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How to Build Resilience

Resilience is the ability to pursue, to persevere despite hardships. More than ever, we all need to be resilient, to navigate through difficult times and challenges in a more resilient way, and if possible, use challenges as a source of learning and growth. In this conversation with psychotherapist Matthias Barker, HOWto.LIVEit Founder & CEO Ana Kertesz explores what is resilience, why it matters, and which strategies you can use to build your own resilience – in a way that allows you to manage stress, anxiety and negative thoughts.

Hi, I’m Ana Kertesz and this is HOWto.LIVEit. Today we are going to talk about a topic that I’ve been thinking a lot every day, which is how to build resilience. And I think this is a very relevant topic for all of us because given the times we’re going through now, more than ever we have to understand why does it matter to have resilience, and how can you use some strategies to build that? And I’m here with Matthias Barker, hi, Matthias. Hi, there! And he’s accepted to have have this conversation with me. He’s an awesome psychotherapist based in Spokanne, Washington, which by the way is a state where I’ve lived in before and it’s very dear to my heart, and he’s gonna help me think about how to build resilience. He has, you know, experience working with different clients in his practice and I think it’s a great conversation. So Matthias, why don’t we start with the question: Why does it matter to have resilience? Yeah. That’s a good question. You know, I work a lot with people who have undergone sexual trauma and so when we’re thinking about resilience or thinking about is this ability to hold stability even while going through incredibly painful circumstances or you know, like wrestling through symptoms of maybe however that trauma, you know kind of services in a mental disorder whether that’s like PTSD or anxiety or even just having like extreme nightmares or something along those lines. And so, you know my work in that field is really kind of giving me a lot of insight into what it looks like to build resilience each kind in everyday life over things whether it’s like an extreme trauma or whether it’s something that you know, you’re you know, you’re really pressing through this time when it’s complicated with your business because Covid has been affecting all of us in different ways. So maybe there’s been a lot of stress that you’ve been undergoing and that realm and you know, so resilience is important. It’s an important idea to be able to pursue, to persevere through a lot of hardship. So that’s why I think it’s important. Why do you think some people naturally have a better way and are more resilient, you see it, you know, some people navigate through difficult times in a more resilient way and actually some people even have the ability to see opportunity in difficult times, which I guess is the ultimate goal of being a resilient person, right? Navigating through the hardship and even using it as a learning experience as a growth opportunity and seeing you know, what else can be done. So why do you think you know different people have different abilities to handle, you know, or to be resilient? Well, three things come to mind. I think you know one might just be personality temperament, you know, so I I work a lot with something called the Big Five personality model which understands there’s a trick called neuroticism, which is really just your sensitivity to pain or sensitivity to adversity and then how you respond and so some people just by temperament, just by your genetics or how you’re kind of neurologically developed you you’re just kind of having more anxious temperament, but that that’s not like, you know a sentence to always be anxious. There’s definitely skills that you can do, you know kind of put in place to be able to interact with stress or interact with uncertainty in ways that are a lot more efficacious. So yeah, that would be the second thing. It’s the skills that you have available and maybe those were modeled for you as a kid, maybe your parents, you know knew how to overcome stress and anxiety and maybe some of those things were modeled for you and maybe not, maybe you learned them on your own and just do research or having a great set of friends or you know mentors in your life. So yeah, I mean it can vary just kind of depending a lot of things but I think you know, there’s no place to say like I’m screwed. I I’m just an anxious person and I’m never going to be able to you know, interact with anxiety. I think no matter where you’re at on the personality spectrum, you can absolutely develop those. Interesting, so given everything that’s happening and I think all of us have now accepted that we’re in this phase for the long run, right? So that resilience the way I look at resilience is the ability to sort of recover from difficult times, but also an ability to persist through a difficult time and not let it drag you down. Right? So what are some strategies you think people should be thinking about following for the next you know, we thought this was going to be over alread it looked it would be difficult times for weeks months who knows, so what are some strategies you think would be helpful for people to follow? Yeah. Well, I think there’s three things that come to mind one of the being able to kind of interact with your body in a way that’s helpful, interact socially in a way that’s