The Effects of Chronic Stress
Living through difficult times takes a heavy toll on mood and health. Chronic stress can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed. When everything around you is in flux, it’s natural to scramble for a sense of security. Finding some sort of solid ground takes precedence when facing the unknown, especially since humans tend to be creatures of habit. Change is never easy, but without it, there wouldn’t be the incentive to grow. The currents of change are strong right now, offering the potential for huge growth, both globally and personally.
It’s easy to get swept up in the collective energy of fear, especially since current events are impacting you in ways you have never expected. There isn’t a manual on how to process the emotions being felt on a deep level. Humans strive for connection as a way to cope, and right now everything is about disconnection. Social distancing and limiting in-person contacts takes away one of the main sources of rejuvenating the spirit. Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression have been at an all-time high with U.S. adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those who are exposed to more stressors.
While you may not have control over external causes of stress, there are ways to regain a sense of groundedness and reduce overwhelm by starting with something you do have control over: yourself. Like with many things in life, this is easier said than done, but the fact that within YOU is the power to affect your life in any way you choose is a powerful concept that is counter to what is taught, which is to seek outside ourselves for validation and accomplishment.
You are naturally resilient, and now is the time to forge a new relationship with it and use it to both protect and nurture your spirit. If you don’t, who will? This time period may encourage disconnection but reconnection to your self and building resilience will carry you through the toughest of times with a spirit of strength, compassion, and grace.
Benefits of Resilience
Resilience reminds you of who you are and what you are capable of through adversity. It is your ability to cope with loss, change, and trauma and embrace change as it comes. Some are more attuned to resilience than others, perhaps due to past experiences, but it’s still a part of you and can be strengthened over time. A resilient mind, body, and spirit mean you can experience painful situations and recover from setbacks much faster.
Think of a palm tree in a storm. Its strong roots, flexibility, and adaptive response by folding up its fronds for less wind resistance make it a pro at riding out the harsh winds. In this same way, resilience helps build a strong foundation, increases flexibility, and enhances the ability to adapt to change. Be the palm tree.
When you build resilience, it helps you maintain an empowered outlook on life by having a deep understanding about yourself, your values, your boundaries, and what you choose to focus on. Resilience helps you to face an unknown future with less emotional distress and come up with new and creative ways to cope.
Building resilience helps you to do the following:
- Strengthen and renew relationships
- Improve communication skills
- Lessen fear of uncertainty or the unknown
- Adapt in the face of adversity
- Tap into and trust inner wisdom
- Have a clear mind and more focus
- Build emotional intelligence
- Decrease anxiety and depression
Resilience and Your Spirit
Your spirit, or life force, is what becomes depleted after long periods of emotional or physical stress. It’s that deep part of you that starts to feel a bit down or low on energy when something isn’t quite right. Perhaps, it’s a job that you have outgrown, a relationship that no longer nurtures you, or any situation that forces you to move away from your true nature, needs, or desires. Today, for many people, there is a collective dampening of spirit as the repercussions of COVID-19, natural disasters, and political upheaval chip away at how much one can continue to tolerate. It’s difficult to feel resilient when spirit is low.
Your spirit is strong when you are healthy and feel happy; there is a natural resilience that is created. Health and immunity are known to improve with increased happiness. Your spirit serves as your gauge to determine where you’re at in life and what might need attention. It usually knows the answer before you do as to whether a situation, person, or thing is right or wrong for you. You feel it in your gut. Spirit is what becomes fortified when you consciously cultivate resilience.
Spirit is fierce when it wants to be, and all it wants to do is protect your needs and desires. Spirit thrives through sense of purpose, physical and emotional well-being, and mental clarity. Take care of your spirit, and it will take care of you. When your spirit thrives, you are resilient.
Humans are both beautifully complex and surprisingly simple. Our needs can be basic or elaborate and change all the time. What works for one person may not work for you. Try to refrain from comparing your situation to others who seem to “have it better.” You will notice after doing some work on yourself and nurturing your spirit this need to compare will lessen because you will have more compassion for yourself.
Here are ways to help you renew your spirit and fortify your resilience.
