the future has in store, employing a stoic strategy helps you cope with the challenges. Begin with picturing the worst that can happen and trust that you are capable of bouncing back from the unthinkable. The idea is preparing yourself to face the unknown and what could go wrong, and the goal is not about being less fearful but building courage. Tapping into your inner strength and to you emplace systems to build up your resilience.
Initially, reflect on your life vision, the kind of life you want to lead, where you want to be in 3 or 5 years, what is the purpose of your existence. Next, write down the significant past experiences that have shaped your emotions to understand where you are in life. For both exercises, go to self-authoring.com and use their online writing programs to explore your past, present, future by gaining a deep understanding of yourself.
Subsequently, consider exerting the following practical efforts recommended by experts in your life strategy and increase your capacity to recover from difficulties:
Develop healthy eating habits and regular exercise to strengthen your overall health and increase the chances of better and faster recovery from injuries or sickness.
Practice forgiveness – Nelson Mandela said: “When I walked out of the gate, I knew that I was still in prison if I continued to hate these people.” Forgiveness is a necessary attitude to build resilience and not an alternative.
Know that there is no guarantee in life (the only guarantee is that we are mortals).
Invest in people and relationships that are supportive and encourage you to get through hard times.
Commit to routines – establish priorities and stay with it even when things are out of control. For instance, mapping your day, being aware of the cost of the wasted time, performing tasks that are integral to your goals will weed out the act of procrastination. As your actions become your habits, you can restrain impulses and become less reliant on motivation and take responsibility to move forward. “Foolish are those who…have no aim to which they can direct every impulse and, indeed, every thought.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Have back up plans
Refrain from putting all your eggs in one basket
Transform your resentment to energy and channel it towards your goals
Imagine walking to the deep end of your subconscious and learn about your true desires. Imagine reaching your highest level of awareness. Imagine an extraordinary experience that explores your resilience which flows through the self-imposed boundaries of the intellect. Feel the sensation of the current of your own agency to revive your strength and the superhero within you. Skillfully, this journey is depicted by Antonio Mora. He leads you to discover your absurd, somber, or brave emotions through self-reflective imagery which captures your cognitive clarity to get closer to yourself.
Antonio Mora, a surreal creative and art director, frames the mystery of our pursuit in life and the endless possibilities of our being in an uncompromising artistic narrative. Patching emotions of cultural impressions to the advent of modern life and crushing the overprotective surrogate inner-self to the extent that fantasy becomes a tangible reality is what Antonio Mora offers.
He studied psychology and philology, later completing his training with a Master of Art in Graphic Design and creatively continues to encourage self-reflection and deliberation to summon up the courage to connect with oneself. I had the opportunity to interview him, one of the most expressive artists of the present time, to learn about him and his spirit:
Jupilings: Tell us about yourself and how you got into art-
AM: I have always been a creative person. For more than 25 years I have worked as a graphic designer and art director in my own design studio.
In 2011, after a serious physical crisis, I decided to give free rein to my own creative desires and to leave the work commissioned by clients. I had no options after that long and hard process, so I decided to put all the meat in the grill, overcome my fears and trust in my vision. That’s how I came to this.
Jupilings: Who are your protagonists-
AM: I want to believe that my protagonists are the hybrid beings that appear in our dreams, inhabitants of a parallel world that we only access either during deep sleep or through the use of psychotropic substances, and that nevertheless, we perceive them as coming, like a déjà vu that reminds us that there is more to reality than what we perceive with our physical senses.
Jupilings: What inner force shapes your artistic concepts-
AM: I think that throughout my work emerges a certain mystical, mythological sense in the classical sense, where the forces of nature take on a human form. Many titles are The Young Zeus, the Cyclops, Nymph, Persephone, Caribdis, Aquarida.
Nature as a soul-endowed force that, when transmuted in person, brings us closer to it. My portraits are often portraits of gods or heroes that we could have been.
Jupilings: As an artist, what role and social responsibility you shoulder-
AM: Although there are innumerable ways of understanding it, I conceive art in the classical sense, the search for intrinsic truth for beauty. In a society like the current one where through social networks we see tons of ugliness, trash, and injustice, my modest contribution is to create beauty that inspires others and that raises a wall against the mediocrity and vulgarity that invades us. I think that is my duty as an artist.