helpful and interact psychologically and maybe those are the three domains we can talk about. So the first one just do with your body. Like I think exercise has been something that’s been so helpful for me to be able to just kind of like regulate my nervous system. And so like when I am encountering things that are stressful when I am, you know wrestling with things, I have good amounts of sleep, I exercise and so I feel like I have a good amount of energy, I am eating healthy, so I have the right nutrition. The things that are coming my way so this is biological pieces, I think are maybe underplayed because they’re not as deep and you know, I don’t know fancy, but it may be that they’re the foundation I think the healthy just you know action in general. The second socially, I think being well connected with people you love and really having a priority to reach out to friends and family, you know something I did especially when we were in Phase 1 lockdown here in Washington, you know was I was calling, you know, a family member or someone that I hadn’t talked to in a while, maybe an old friend from high school, maybe somebody, you know, like re-establishing some old connections or connections that were a little loose like really kind of strengthening those, I was calling and FaceTiming my family regularly. So just having that strong social, you know network is something that is going to build resiliency. And we see that especially the trauma victims. So one of the first things I do when I’m you know, treating somebody with a you know, a huge background of trauma is, okay who’s supporting it? What is your support system? And who do you have in your life, so you’re not just wrestling through this alone because it’s not just your resiliency is through the resiliency of you embedded into a system. And so then the third thing psychologically there’s lots of different like psychological tips, and I think it’s different for everybody. But maybe one that I could share that might be generally helpful would just be this idea that you know, not every thought that comes in your head is you necessarily. And and some of it is, you know, a critical teacher that you had in high school and some of it is a parent, or some of it is, you know, your own insecurities or you know, maybe, you know a part of you that feels like, you know, they can or can’t do something but when we’re really going to psychologically thinking through all the different influences we have when we encounter stress like can I do this? Can I handle this? What am I going to do is all going, you know, like all these like different anxieties in these scripts that start to flow through our minds being able to kind of take take a step back and understand. Okay, some of this is me some of this is just the stress of what’s happening. Some of this has been news like being able to kind of like almost like get a little step outside of it for a second look at it all like it’s it kind of feels it’s like the difference between like a swarm of bees like kind of going around your head and being able to see each be lined up in front of you and it’s like, okay and you got to get a handle on our which thoughts do I really need to be paying attention to? And which thoughts are maybe just pushing me into stress in a way that’s not going to lead to any sort of healthy behavior. I love your bee analogy. Listen. I’ve been trying to practice a lot through mindfulness and through just breathing exercises this ability to control my thoughts and to really separate them. So I love every time now I’m gonna go, you know be going through the exercise. I’m going to be having the the image of the bees and I love the three strategies. Listen, I agree with you 100% And it’s funny. I didn’t even know these were the three strategies. to be a resilient person, but that’s that’s what work. That’s what works for me. If I don’t work out in the morning, I get anxious during the day, I start to have more, you know, sort of gloomy thoughts. And if I don’t socialize it’s the same thing, right? I feel a sense of being disconnected from the world, and not necessarily, you know, living my purpose and the third as you said, we have the ability to control our thoughts and to separate them from the actual facts, right? And that’s very powerful. Thank you. Absolutely. Awesome, wanna leave people with a piece of advice? Yeah. Say that one more time. Sorry. We’re talking over each other. Yeah. Thank you so much. Wanna leave people with a last piece of advice? Yeah, I would say that. Yeah, just stay resilient. There’s absolutely opportunity to you know, push past everything that’s been happening with the world. I think everyone is really kind of feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but if I think we really lean into our friend group, lean into those good habits that we have, that we know are healthy for us, getting sleep, eating well, those kinds of things. I mean lean into the idea that you know what we need just kind of some distance from a box. We can kind of evaluate everything. I think this can be really helpful pieces to keep this going. Wonderful! Okay, thank you. I was here with Matthias Barker. We are recording our let’s say Home Edition and we were talking about how to build resilience and why does it matter and what are some strategies you can use to be more resilient. So I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you, Matthias. Now everyone get out there and live it! Bye.