“Bouncing Back: Swim but don’t Sink, Bend but don’t Break”

Ms. Megha Kochhar and Dr. Kriti Vyas

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology

29th March 2022     10 mins Read

Resilience has often been referred to as “ordinary magic” while it looks like an extraordinary act. It is more than once thought. It’s a human trait inhibited by all, but only used by some.

Research by Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, suggests that no matter how extreme the difficulty may seem, people will bounce back to their happiness baseline in what seems like a short time. Rather, it surprises us how fast a huge majority of people who experience any kind of tragedy or trauma get back to their daily routine, as Gilbert notes “We don’t recognize that we are as resilient a species as we turn out to be.”

I don’t remember someone teaching me to be resilient nor telling me that trouble and turmoil would be an inevitable part of my life. That, someday I would face really tough times with disappointment, fear, and the occasional carpet pull (when life pulls the ground beneath your feet.) I always grew up thinking life was a fairy tale, all rosy and that staying safe and secure was the best strategy to survive. Over the years I have realized I have become much more resilient by challenging my own limits, facing my fears and enduring through my perceived limitations. After surviving near to death situations in my life, I started to face more challenges in life.

The secret to resilience is not stopping, it is to keep trying hard, then falling, getting up then recovering, again trying, then falling, then getting up again and keep trying again. It’s more like climbing a mountain without a route map. Yes, it undoubtedly requires time, effort, and support. One may face setbacks and roadblocks along the way. However, you will eventually reach the top and will feel proud of your journey. It’s all about becoming aware of and then building the endurance levels residing within you.

You are stronger than your beliefs, this is the affirmation you need to give yourself every moment. Build your stamina. It’s all about your self-belief, hope and optimism. Stress is an internal process and our emotional reaction that we add meaning to based on external events in our life.

Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology writes “Talk to yourself. Give yourself a cognitive intervention and counter defeatist thinking with an optimistic attitude. Challenge your downbeat thinking. And replace it with positive outlook.”

The bestseller author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goldman also opines that changing our self-talk makes us more resilient. This is the key to resilience, and we overcome from our self-induced stress. Positive conversations with our self, give our lives a perspective that opens new windows of hope and belief. We have heard of the flight-or-flight response. So, the way we fight back and regain our control over our self helps us to talk to our inner self in a compassionate and gentle way. Being mindful of your internal states helps us to become generative, positive and more pragmatic.

So, step one is to take care of physical body, love yourself, and eat healthy, foods that have all colors of the rainbow. Get quality sleep. Install a habit tracking app. Make self-care your second nature. Finally, rather than blaming yourself about what all that’s happening in you life world treat yourself, with love, compassion, and empathy.

Practice accepting life’s impermanence, nothing stays forever not even your pains. This shall also pass. Ask yourself “How can I mould myself to life’s changes.”

Get curious to deal with uncomfortable emotions like embarrassment, disappointment, failure, comparisons as they arise. Our ability to be comfortable in uncomfortable emotions builds our resilience. There are various forms of meditation like sound, water, light self-guided meditation, practice what resonates best with you.

Build a supportive network of friends, family, health care professionals whom you can reach out to, not all challenges in life re meant to be faced alone.

How about creating a set of Calm Cards, pick a card in the morning that will help you reflect on the intention of the day. Pick a card on Sunday to set an intention for the week. Pick a card when you are struggling with another person, explore his good qualities and ease your relationship. Send a card to someone who needs some inspiration in life.

Adopt a Furry friend, don’t know about you but, my dog Raja was one of my strengths during my tough times, fostering him and getting greeted by him with those extra cuddles was so therapeutic.

Self-Reflection works the best –

  • Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. When you are facing tough time just ask yourself “What can I learn here” or “How can I add meaning to this situation of my life?”
  • Which part of me is tender and needs special attention?
  • Journaling really helps to get your stream of consciousness going.
  • Ask yourself “Am I taking anything for granted”
  • Am I letting matters that are out of control, stress me out?
  • Make a list of 21 things that make you smile. When was the last you followed them?

We all are aware that setbacks are a part of our lives. What matters is how quickly we learn to bounce back from adversity and negative events. In the words of Angela Duckworth that has inspired me “As much as talent counts, efforts count twice.”

Let us take a step forward and make our time worth it.

Share your experiences with us on megha.kochhar@iilm.edu / kriti.vyas@iilm.edu


Anxiety in the times of COVID 19 pandemic: Surrender, Accept, Trust, and take the right Action

I don’t measure a man’s success by how he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits the bottom”.

                                       (George S. Patton)

Anxious and worried !!! are the common symptoms in the times of COVID’19.

Fear of an uncertain future and a sense of not being in control is prevalent across nations. Most religious institutions remain closed to the public, with no option for people to turn to the traditional means of solace in prayer, perhaps people are even losing faith in the religious zones of comfort to some extent. Not surprisingly, people are turning to science for rescue from the grip of this virus but despite all ongoing efforts, scientists all over the world have little to offer. They are focused more on the preventive measures to stay out of the grip of this virus as it is going to take quite some time to develop a vaccine for this unique virus, which probably is evolving and adapting itself to the weather of different countries and continents.