Jupilings: “Creative people are an idealist and live a colourful and chaotic life”, what do you think of this statement-
AM: It is a generality and as such susceptible to be interpreted in different ways but in my case, it is correct, although the colour is sometimes of a rather dark hue, and indeed the chaos is a constant in my life, I am messy, often imprecise and erratic. I wrote a long time ago that the artist feels himself with stupor as if he should not be there, as if he were not part of the reality in which the whole world lives. I thought it was a gift and it turned out to be a condemnation, once said an artist friend, my mentor, who died, unfortunately. Someone like him, chaotic by nature, knew how to inspire in me, and in many others (he was an art teacher) that life and therefore beauty arise from chaos.
Jupilings: As a creative individual, you have a reflective nature, hence you are inclined to dive deeper into your fears, insecurities, or setbacks, where do you draw a line to stop and regain your sense of motivation and meaning in life to keep charging ahead? What is your coping mechanism, a routine, a friend, ….?-
AM: My mechanism is the constant creation, the progressive approach through creative work to the idea that I intend to bring to light. This, which often produces a feeling of ecstasy, also in many cases generates enormous anguish. To shake it off, fortunately, is my wife, my children, my dogs, who walk daily through the palm groves that surround my atelier in Elche (Spain).
It relaxes me to cook, to drink wine with my friends. Fortunately, very close to where I live, is the sea and a small and beautiful island where I go very often. As soon as I reach her, my anguish dissipates. In short, my life is the life of a normal person, or at least as normal as my nature allows me to be.
Jupilings: What is one undisclosed or mysterious piece of information about yourself, you would bravely share with your audience:
AM: Hahaha, that question could put me in a compromise. When I was 18 years old I tried LSD, since then my perspective on the world changed. I perceived that there were parallel worlds. No, of course, I did not take it for a long time, it scares me. However, I do allow myself to smoke some marijuana when I am faced with a creative process. It is the key through which I can reopen that door that opened in my youth.
Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you-
AM: It jumps to the sight that I am an admirer of the woman, of the power of the woman, of its beauty. More than 90% of my portraits have women as protagonists. As a creator of life and a source of inspiration. I wrote once that the passion of the woman is the force that moves the world, I continue to subscribe. I am sure that the world would work much better if it were the women who governed it.
Jupilings: When you start a creative project, how do you overcome self-doubt –
AM: Fortunately, I have a lot of experience and many years of preparation that allow me to save the initial doubts with a certain ease. However, that doubt always lurks, especially if I will be able to generate something really new and not copy myself.
I receive many custom orders. There yes, the doubts begin, since not only I have to satisfy myself but to manage to transmit my satisfaction to the client and that is not an easy task.
Jupilings: What superpower you would like to have ? and why-
AM: I would be Lucidman. Always able to have immediately the creative response at hand that would allow me to disturb the conscience of others.
Jupilings: Which movie you would have liked to be the leading actor-
Nobody has a soul unscathed. As famously Nietzsche has stated:
“What does not kill you makes you stronger.”
Truth be told, it is not easy to be resilient in chaos or adversity; however, research has shown that it can be learned. Stretching our mental muscles and drawing on key questions raised by the great thinkers gives us a leg up to control our thoughts and surpass oneself through the spine-chilling maze of setbacks.
Mindfulness,martial arts, and behavior change are recommended; however, lasting success depends on self-reflection. Growth is fueled by practical wisdom and reasoned decision-making. So how to start the introspection to develop resilience?
Training the brain with philosophical counseling sessions to think clearly at infliction points in our ventures or life is absolutely necessary. The process of observing our minds and learning from different schools of thought empowers us to take charge and develop resilience in times of crisis. Like in a plane emergency, we curb the impulse to run for the door by knowing in advance the rules and follow the instructions responsibly. The guidance will shape our perceptions and expectations into awareness, and our behaviors will become more productive rather than reactionary. Ultimately, the self-examination and preparation lead to a disciplined mind that helps us leap over the fatigue caused by unprecedented events, discord, or even malicious situations.
Change Your Perception
“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”
Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote the statement, the adherent of stoic philosophy highlights how perception plays an important role in your responses. A terrifying event has the potential to be agonizing or not, for it all depends on your perception. Therefore, you have a choice to experience the unfavorable circumstances in dismay or learn the skills to build resilience.
