Updated: Aug 9
I know many people who are inherently smart, caring, resourceful, and great people, who have become accomplished doctors, lawyers, CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs, but they don't feel as good as they should.
They're chronically stressed, feel tired all of the time, suffer from anxiety, too often feel down and depressed, drink regularly to cope, or are just not enjoying their life.
They feel like they're doing everything right, but internally they don't feel good.
Does this resonate?
If you struggle with feeling consistently good in your life, and your work, family, or friends often dictate how well you feel, I've written this blog for you.
Feeling consistently good in your life requires resilience
Resilience isn't necessarily about how "strong" you are, it's about how much resources you have to deal with in life. This is not something we’ve been taught at school. How our mind works, what we need to handle life's challenges and feel good, and have peace of mind despite real life.
Society tells us that if we just accomplish at high levels, things should sort themselves out. That we should automatically feel great, accomplished, worthy, loved, and all of the things that we deep down want to feel. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.
Feeling good and steady in your life requires resilience. Resilience refers to the capacity to cope with adversity and quickly bounce back. In order for you to have resilience, a few things need to be in place. That’s what we’ll cover here.
I will share with you a holistic view of what creates the majority of your stress and overwhelming feelings. Why it's so hard for you to handle what's happening in your life, despite you trying to do everything right. Then, we'll dive into some practical solutions for how you can become more resilient.
This is knowledge that you can use to drastically change and optimize the state of your mental and emotional health, and help buffer you in the face of the difficulties of life. This way you can constantly feel good and steady.
Hold on tight because we're going to the root of it all!
Your body and mind have basic needs
Much like building a home, building your well-being and resilience requires the right knowledge and material. We need to make sure that we have the essentials in place before we start to build. And if we don’t check off ALL of the essentials, we run the risk of major problems and everything can come crashing down in a blink of an eye. In fact, we can’t even feel safe without all the essentials in place.
Just think about not having a roof in your home, or doors, or electricity. Or building your home out of straws. You’ll be susceptible to the elements, right? Even normal amounts of rain can cause damage and flood your home. Storms will be destructive, and robbers can easily come and take things from you. You can’t feel comfortable or safe in those conditions.
But on the other hand, when you have the foundational pieces in place, you can enjoy your home, feel safe, and gain it’s benefits.
This is very similar to your well-being and resilience. Your well-being is your internal home, and your resilience is the quality of your home to keep you safe and happy. For a quality and happy home, you need to fulfill all of the essentials.
What are these essentials?
The essentials for your well-being and resilience is your body and mind's basic needs. These are basic universal requirements for your body and mind to function and remain healthy. Just like every home requires a roof, doors, and insulation, every human being on this planet also needs certain conditions to function and be well. This is regardless of your age, gender, background, political views, or any individual differences, so know that they apply to you.
When you miss the essentials of what your mind and body need, you no longer have the capacity to be resilient. This is when you experience your biggest mental and emotional challenges. From feeling stressed to unwanted emotions like anxiety and depression, to being tired, irritable, or not being able to focus. They present a whole host of problems.
Our mind and body are connected and that's why it's important to take a holistic view when we're looking to maintain our well-being and build our resilience. This mean we have to look at our physical needs and make sure that they are being met. We also have to look at our psychological needs (what our mind needs to be well) and to make sure that those needs are being met.
What are your basic physical needs?
I've listed your physical needs below. You're probably familiar with some of them.
Side Note: before we dive in, know that addressing any of the needs that are unfulfilled right now will bring you huge benefits in your resilience and ability to handle challenges. So don’t allow the list of needs to overwhelm you. Allow it to empower you.
1) Good quality sleep. Your body needs consistent 7.5-9 hours per night. I preach about this all of the time because it's essential in regulating your mood and your capacity to handle stress. It's directly tied to your mental health and how well you're able to function throughout the day.
You can read more about why sleep is essential and tips on improving your sleep here.
I use the Sleep Cycle App to track the duration and quality of my sleep. You can download it if you're interested. But often the best indication is whether you feel well-rested and recharged in the morning.
2) Proper nutrition. Your body needs certain vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients as fuel so that it can perform all of the amazing functions you need on a daily basis to keep you alive and healthy. Everything from breathing - to digesting - to walking and reading, every (seemingly) simple thing you do has a complicated and intricate system that allows you to do that.
When you have a nutritional deficiency, your body doesn't have what it needs to handle the day-to-day operations, let alone more stress and complications in your life. It's a major stressor on your body and keeps you from being able to function effectively.
If you are uncertain on how your nutrition can be impacting you, consult with your doctor, nutritionist, or naturopath. A blood test is usually recommended to identify deficiencies. Increasing certain vitamins (ex: vitamin D and magnesium) can help build resilience when you're dealing with a lot. Consult with your doctor on the dosage that can help you.
3) Breathing and Movement. Throughout the day, your body (through your breathing, posture and movement) sends signals to your brain on how you’re doing. If you’re shallow breathing, slouching all day, or not moving much, it sends the signal that something is wrong (for example, that you're depressed, stressed, tired, etc.). This impacts how you think and feel.
Studies show that exercise and breathing techniques offer a protective benefit against developing mental health challenges and helps with the proper functioning and optimization of many physiological processes include your autonomic nervous system (which determines your stress response). All this to say, your breathing and movement can help you increase your mental and emotional resilience.
With exercising, the key is to start with something you enjoy, and with an amount that you can commit to on a regular basis (for example, 15 minutes of dancing, 4 days a week).
