The Importance of Resiliency and Mindfulness

BY Zakiya Kassam
 Earlier this month I came across an article posted on the CAMH blog, titled “Building Resilience”. In it, author Dr. Katy Kamkar, a Clinical psychologist at the Work, Stress and Health Program & Psychological Trauma Program at CAMH, writes about creating and maintaining a habit of resiliency as a way to cope with difficult life events. Going through a particularly trying period in my life right now, I quickly saw the personal Rising phoenixrelevance of Kamkar’s post.
 
So, what is psychological resilience?
 
Psychology Today defines resilience as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” 

 Here are some general tips and strategies for building resiliency in your life:
  • Staying connected with family and friends 
  • Setting realistic goals for yourself daily and getting in the habit of achieving something meaningful every day
  • Reflecting on past experiences and hardship and identifying/understanding your own patterns of behaviour in these situations
  • Remaining optimistic and hopeful; accepting the past and having faith in the future
  • Taking care of yourself physically and mentally by engaging in healthy physical practices – getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising – and participating in hobbies and activities that you enjoy
  • Being proactive about your problems and maintaining the belief that it is in your power to improve your situation
 Practicing mindfulness can also help you to develop resiliency. Mindfulness is all about being present and living in the moment. When you are mindful you are self-aware, and when you are self-aware you have a better chance of being able to approach what plagues you with a clear, logical mind.

Mindfulness has always been a skill that eludes me mostly because I have a hard time focusing on only the present, and I saw nothing wrong with that until rather recently. To me, living in the past and harboring my regrets was a way for me to keep from making the same mistakes again. In reality, I think I focused so heavily on the past that it began to bog me down and prevent me from moving on with my life.

resilience2To be more mindful, things like meditation and simple relaxation techniques, like breathing and observing distraction-free silence, can help. Mindfulness and resilience go hand in hand because in order to come back from strife, we need to be able to leave past events and regrets behind us and focus on what we can do to better our lives right now. 
 
I read an article called “Evil and Omnipotence”, by J.L. Mackie, for a course in university a few years ago. The article itself was about the theological arguments for and against the existence of an omnipotent God, however, Mackie touched on some interesting points pertaining to the balance between good and evil. He compared good and evil to great and small, explaining that small does not exist without the juxtaposition of great. In the same light, many theologists believe that good would not prevail if it had nothing to prevail against. In other words, how can we even begin to fathom something that is good, or why it is good, in the absence of evil?
Our personal adversity is the evil and we need it in order to recognize our successes and personal wins. This is the premise that psychological resilience is based on: the known fact that humans are made to face adversity and come back from it stronger than ever. Our hardships are combatable and I think anyone who can keep that in the forefront of their mind is on the right track to achieving resiliency.
 
I am taking steps to be more resilient myself lately. In the past few months I had found myself drifting from my family and childhood friends and living with tremendous guilt and regret over things in my past. As a result, my physical state suffered, and I am just now getting back into the practice of taking care of myself again. I am hoping to do things differently. I am trying to surround myself with people who will be a positive influence in my life, stay connected to my family who I look to for stability and consistency, and I am making a conscious effort to let the past go and trust myself and my gut a little more wholly. Easier said that done, but as a rule now, I’m trying to look at my goals as achievable rather than daunting. 
 
Achieving resiliency is realistic, above all else. And it’s a strategy that can be applied across the board. Bad things happen every day and they happen to everyone, so instead of dwelling on the negative we need to garner our strength and seek the good that can come out of hardship and the things we stand to gain from our strife. 

Zakiya Kassam12312232_10208039303806073_238423358_n

Zakiya has her degree in journalism from Ryerson University and currently works as a freelance content writer based in Toronto. Zak is a dedicated journal-er and enjoys writing and reading fiction, particularly science fiction, in her free time. Mental illness is something that has touched her life and the lives of her loved ones, so she is supportive of anything that brings attention to and provides new perspectives about mental health.

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