April 21, 2020

Enhance the power of resilience

These simple ideas can help you build resilience and strengthen your ability to bounce back during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we, along with our friends, families, co-workers, and communities acclimate to the recent changes and daily disruptions in our work, home, and school routines, it’s important to practice the power of self-care to stay healthy and strong, and resilient.

Frequently referred to as the ability to bounce back, resilience has less to do with sheltering yourself from life’s stressors or avoiding unpleasant situations, and more to do with how to take those experiences and adapt, overcome, and most importantly — move on.

“Most crises have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” said Han-Chun Liang, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente Northwest. “And the question is, at the end of that crisis, how quickly can we lift back up and be ready for the next set of circumstances ahead of us?”

The value of resilience goes beyond maintaining mental health.  Negative emotions like anxiety and stress can trigger the brain’s release of hormones that raise your blood pressure and increase heart rate, causing a fight-or-flight state that can prompt symptoms such as muscle tension, joint pain, headaches, and stomach issues.

“Stress impacts physical health,” Dr. Liang said, citing the importance of the mind-body connection. “The better we’re able to manage stress, the better we are going to be in the long run.” He offers advice for employees, patients, and members who are seeking simple techniques to start building resilience and strengthening their ability to bounce back.

Seek the positive

During times of stress, are you the kind of person whose mind spirals into negative future thoughts, or someone who remains in the present moment, able to find a bright side? According to Dr. Liang, cultivating a positive mindset is key to building resilience.

“It’s this idea that we are empowered to impact our environment — empowered to make changes” he said. “Taking baby steps toward looking for the positive can be instrumental.”

One way to kick-start the process is to create a gratitude practice. Taking a few minutes every day to write down 5 things you’re grateful for can prime your mind to look for the positive in every situation. That way, if you experience a challenge or crisis, you might see it as an opportunity to grow, allowing you to bounce back easier.

Explore self-awareness

Another way to build resilience is to explore mindfulness — the practice of being more self-aware. By remaining mindful, you’re able to notice when your thoughts take a negative turn and if it’s affecting your body. With that awareness, you can then choose to take transformative action, which according to Dr. Liang, is easier said than done.

“Resilience helps people see themselves as fundamentally able to change their life,” Dr. Liang said, “And a positive mindset is something concrete that you can work toward.”

You can find more tools and resources to build resilience, manage stress, and practice self-care at FindYourWords.org.

As part of its commitment to offer members innovative ways to promote personal health and wellness, particularly during increased levels of stress and anxiety, Kaiser Permanente is adding the digital mental health app myStrength to its portfolio of self-care tips and tools on kp.org/wellnessresources. Kaiser Permanente members in most regions can download the app and support their mental health and wellness 24/7 using their kp.org sign-in information on their smartphone, computer, or tablet at no cost and without a referral.