4 Challenges to Build Resilience through the 2020 Election (and beyond)
Daily 5-10 minute practices to boost your resilience
Daily 5-10 minute practices to boost your resilience
Because even though it’s almost over, something tells me it isn’t dying anytime soon (though we can certainly learn something from those obnoxiously resilient undead creatures).
I’ve tried shutting the TV, deleting my news apps, and finally deleting some high-school friends on Facebook. But at this point, it seems the only thing that can help me escape the vortex of election fallout is to fly my private jet to a remote island where I can live off coconuts and clownfish…
But given my private jet is nonexistent (and I’m allergic to clownfish), I’m stuck with Plan B — learning to live through it.
Fortunately, I’ve called on some nerdy PHD psychology friends to help me not just endure, but thrive.
What they tell me is to reframe how I view this political hellscape: It’s not “a hellscape” (so they say), it’s an opportunity to build resilience, using the same proven techniques as the world’s top performers.
My initial reaction was, “what a load of crapola.” But then I started using the techniques…
…and I’ll be damned, they really worked!
Now, that’s not to say these techniques provide unbreakable mental strength. Believe me, I still want to break the occasional plate. But they DO give me a sense of control over seemingly uncontrollable adversity, and that in and of itself helps quell my anxiety during times of unprecedented turmoil.
For that reason, I’ve packaged four of my favorite techniques into “challenges” — anticipatory and reflective daily exercises you can practice in 5 to 10 minutes — to endure and recover from this never-ending 2020 election… Or any of life’s other soul-sucking obstacles.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all of the following challenges right now. Just pick one to try for a few days or a week, and see how you feel! If it helps, keep using it. If not, try something else!
Alright, let’s get into it.
Republican, Democrat… dog, cat, or rat person… Let’s all unify by taking a collective deep breath, right now.
4 seconds in through your nose. Hold it for 4 seconds. Then 4 seconds out through your mouth. And repeat.
Good. How do you feel? A little calmer? A little less, er, existentially doomy?
That, my friend, is the science of what we call “box breathing.” It lowers our cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress, which makes this a fantastic emergency brake when things are just feeling like too much.
The first steps in deep breathing are anticipating stressful events throughout the day (aka identifying “stress triggers”), and crafting a “trigger cue word” to tell ourselves when this stressful event arrives.
The cue word can be on the nose, like “STRESSED,” or something a little more fun, like, “BATMAN.” Either way, the moment you feel that stress mounting, say the trigger word in your head, then pull your “emergency lever” with box breathing.
So here’s my challenge to you — in the morning, I want you to plan your day, by asking yourself three things:
1) What’s one stress trigger I anticipate experiencing today?
My co-worker is definitely going to talk about the election in a way that gets me worked up.
2) What’s my cue word for when I notice this trigger?
3) How long will I breathe in and exhale for?
I’ll breathe in for 3 seconds through my nose, and 3 seconds out my mouth.
Fun Fact: Thich Nhat Hanh pioneered a whole bunch of deep breathing practices, and was eventually nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King Jr for his work for peace through the Vietnam War.
We face adversity nearly every day; some of it big, on the scale of physical illness, job loss, or worse. Some of it small, like an internet glitch or a botched coffee order.
And some of it, somewhere in between, in the ether of politics we can no longer stomach nor control. Here’s the thing…
We grow when we mine our adversity for lessons learned and opportunities to change for the better. It’s not always easy, but once it becomes a habit, our mental strength blossoms.
So here’s my challenge to you — at night, I want you to reflect on your day, by asking yourself three things:
1) What’s one obstacle I face today?
My CNN/Fox News/NPR “Breaking news” updates got me really stressed out.
2) What’s one thing I can take from this experience to help me grow?
Avoiding these breaking news alerts would help me feel calmer.
3) What’s a step I can take to lock in this takeaway, or remember the lesson for next time?
I can change the app settings to disable these breaking news alerts.
We take control over adversity with a plan to mitigate in the future. And that makes us happier, more resilient people.
Our “Village” — or our network of friends and family — can do a lot for us. Research finds our “village” can help hold us accountable, enhance our well-being, and provide a massive boost in resilience. The American Psychological Association writes:
“Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.”
I mean, just consider a time you felt down on your luck, frustrated, or ready to give up. What could a good conversation with a good person have done for you?
‣ Provided guidance?
‣ Distraction? (sometimes we just need to tune out the noise!)
Each of these necessities has its time and place.
So here’s my challenge to you — in the morning, plan your day by asking yourself four questions:
1) What do I need help with today?
I’m feeling scared and uncertain with everything happening right now. I could really use some perspective or validation.
2) Who will you reach out for help today, and how will you do it?
I’ll text my dad to see if he can chat for a little bit after work.
3) What can this person offer me?
I really respect my dad’s POV. During stressful times, he always seems to keep a cool head, so getting his perspective would be a huge relief.
4) What can I offer this person?
My dad always likes to hear from me, to know how I’m doing!
Suddenly, we’re connecting in a deep and meaningful way. And we become more resilient for it.
These are uncertain times. But outside the talking heads and toxic cesspool of social media are plenty of people to be grateful for. Here’s a wild idea: Tell them.
And look, I know gratitude might sound cheesy, but studies have shown that giving gratitude is one of the best things we can do for our mental health and resilience. Texts, emails, phone calls, or even little gifts are all great ways to give thanks!
So here’s my challenge to you — in the morning morning, plan your day by asking yourself four questions:
1) Who’s a person you’re feeling thankful for today?
I’m feeling grateful for my significant other who I know will love and support me no matter what happens.
2) Why are you feeling thankful for this person?
Because while the country feels crazy, I know I can depend on this person.
3) How will you express your gratitude to this person today?
I’ll make them their favorite dessert, with a little “thank you” note telling them why I’m thankful for them.
First question: What’s for dessert and is there enough to share?
Second question: Do you have to do all of these challenges simultaneously? Certainly not!
Pick one to try out for a few days or a week. See how it goes. If it helps, stick with it for a while! If not, consider trying one of the other challenges. Hey, if nothing else, 2020 might just be the perfect time to begin building the most resilient version of you, you can be!