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The need for resilience has never been more important.

If we don’t consciously build resilience into our life, we default to coping instead. And resilience and coping are worlds apart.

Difference between Coping and Resilience

Coping, at best, tries to keep the pressure at bay. It’s like locking the door of the citadel with a piece of wood, hoping this will stave off the marauders until help arrives.

Coping can help in the short term, but the strategies we have for coping are not the same ones that build resilience. And too often we haven’t distinguished the difference.

We all have trusted go-to coping strategies: wine, food, or zoning out on an iPad are common strategies. With coping, there’s a mindlessness to it – we reach for these immediately, not really thinking about it.

We create some of our automatic coping strategies from our family and childhood experiences. If you look back into your past you might see echoes of how you cope now in what you learned then. For me, I learned to cope in my family environment through shutting down feelings and pretending I didn’t care. I steeled myself through events and situations because I felt feeling things would be my undoing.

This can still be my unconscious, automatic go-to coping strategy under sustained pressure – stoic, not cracking, keeping it all together.

Have a think about your coping strategies, and what you might have learned growing up. When you’re feeling pressured and your bandwidth for dealing with it is thin, what do you do? Did your family use alcohol to numb themselves? Do you? What about ‘comfort’ eating? Do you cope by getting angry? There will be a mindless/automatic quality to it.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller

While coping drains, resilience renews.

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from life’s upsets and trouble. It’s like an elastic band – though if stretched too long, it can lose ability to bounce back. We are like that. Without developing practices and awareness we lose resilience.

So how can we develop more resilience? With Covid and its flow on effects, it looks like we’ll be stretched for a time to come.

Three Key Things

These 3 things are crucial for resilience –  mindfulness, boundaries and compassion.

Mindfulness for resilience is about choosing what will serve you right now. Having identified above some automatic ways of coping, mindfulness invites you to choose an action that will renew you when you’re under pressure. Mindfulness brings us to the present moment. It gives space for choice: shall I flick through the Insta feed (coping)? Or take an action that nourishes me, like going for a walk (builds resilience)?

Boundaries is about our autonomy. Research shows our resilience is most compromised when we feel we can’t say ‘no’. Lack of agency drains energy and forfeits our ability to do what we choose or feel is necessary. Boundaries bring clarity. When we had the fires in November, the firies came and bulldozed demarcation lines on our property. Clear, wide trails through the forest were made. It wasn’t pretty but it was necessary to stop fuelling the fire that could have incinerated us. Think of your personal boundaries in this way. Get clear on what’s non negotiable for you, and ring fence it.

Compassion reminds us that we are human, and that our humanity – our failings and vulnerabilities are deserving of love and care. We are not robots or automatons. We are biological beings – we need sleep, we need nourishment. We need friends. These are need to have – not nice to have. Invest your time in letting in and living this sort of love.