As humans, we can exaggerate stressors, fret, and run things over and over in our heads to the uncontrollable point. However, if you can adopt a positive outlook and reframe disastrous to challenging, you will be able to deal with calamities, learn, grow, and move on. A positive change in your perception is not to ignore and distort the reality but to ensure that you have control over your state of mind and emotional response.
Outline Your Expectations
Preparing your mind to question the underlying intentions of your expectations produce a valuable outcome in adversity. Since, the correlation between a challenge, an expectation, the course of action and the end result depend on your disposition. This means that unsettled and implicit intentions, an obscure plan of action or a goal will generate unrealistic expectations leading to resentment. However, the integration of philosophical notions to clarify your intentions influences your response and helps you confront the negative. Meditating on great philosophical ideas to become resilient and recover from adversity breeds self-control. This state of mind nurtures a rational, optimistic outlook to strategically analyze and gain attribution of productive motives from a third-party perspective.
The more aware of your intentions and your experiences you become, the more you will be able to connect the two, and the more you will be able to create the experiences of your life consciously. This is the development of mastery. It is the creation of authentic power.- Gary Zukav
Manage Your Behaviour
“Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behaviour, not because they won or lost.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Sometimes, the end results are unfair, unreasonably, or wrongfully against you; however, the philosophical reflection will help you develop mental toughness. Ethically responding in the heat of battle sounds virtuous, yet, might not be practical as it is easier said than done! Although you choose to change your attitude or consciously assimilate a behavior and internalize to deal with the problem. Effectively stated by Epictetus on Walking the Walk:
Don’t declare yourself a philosopher or talk about all your principles; walk the walk instead.
At dinner, don’t discourse on the proper way to eat. Just eat.
Here’s how Socrates did it: When someone asked Socrates to introduce him to a particular famous philosopher, he did it without thinking “I’m better.”
When the ignorant discuss deep matters, bite your tongue. Don’t vomit what you haven’t chewed.
When you are told you’re ignorant and you manage to be unruffled, you know your practice is working.
Good communication is not to impress but to discover possibilities, to gain advocates, to improve life for others, to resolve issues, to be heard and most importantly to be understood. Whether the communication is through mass media, face-to-face verbal or non-verbal, the challenge is how to breathe friendly, skilled, knowledge-based and mindful basics into your dialogue.
There are many factors that influence the outcome of our communication still our attitude will determine the course of the interaction. The dynamic approach to cultivate sentiments of compassion, curiosity and remain flexible will support our content and intention. With this view in mind, the pitfalls of communicating across cultures, businesses or interpersonal relations can be avoided by tweaking our style of communication based on the following tips:
From your non-verbal cues such as eye contact, posture, or position of your arms to keep track of the conversation, the critical element is to be attentive. By asking relevant questions, replacing unnecessary conversation fillers like “um”, “er”,… with pause to think and respond are the effective way to engage your listeners and show your interest. Make sure to avoid personal judgements and allow people to finish their sentences.
Empathy is not about agreement, is the ability to pass through emotions, threats and complexities with confidence and awareness. Nurturing our mirror neurons by observing and being mindful of people’s emotional experiences, builds trust and effectively improves your dialogue.
“Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation. And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union.”
The first step is to listen empathetically. This means listening with the intention to understand. By doing so, the receiver establishes a positive climate for the speaker to open up. Repeat what has been said with the same words and summarize in you own way to make the speaker aware that you have understood what is the issue or the story. It is a great moment when we stop judging, probing or interpreting someone else’s experiences and motives.
A resilient communication process is an approach to evaluate a situation or crisis by breathing normality to the interaction, validating the negative feelings and focusing on positive course of action. Clearly, spearheading constant optimism is ineffective without use of alternative logic. Broadly speaking, resilience in crisis management is when optimism and a narrative to make sense of the situation serve as the roadmap to develop and maintain a good communication. Importantly, resilience develops when the focus is on the communication process rather than examining individuals or entities to refrain from the unnecessary and unwarranted assumptions.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
Resilience depends on confidence and optimism. People do not all react the same way or every situation is dire, still a resilient communication helps to keep things in perspective. The capacity to be realistic, maintaining a positive outlook and developing a narrative to cope with the unwanted situation is called resilience. We should all remember that resilience is an obligation not only to self but to community at large.
Featured Image by: GERRY ELLIS, MINDEN PICTURES – National Geography