What makes you tick? What raises your red flags? If you need help getting clear on this, try a mindfulness practice such as meditation. We often ignore signals our body is telling us that are messages from our inner world. Take moments during the day to stop and place your hands on your heart, or middle of your chest, and just notice your thoughts and how you feel. It’s important to know who you are, what direction you are headed, or how you want to feel.
Have Open and Honest Conversations
Emotions buried never really go away. Some of us are better at communicating the hard emotions than others such as anger, sadness, or fear. Over time it festers and burns if it remains embedded in your heart and will make itself known through various states of depression and anxiety. Most of us were not taught the skills to process the heavy emotions but it is possible to learn. Start by learning techniques such as conscious communication.
Trust in Your Personal Power and Inner Wisdom
Have you found yourself eyeing that meditation cushion you bought months ago and never used? There is probably a reason why. There is a part of us that knows exactly what we need, but we usually ignore that part of ourselves. Start to lean into those subtle urges or messages and see where they lead. Have faith in your body and mind to always move toward harmony and balance as it is innately programmed to do—we just tend to get in our own way.
Know Your Strengths
Everyone has natural gifts and talents that only they can offer to this world in their special way. When you can regularly share this part of yourself, it naturally boosts your spirit because it feels fulfilling. It doesn’t have to be this huge thing, it can take on many forms such as: being a good listener, people feeling at peace in your presence, having creative ideas, or having an infectious laughter. Start to take note of your gifts and find ways to share them with the world because there is definitely someone out there who could benefit from it, especially now.
Know Your Values and Set Boundaries
If you’ve been feeling a bit tossed around emotionally, it may be a good time to work on a list of your values. Knowing your values goes back to knowing yourself and what drives your life. Examples of values include family, friendship, independence, partnership, and spirituality. Most of us remain unconscious of these values that motivate everyday life, but if you bring them to light, it can help you make more choices that enliven your spirit.
Once you know your values, it’s your job to protect them by setting boundaries. If this is new to you, it will be hard at first, but the feeling of protecting your needs is empowering and you will become better with practice.
Take Time for Self-Care
Resilience needs support and rest to grow, just like a muscle. It takes a huge amount of effort to be resilient when you’re exhausted. Self-care can take as little as five minutes (breathing break) or as long as a whole day or more. Find something that interests you and doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Lean on Social Networks
We thrive on social connection, how much varies for each person, but we all need it to boost our spirits, especially during times such as now where healing in-person connections are limited. If you live alone, it’s especially important to make the effort to find ways to at least virtually connect with family and friends. Here are some ideas:
- Take a class that includes group connection.
- Attend a free virtual retreat and connect with other like-minded people.
- Find websites that offer free social connections such as Facebook, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Meetup.
Laughter Is Medicine
Who doesn’t feel better after a good laugh? Philosopher and psychologist, William James, stated, “We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.” Finding ways to see humor during tough times can be immensely healing. This isn’t to diminish the severity of what you may be experiencing, but to offer a bit of lightness to help carry you through distressing times with an uncertain future.
Laughter is so beneficial that there are laughter meditations that have been around for many years with the intention of helping people tap into their inner bliss. Try to find ways to bring more laughter into your life, even if it takes a bit of effort to coax it out of you. This may sound odd at first, but it works. Laughing out loud tells the body to release good feeling chemicals in the body, which in turn affects your mood. This study showed the positive benefits of group laughter among nursing students. Here are some ideas to help spark some laughter, even just a little is better than none at all:
- Watch a comedy
- Joke with friends
- Try a laughter meditation on YouTube
- Play with animals
- Watch kids play, or play with them
While the future may seem a little bleak, what’s possible for you is ripe with potential right now. Whether we like it or not, this time is forcing us to examine our lives and what is truly important. It might require a bit of self-inquiry and clearing out the muck first in order to gain some clarity, and that's OK. Be sure to honor and learn from the lessons of your past, for they have gotten you this far.
Use these suggestions for renewing the spirit as a way to build confidence in your ability to take charge of your life and create the foundation for happiness to alight upon you. When you feel elevated, your natural resilience will shine even brighter and will help carry you through when things seem impossible. These little actions, while seemingly inconsequential, over time will culminate into creating huge positive changes in your life.
Renew yourself with guided meditations and personalized practices on the Chopra App, available now.