How To Build Resilience During Hard Times

By Dr Libby Weaver
Building resilience is an active, intentional process that incorporates a range of strategies.

Resilience is about regaining your balance in the face of challenges. Here’s how to build yours.

All traits serve a purpose, however, if I had to zero in on one that’s absolutely essential for navigating the rollercoaster of life, without a doubt it would be resilience. This trait is often

Yet resilience is much more profound. It’s about our capacity to adapt flexibly and recover swiftly from the wide spectrum of life’s challenges, ranging from the trivial annoyances to the most significant upheavals.

Resilience isn’t merely about enduring tough times, it’s about creatively adapting. Whether facing interpersonal conflicts, career setbacks, personal challenges or even health issues like illness or fatigue, the way we respond can deeply shape our life experiences.

The degree of resilience varies significantly among individuals, influenced by a mixture of physiological factors such as iron levels, sleep quality and all sorts of hormones, and psychological aspects including our core beliefs and values. In this instance, “values” doesn’t refer to ethical preferences like kindness or generosity, but rather what is important to you — what you care about.

It’s important to clarify that being resilient doesn’t mean you never feel emotional pain or that you avoid illness. Rather, resilience is about the ability to regain your balance and continue functioning effectively despite the difficulties you face. What’s particularly encouraging about resilience is its dynamic nature — it isn’t a static trait but rather a skill that can be developed and enhanced throughout our lives.

Building resilience is an active, intentional process that incorporates a range of strategies, encompassing biochemical, nutritional and emotional aspects of our health.

One of the most fundamental steps in fostering greater resilience is improving sleep quality. When we’re sleep-deprived our outlook darkens, challenges seem insurmountable and our bodies become more susceptible to illness. Good sleep is non-negotiable; we need about 7-9 hours of restorative sleep each night to function optimally.

Sleep is a non-negotiable when it comes to resilience

For those struggling with sleep, whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or waking up feeling unrefreshed, getting to the heart of what’s causing your sleep issues is crucial. It’s often the case that sleep disturbances are symptoms of an overly alert nervous system, which refuses to let us relax fully into a deep sleep due to perceived threats.

Herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile and zizyphus can help to soothe our nervous system, while a slow breathing exercise or meditation before bed can help to calm an overactive mind.

Another critical aspect of building resilience is engaging in meaningful dialogue. Talking with a therapist or a trusted friend can substantially lighten your emotional load.

Articulating your thoughts can help diminish their overwhelming influence, clarify your dilemmas and introduce fresh perspectives that might prompt a useful change in your outlook. This practice not only helps to manage the larger worries but also enhances your self-understanding and helps navigate your life more effectively.

For those who might find verbal expression daunting, journalling offers a powerful alternative. The simple act of writing down what’s on your mind can free you from mental burdens and foster an invaluable habit of self-reflection.

Beginners might find stream-of-consciousness writing helpful; it involves letting thoughts flow freely for a set period, without worrying about coherence or grammar. This method can break down the barriers to self-expression and ease the transition into more structured reflective writing.

Exploring our inner psychological landscape is another transformative resilience-building practice. Understanding the beliefs and values that unconsciously drive our reactions to stress can provide profound insights.

When we’re overwhelmed, it’s often easier to point fingers at external circumstances rather than introspect. However, turning our gaze inward can teach us a great deal about our reactions and help us regulate our emotions more effectively.

It’s amazing how much resilience stems from taking the time to explore our inner landscape and learning how to create some space between external stimulus and our response to it. This act in itself can be life-changing.

How what we eat plays a role

Of course, embracing a way of eating rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods plays a crucial role in building resilience. Our bodies and minds require a broad spectrum of nutrients to maintain strength and resilience. Zinc is particularly important for mood.

Nutrient deficiencies can manifest in various symptoms, weakening our physical and psychological fortitude. A nourishing way of eating supports bodily functions and bolsters mental and emotional resilience, better equipping us to tackle life’s challenges.

Equally important to our body’s resilience is what we avoid or minimise. Ultra-processed and deep-fried foods, refined sugars, alcohol and synthetic substances such as pesticides and preservatives all add to our body’s total burden and can wear away at our physical resilience through a variety of mechanisms, including via unfavourable changes to our gut microbiome.

Moreover, physical activity is another cornerstone of building resilience. Regular exercise not only strengthens the body but also releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress. Whether it’s a daily walk, weights session, yoga or more exertive activities like cycling or sports, incorporating physical activity into your routine can significantly enhance your resilience.

In essence, cultivating resilience is akin to arming oneself with an arsenal of tools designed not just to withstand life’s pressures but to thrive amid them. Each step we take adds a layer of strength and depth to our ability to cope with and recover from adversities.

This journey of self-discovery and personal growth doesn’t just help us survive challenges; it enables us to emerge from them stronger, invigorated and empowered, ready to tackle the next wave with grace and vigour.

I encourage you to commit to this path of resilience, embracing each element with the knowledge that it fundamentally contributes to our ability to live fully and richly, no matter what storms we may face.

Dr Libby Weaver.
Dr Libby Weaver.

Nutritional biochemist, Dr Libby Weaver PhD, is a 13-time bestselling author and international speaker and founder of the plant-based supplement range, Bio Blends.

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