Corona year 2020 has caused the whole world a lot of stress. The pandemic, the unexpected lockdowns, the many deaths and the enormous loss of jobs demand a lot from our resilience. Many people fear that we will never return to normal after this difficult period. But contrary to popular belief, even people who have suffered a trauma can recover well and resume their normal lives. In some cases, traumatized people emerge stronger from a difficult period.
Many ordinary people have achieved unimaginable things after experiencing trauma. From the Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden who suffered from leukemia and later won Olympic gold, to a blind man who rowed across the Atlantic to a woman who survived the genocide in Rwanda and was appointed by former US President Barack Obama as director of the National Holocaust Museum. All these “super survivors” have managed to transform their toughest challenge into their greatest success.
The transformation process
The process of the supersurvivors consists of deep reflections, facing the harsh reality, letting go of previous objectives and formulating new ones. That doesn’t mean lowering the bar, but simply setting new realistic goals based on your current capabilities. It is important – perhaps to many surprises – to stop thinking positively and start thinking realistically instead. Avoid the comfortable invocation ‘everything will be fine’, but ask yourself the brave question ‘what now?’ Denying or avoiding a difficult situation can be nice in the short term, but can do a lot of damage in the long run.
Here are 10 traits and habits of mentally resilient people that they use to reverse their trauma:
1. They practice mindfulness. Become aware of what is happening, how you feel and what your options are. Psychologist Linda Graham describes this as “the ability to pause, take a step back, reflect, change perspectives, create options, and choose wisely.”
2. They breathe slowly and deeply. When you are stressed, your immune system does not function optimally and the risk of mental or physical problems increases. Breathing from your diaphragm, especially in stressful situations, helps you keep your feet on the ground and better deal with life’s challenges.
3. They describe their emotions very accurately. Expressing your emotions helps to resolve what is bothering you. Research shows that the part of your brain that controls your emotions relaxes when you can accurately describe your feelings.
4. They reflect.Just don’t get stuck in “what if” and “if only I had”.
5. They change their mindset. Research has shown that super-resilient people feel they have control over what happens in their lives. Their mindset allows them to better deal with setbacks and make the best of any situation.
6. They look for meaning. Suppress the tendency to see yourself as a victim and to wonder ‘Why me?’ Instead, try to find meaning in what you are going through and see it as lessons for a fulfilling future.
7. They forgive. Holding on to anger or resentment won’t help you. Forgiveness breaks the mental and emotional ties to the past and allows you to move on.
8. They use their network. Research shows that extroverts tend to be more resilient because they seek support. Your network can include your boss, co-workers, your spouse, relatives, friends, and healthcare professionals.
9. They have their emotions under control. If your emotions start to take over, try to control them with techniques such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, stepping back, and speaking slowly.
10. They show their gratitude. Learning to appreciate what we have and who we are instead of complaining about what we lack is a powerful technique for redirecting stressful and negative feelings. Gratitude breeds determination, helping you come back stronger than ever before.
Author Kristin Harper is CEO of the emotional intelligence company Driven to Succeed, LLC. She is also the author of the book “The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career.”
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