February 28, 2023

Kia kaha New Zealand. It’s been a difficult start to 2023 for so many Kiwis, with two major weather events devastating many parts of the country. On top of that rising interest rates are creating financial stress for many households at a time when wages are not keeping up with inflation. Sadly, it won’t be the last time we are faced with hardship and it’s important we develop the skills we need to endure tough times. Here are some of the ways to build resilience for you and your family.

Take care of the basics
Being physically and mentally strong will help you cope in a crisis. This means focusing on a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep.

In times of stress, it can be easy to slip into poor eating habits – skipping meals, relying on takeaways or using high-sugar, high-fat treats as comfort foods. But if you are not getting the nutrients you need or you are overloading your body with food that’s hard to process, you will feel fatigued and be less able to deal with life events. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food options that are quick to prepare so it’s easier to make good choices. At the very least, start the day with a nutritious breakfast – that way you know you have fuel in the tank if nothing else goes to plan. Te Atatu Toasted wholefood cereals are available in 1.5kg lifestyle bags – stock up and know you are sorted. Or even better, sign up for a monthly subscription so you can save money and never have to worry about what to eat for breakfast.

Regular exercise ensures we are fitter and stronger, therefore leaving us with more stamina and better able to deal with the physical challenges a crisis can throw at us. But perhaps even more importantly, exercise can reduce feelings of stress and depression. So it’s an important tool for building resilience. It’s not necessary to run marathons – just do something you enjoy that gets the blood flowing and takes your mind off negative events. A walk with a friend, a bike ride or a yoga class will all help.

Sleep is important during times of stress because it is critical to better physical and mental health. It helps you clear your mind to better deal with adversity during the day and it supports your immune system so you can stay well and gives you the energy you need to keep going. We have a whole blog on how to get better sleep coming up later this month.

Stay connected
Social networks, such as our friends, family, work colleagues or sports groups, can bolster us in tough times. Connecting in with people you have built strong relationships with can provide practical and emotional support. It’s also a safe space in which you can relax and have a laugh. Don’t be reluctant to reach out or feel like you are burdening other people. Good friends will want to help, and they won’t judge.

Learn from the past….Think of how you've coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through difficult times. It will give you some practical steps to take and also remind you that you are strong and capable and that you will get through this.

… but don’t dwell on it
You can’t change what’s happened so try to focus on being in the moment. Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Rather than brooding on the past or worrying about the future, set clear, achievable goals so you have a plan to progress out of a bad situation. It can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, but by taking one step at a time, things will improve.

Be optimistic
Remaining hopeful that there are better times ahead will make it easier to cope with difficult situations. If that seems a big ask, try to focus on one positive thing that’s happening right now. It might be the way the local community has rallied in a time of crisis, or a friend showing up with a bottle of wine or a home-cooked meal exactly when you needed it or even that you ticked something off your to-do list.

Practice journaling
Writing in a journal can help us to process adversity, accept change, and build our resilience for the future. It’s a safe, private place that you can release dark thoughts or painful emotions. Research has shown it can decrease anxiety and increase feelings of wellbeing. Writing about an emotional event has also helped some people stop thinking about it obsessively. It’s even been shown to accelerate physical healing. So buy yourself a beautiful journal or notebook to write in or try a digital journal.

Resilience for children and teens
It’s not just adults that need to build resilience – the past few years have been tough for young people here and around the world. Here are a few ways parents, extended family, teachers and coaches can help kids develop coping mechanisms:

  • Support them to develop good social skills, positive thinking habits and to practice self-care.
  • Role model empathy, respect and compassion for others.
  • Help young people develop strategies to turn things around when they are feeling low – it could be watching something funny on YouTube or TV, spending time with a friend or doing something physical such as playing sport.
  • Teach them how to put things in perspective – will this matter next week? On a scale of one to ten, how bad is this really?
  • Once they’ve had space to experience their negative feelings, work with them on steps they can take to improve the situation.

Our thoughts are with everyone around Aotearoa facing adversity at this time. Please reach out for help, whether that’s from other people in your life or the community groups and social services ready to assist.