The future is uncertain and unpredictable, scientists are suggesting that we may have to learn to live with it and need to make many changes in our habits and ways of life. We need to live accordingly maybe for many more years to come, maybe even permanently.

So now the question that arises is, how do we deal with the anxiety in these stressful times while maintaining the quality and pace of life?

We always need to invent answers to the new questions that life comes up with. The Sanskrit word for “human” is “Manushya” which means “a being with the mind”. The mind is the most important aspect of the existence of “Manushya”. Understanding of any phenomena takes place at the level of mind. This whole meaning-making process is going to determine how you are going to feel and emotionally react to a phenomenon. Therefore, the process of meaning-making is going to make a great difference in the psychological experience of any situation, event, or incident as a whole. Without any gap in this simple equation about the degree of experience for COVID anxiety, logically and mathematically depends on our meaning-making process regarding events and incidents happening around us. In this situation, one cannot be blind optimistic, as the future is uncertain; realistic optimism is the only relevant requirement here. So, in the present scenario, it is the most appropriate question for each one of us to answer, how to maintain and restore mental peace and holistic wellbeing in the times of COVID 19?

Maintaining sound mental health and wellbeing is important, as it will surely affect our physical health, immune system, and our likelihood to deal with the situation in an adaptive manner.  The ones who adapt will survive and the ones who cannot vanish.

How to maintain and restore mental peace in the times of COVID 19?

 Gaining psychological strength through surrender and acceptance

  • We have to accept what we are going through, and we have to be adaptive to this new challenge ahead of us. Cognitive restructuring is important at this point. We must go with the flow of life with a greater level of surrender, acceptance, and trust at the same time being in the mode of performing the right action to deal with this situation.
  • Practising meditation and mindfulness can increase our capability of acceptance, resulting in a greater level of mental calm and peace.

“Surrender is the simple and profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life” (Eckhart Tole)

Being realistic and taking the right action

  • In the present situation, this approach is extremely valuable and relevant. Right after surrender and acceptance of the situation, we must be realistic and trust our ability to take the right action. This can bring a lot of clarity and strength to move on the path of becoming a victor and not a victim as the human race overall. Rightly said by Toni Morrison “If you surrender to the wind. You can ride it” We need to understand the nature of the problem and use this understanding wisely to ride it.
  • We need to understand the new norms of social distancing, personal hygiene, and important guidelines to move and function in public spaces.
  • We need to keep ourselves physically and mentally healthy by proper exercise, the right nutrition, and the right attitude.

Nurturing determination, vision and resilience

The path ahead of us may not be easy but we have to walk on it with determination and a vision for future because ultimately resilience is going to be the only quality, which can help us survive, thrive, and flourish for sure.

Here I would like to share one of my dream reflecting my sense of emergency, worry, and anxiety for the future, which is so unpredictable as far as the wellbeing of the whole humanity concerned. Dreams reflect our inner states mental equilibrium and compositions in the realm of our psyche. Being a psychologist, I have had an opportunity to look into the dreams of many of my clients in the process of helping and guiding them to a better understanding of their psyche and to achieve a better sense of control leading a more meaningful life. Sometimes dreams give us insights and guidance contributing to new understandings into our waking lives too. This one dream made me smile with a sense of insight into the future to be achieved, carrying a profound meaning.

I saw a train bogie crowded with people on an Indian railway station. There are noise, heat, and chaos. One old couple is sitting there. Somebody asked the old man, where are you going? The old man replied, “How it really matters where we want to go? We will be surely going where our youth will take us”.

I saw somebody cleaning a lot of settled dust from the floor of the bogie and many young people sitting there busy and preoccupied discussing their petty matters in a group.

I woke with the image of that scene in the morning and realized how it is important to let our youth find a sense of direction and meaning in the current situation because the future of the nation and the whole world dwellings is in the hands and senses of the wisdom of our youth for sure. The whole world will be moving in the direction where they will take us.

Many institutions have been building capacities to shape, nurture and build the mind’s thought process in a positive direction. At IILM we have “Centre of Emotional Intelligence” which is a step forward towards the same. Here students come with their stress-related issues and the psychologist renders them help for holistic well-being. The centre even does outreach programmes for society during this time of mental and physical crisis.

 Importance of Education Sector in Shaping the Future

Education is one especially important sector, which carries the responsibility to shape and prepare these young and potent minds for the future. Therefore, a huge responsibility sets there for this sector to be carried out. How teaching and learning will take place? How things will move positively for the maximum benefit of our youth? Answers to these questions will define how nation-building will take place and where the world will move from here. I believe the answer rests there “we need to surrender, accept trust and take the right action”. Nurturing determination, vision and resilience are surely going to be the key factors to survive, thrive, and flourish in a brighter future of hopes

To connect on knowing more about anxiety management, relaxation techniques and mindfulness write to me on archana.singh@iilmgsm.ac.in.

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