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.
Anger is a tool that can help us navigate upsetting situations in life. It’s senseless to think that anger is the opposite of compassion since it can materialize from immediate threats, unwarranted optimism, excessive expectations, or social injustices. In fact, anger can fuel positive change when the intense emotions are based on altruism or call for self-development.
However, like any other tool, it should be used creatively with caution. It is difficult to restrict anger, but with practice in daily activities, whether lining up at the supermarket to delays in service deliveries, engrave in your mind that you have a choice to express your emotions through a sophisticated narrative and not in a fuming way.
Recognize that when circumstances are out of your control, anger is not a smart choice
Employ “discomfort caveat” – let others know that that you are experiencing anger and potentially your actions might not be clear or even worse, they might be explosive. Apologize in advance. In this manner, the other person will become less defensive.
Slow down to re-consider your response and evaluate whether your anger will help or hurt the situation. This way, you can make a sound decision rather than a fast one.
Provocation is inevitable in unfriendly cases, use speedometer technique. The process starts by creating a list of descriptive words that encapsulates your emotions in anger and assign a number to them. For instance:
100 miles per hour explosive state
60 miles per hour a pissed off frame of mind
Ultimately to 30 miles per hour where you feel calm and collected.
Of course, the intensity varies, so you should have at least 10-speed numbers and ten words summarizing the strength of your anger. If you feel way above your speed limit, then you need more time to slow down till you put on the brakes. Do not forget that creating a visual image reinforces your efforts to manage your anger. Remember, sometimes, no reaction buys time and gives you an upper hand.
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-
At times, we form an opinion or conclude, deliberately or otherwise, only to find out that the story in our head is polluted. By judging, we work hard to build a wall and to protect ourselves and live securely. The problem with this stance in life is that it often prevents us from making meaningful and genuine connections with oneself and others. Although judging is an instinct, you can be aware of it and control your impulses. When you adopt a mindful outlook, you embark on the intelligence and wisdom track. The non-judging approach is the protective gear that will support you against unsound decisions and irrational reactions in life. Releasing judgment is stepping over self-made barriers to see and grasp “things as they are.”
The myths and sensationalized stories are good examples of our preconceived judgments. Overall, the side effects of judgments such as fear or condemning bad and good categories in our mental descriptions create prejudices, biases, and stress. The habit of categorizing is useful for filing systems, but when it comes to our life relations and connections at times, it limits our perspective and growth.
How to remove the obstructive judgemental attitude?
Be mindful- Recognize the judgments that unfold whether you are performing a task or when you are in fight-flight mode. Observe how your mind describes the situation: as mundane, suspicious, energetic, or any other attribute that influences your behavior or reaction to that particular circumstance. For instance, to observe our judgemental mind, practice breathing. Set a time and start paying attention to your breath, and indeed, your oblivious mind will begin harassing you by labeling your practice as boring. Basically, the approach is not to suppress your judgment but to be aware of it.
Don’t take it personally – I remember that when our son started high-school, the amazing principal recommended that as the parents of young teenagers, do not take their withdrawn behavior and uncommunicative reactions personally. Instead, be continuously loving, caring, and have a set framework of rules. Don’t snoop; they will eventually talk to you and tell you all about their adventure but on their own time. It was great advice, one that kept the peace. Or, as adults, it happens that you will encounter disagreements. As long as you remember that the conflict is not about you, it helps to detach the “me” connection and give others the benefit of the doubt.
rame – This approach is about not changing the facts but having an open mind to recognize that people have different ways of doing things or different perspectives. Instead of getting angry or miserable, channel your energy to pause and reflect. The challenge is to dive underneath the anger, and your oxygen tank is your ability to reframe. With regular practice, the efforts to reframe a situation become a habit, immensely rewarding, especially when you encounter setbacks. Reframing a problematic situation or dire circumstance allows you to transform the problems into possibilities and remain healthy, composed with a positive mindset.
Self-reflection – As soon as you start judging, try to ask yourself whether you have had the same or similar behaviour.
Don’t blame yourself or others- As much as the blame game is an easy defense mechanism, indeed, it is unproductive and unpleasant. The tendency to distort our self-esteem with blame is inept. Instead, see things as they are, and break away from blaming yourself or others. Again reframe the situation, replace words such as should to could or losses to learning experiences to make a pathway for much better opportunities.
Be a friend to yourself – Connect with your strength, intelligence, and love yourself. Dismiss negative thoughts and destructive criticism. When you stop judging, you will distance yourself from gauging others and assume an impartial approach in life. One that helps with mastering your mind.