4) Hydration. Your body needs adequate hydration (preferably water) for the proper functioning of your physiological processes. When you're dehydrated, you may experience many problematic symptoms like fatigue, low mood, irritability, and trouble focusing. According to Harvard School of Public Health, even a 2% deficit in your body's water can create symptoms. Again, in this case, your body does not have what it needs to function properly. This reduces your body's resources and capacity to handle other things as it's already under pressure.
You can check the frequency of how often you go to the bathroom and the colour of your urine to estimate whether you are adequately hydrated. As a rule of thumb, the less frequent and darker the colour, the more dehydrated you are. Click here to read Harvard School of Public Health's recommendations on adequate hydration.
5) Light exposure. We have systems in the body that regulate with light exposure. For example your brain relies on light to know when to release certain hormones and neurotransmitters (for example: melatonin - important for sleep, serotonin - important for mood regulation). When we're not exposed to the proper light at important times of the day, it throws off our biological clock and the normal functions of our body. This means your body gets thrown off and this stresses out your system.
It's recommended that you expose yourself to natural light in the morning, stay away from blue light from screens during nighttime, and sleep in a dark room to synchronize your biological system. This will help balance your circadian rhythm, help regulate your mood in the morning, help release melatonin at night for good sleep, and keep cortisol levels down in the evenings for you to relax and unwind. This gives your body what it needs to be well-regulated and resilient to stress.
If you're interested to learn more, you can read a recent scientific review on how light exposure impacts your sleep and mood.
What are your basic psychological needs?
In addition to your basic physical needs, your mind also has basic psychological needs to be well. This includes the need for:
1) Autonomy. This means feeling in control of your outcomes and doing things that are personally enjoyable and meaningful to you. It can include incorporating structure and familiarity into your daily routine to feel more in control, or focusing on what you can control (instead of what you can’t). This also includes engaging in tasks that fill your cup and that you genuinely enjoy.
2) Connection. This means having people you feel connected to and cared for. Feeling that you have a support system and people that you can turn to. Having a support system is a huge factor in developing more resilience. The good news is, even quality virtual or phone contact helps meet this need. You can join online or in-person communities like book clubs, or yoga classes, or anything else that interests you. The goal is to feel connected and have meaningful interactions with others.
You can read more on the importance of connection and how to feel more connected here.
3) Competence. This means feeling capable in your ability to handle and do things well. This is about your confidence in your abilities and your sense of "I can!". One way to do this is by focusing on your strengths and achievements. This includes acknowledging your wins instead of focusing on your “downfalls” or “problems”. You may choose to write down a list of your accomplishments. I personally love to remind myself and my clients of how far we've come. You'll be amazed of how grounding this can be, how great you'll feel, and the confidence you'll build. These are all important for your mental health and resilience.
4) Novelty-variety. The importance of this need is just recently being established. The need for novelty-variety involves experiencing new things and switching things up. Although having a routine is great and needed, we also require new experiences to stimulate our mind and allow us to grow. Even taking a new route on your walks, or changing your workspace from time to time can have significant mental and emotional benefits.
The more of your basic physical and psychological needs you fulfill, the more mental and emotional resources you'll have, and the higher your resilience will be. This means, for example, if you are not feeling connected with other people right now but start joining meaningful communities, you will gain major points in your resilience and ability to cope with stress.
So how can you practically use this knowledge to become more resilient?
I’ve written a 5-step-guide below on how you can use this knowledge to boost your resilience, starting right now.
It is best to get out a pen and piece of paper and follow the steps below. It won’t take too long, I promise.
Have you got your pen and paper out yet?
Step 1: In what area(s) are your needs met? Go through the list of the physical and mental needs I shared above and pinpoint the areas that you are doing well in. If you’re unsure, that’s ok! Make your best guess for now.
Notice what area(s) you already have covered and give yourself credit. If you can’t think of one, notice the one(s) you are doing better in. Pick your top one from each category (mental and physical). Give yourself a pat on the back, soak it in! This is great! Keep doing what you’ve been doing! Great job, this is part of acknowledging your wins.
Step 2: In what area(s) are your needs not met? Pinpoint where you may be neglecting an essential need. If you find that there are multiple that you may be missing, write them all down and pick just one that you’re willing to work on. You can choose any one from the list that you like.
Have you picked the one you want to work on? Take a moment to do that now.
Step 3: What is one small step that you can take right away? Identify one step you can take today to fulfill that need consistently.
For example, if you picked movement, is it consistently taking a 10 minute walk a day? Pick something that you can start with right away and can consistently commit to. I’ll give you another example, if you picked relationships, is it having one 5 minute call a day?
Hint: Don't think more is better. Don't think bigger is better. It's often not better and will overwhelm you instead. Go for consistency.
Step 4: Make a commitment to do the action and schedule it in. Commit to improving this area and schedule it in. Make sure not to overwhelm yourself and start as small and easy as possible with something you can keep doing consistently. Commit for 30 days in the beginning to help develop it as a habit. Put this in your calendar. If it's not on paper, or on your calendar, it's not real yet. Make this a real commitment.
Have you put it into your calendar?
Don't go into the next step until you do.
Step 5: Once you feel satisfied with meeting the need you’ve been working on, go back to your list and pick another one. Save this blog as a reminder. Make sure that your list is somewhere you can come back to. Repeat this step until you feel satisfied with how you feel and where you are with your mental and emotional resilience.
You got this!
Post your questions in the comments below to keep the conversation going. I'm happy to answer your questions and be of help!
With lots of love,
Founder of Well-Being & Performance Inc.
M.A, Psychology, LCL