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Build Resilience in a Time of Crisis

Four critical tips for thriving in difficult times

Eileen Templin
by Eileen Templin in Resilience, Thought Leader Post
January 23, 2017

Since everything feels harder these days, how do we build resilience in a time of crisis?

Chronically high levels of stress seem to be the “norm”, despite what we know about its effects on our health and well-being. And, whether we feel its cumulative effect over time just weighing us down or due to life suddenly pulling the rug out from under us, this stress takes a toll.

So, how do we bounce back from the challenges of life? That ability to bounce back is called resiliency. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress.” Lots of research has been done on resiliency and you can easily find it with any search engine. What I want to share with you is what I‘ve learned through experience, not only as a therapist, but in my personal life during a very dark and challenging time. Certain ways of thinking and actions were beacons of light for me in the dark. Here are a few of them…

Gain Perspective

A bedrock of resiliency for me is what I’ll call a pattern level perspective. By that I mean I believed that there was more going on in my particular situation than what my logical mind and reptilian brain were telling me… which was, “disaster!!!” There was a larger process at work. I embraced the message behind the Chinese pictographs for Crisis. Crisis is represented by two pictographs:  one meaning Danger and the other Opportunity. The wisdom in this perspective is that, in every crisis, challenge, or dark time, there is also an opportunity and a gift inherent to the situation.

Stay in the Present Moment

An essential part of resiliency was also reminding myself to stay in the present moment. Difficult situations can seem like they’re going to last forever, which leads us to ruminate about a depressing future and all the “what if” fears. This just further demoralizes and paralyzes us. If we stay in the present moment, even though the present situation is difficult, in this moment we are okay. These momentary awarenesses that we are okay allow our nervous system to shift gears and mobilize the energy to move forward one step at a time.

Quiet the Mind

Another promoter of resiliency was engaging in practices that quieted my mind and shifted my consciousness. There are many forms this can take. Meditation and mindfulness practices, along with a practice called “open focus awareness” developed by Princeton researcher Les Fehmi, are among my favorites. They all balance our nervous system, shift our brainwaves from beta to alpha, and create a state referred to as whole brain synchrony. This is a much more resourceful state from which to address challenges.

Spend Time in Nature

A final strategy I’ll share with you is the uplifting and restorative power of nature. We now have the research to back what all of us who spend time in nature know… that it can cure whatever ails us. During that really difficult period, I went to a small city park near where I lived and sat on the ground, absorbed the beauty, soaked in the smells and sounds, and I did it on an almost daily basis. It was for me, an indispensable part of bouncing back.  You can read more about being in nature in a recent blog post I wrote.

A Question For You

These strategies are part of a whole-person approach to building resilience in a crisis. What are your favorite strategies?  Leave a comment below.


Eileen Templin

Eileen Templin

Psychotherapist at
Eileen is a licensed clinical social worker with over twenty years of counseling, training and teaching experience. She is passionate about supporting her clients in overcoming obstacles and developing skills to create lives that are balanced, creative, joyful, and in service to the greater good.
Eileen Templin

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