What exactly is resilience and why is it important? Beyond the everyday stress of work, life, family and money, COVID-19 challenged us in ways we could have never imagined, testing our patience and adaptability. Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, bounce back, and grow during life’s most difficult times. Low resilience can lead to health struggles, such as a higher prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome and asthma and mental health disorders including clinical depression, anxiety, depression, heartburn and heart disease.
Resilience is nothing new for older adults. The “Silent Generation” (born 1928-1933) grew up during the Great Depression and in their lifetimes have lived through multiple wars, the Holocaust, political unrest, civil unrest and other pandemic illnesses like polio and AIDS. For these seniors, resilience is a way of life and is likely a contributing factor to their longevity. We can improve our own resilience with lessons their lives provide.
Here are four tips to build personal resilience:
1. Play the Long Game
Older adults are a shining example of the phrase “this too shall pass”. They are still here proving that people can and do overcome incredibly tough circumstances. From those who lived through some of the toughest years of the 20th century, the best advice may be to remember that even COVID-19 will one day be a memory. Set goals that are future-oriented and act daily in a way that supports those goals. The life ahead will be that much stronger for everything overcome today.
2. Lend a Hand – or an Ear
Whether it was helping people during the Great Depression or WWII war assistance, older adults and resilient people alike understand that being generous with their time was a self-serving strategy. Helping others reinforces a feeling of control – even when circumstances feel far from it. From the simple act of calling an isolated friend to volunteering to deliver meals, focusing on how to help others builds resilience.
3. Practice Mindfulness
At best worry wastes time, but at worst, anxiety can contribute to serious health problems such as depression, heart disease and high blood pressure. Many older adults prescribe preparation and action as a cure for worry. In the case of COVID-19, proven actions like wearing a mask and not gathering in large groups are decisions that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Be intentional about thinking and fuel optimism by following recommended personal safety and hygiene practices.
4. Embrace Gratitude
There is never a more important time to savor small pleasures than during a time of crisis. A warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning, a bird visiting the bird feeder, an unexpected call from a friend…paying attention to these “microlevel” events helps weave a protective blanket of peace that can lift spirits. Practice never taking today for granted because tomorrow is never promised.