These days, the big buzz word when talking about disaster preparedness seems to be resilience. It used to be more about strength regardless of whether we were talking about a building, an organization, an ecosystem, or a person’s physical or mental health. But as anyone who has ever been through an earthquake knows, when it comes to structural soundness of a building it’s the combination of fortitude and flexibility that gives you your best chance.
The same is true for people. Being able to lift a lot of weight doesn’t mean you can run fast, or dodge obstacles, or swim. The same goes for our brains. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to develop your psychological resilience:
- Cultivate strong relationships: Have someone to talk to that you feel comfortable with and can trust. It can be even better to have an assortment of people with different interests and expertise so you can get different perspectives.
- Learn to roll with change: Change is constant. Learning to recognize what you can control and what you can’t in any given situation can help minimize stress and wasted energy.
- Develop flexible thinking: This is one of my favorites to practice. Planning a road trip? Map several alternate routes to see which might be more fun. Working on a story, craft, or art project? Try making lists of all possible options to see how many you can come up with.
- Practice optimism: When something goes wrong, especially really wrong, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even just remembering it’s there, can help make reaching it that much easier.
- Take care of yourself: If you’re tired, hungry, hung-over, in pain, or physically compromised in some other way, you’re not going to be able to think as clearly or quickly as if you’ve had a full night’s sleep and a healthy meal. Likewise, if you’re over-stressed.
And this advice isn’t just good in disasters. For example, over the weekend I was working on a quilt. I had a design but hadn’t started making it until Saturday morning and it was due on Sunday. Because it was small, it didn’t take that long to make, but once I had, I realized that the design didn’t work. The thread was too close to the color of the fabric so the accents didn’t show up and without that, the whole thing just looked like big blobs of unrelated color. At first I panicked, knowing that there was not enough time to start over, but when I turned the quilt over I realized that the thread that was invisible on the front, stood out like mad on the black back. By making the back the front, the project and my sanity were saved.