“Resilience” has become a commonly used word during the pandemic. It embodies our need to better understand how we adapt to the unexpected and whether we are mentally prepared to tackle challenges and changes, including working from home, homeschooling, canceling plans or adjusting to increased levels of stress.

So how do we build and practice mental resilience? The answer is unique for everyone, but by sharing what we have learned throughout this past year we can change, lead and grow together, ultimately strengthening ourselves and each other.

Having Self Awareness and Setting Goals

In my experience, building strength and mental resilience comes from having a strong sense of self-awareness. After studying leadership and career growth for decades, one of my biggest takeaways has been the importance of knowing oneself. Becoming self aware of my strengths, weaknesses and areas for growth has helped me realize who I am and better understand others. One of the tools I have used is the Enneagram personality test. The test identifies different types of people, thereby helping you get a clearer understanding of who you are.

Once you better understand yourself, you are able to set goals and actions and map out your aspirations and ambitions. Where do you want to be in one year? Five years? Set your “why” and reverse engineer it to achieve resilience. It will feel bold at times, but for me, just taking the step to set goals creates momentum, energy and new opportunities. It also means we are better able to face adversity because we have a clear understanding of not only ourselves, but how others may handle uncertainly, as well. 

Starting the Day with a Routine

One year ago, I started my days very differently than I do now and this adjustment has created significant changes in my life. While I would previously wake up and immediately look at my phone for work emails, I realized during this pandemic that this was not the most ideal setup and certainly was not helping my mental health.

I took a step back and now begin the day by not turning to my phone or computer or even relying on an alarm clock. I wake up consistently at the same time and focus on peace and quiet. I read at least 10 pages of a physical copy of a book and then have coffee and daily meditation. I started this because of a program Blue Shield of California offers called Wellvolution, offering personalized support and tools to help members take control of our own health. Being mindful of my water intake, nutrition, sleep and exercise has made a world of difference in my energy level and has been key to building resilience.

Paying Attention to What You Consume and What You Create

Whether it is television, movies, food, articles, or books, be mindful of what you consume versus what you create. Being aware of this has made a big difference in my energy level. Consuming the right things has helped me move forward and focus on what is important and where I want to spend my time. I am a big fan of good movies, but I discovered that watching the content prior going to bed left me restless and did not put me in a good space. I have changed my routine to consume other content during the evening, including reading a book, listening to music or taking a walk after dinner. Similarly, I have started to pay strong attention to what I am creating, whether that is a work email, a presentation or even social media content. Balancing my consumption and my creation is a work of progress, but it has genuinely helped me feel better and stronger mentally.

Receiving Negative and Positive Feedback

It is no surprise that we all care – to a certain extent – about what other people think because that is how we humans are wired. On one hand, it is important to listen to feedback, whether it is negative or positive, as I have learned throughout my career. The ideal state of mind to be in with feedback is balanced: neither focused on the negative or the positive, but somewhere in the middle. For example, if something positive happens and I get great feedback, I am thankful for it, but I move on. If I receive negative feedback, I listen to it, consider how it applies to me and plan how to address those, if needed, and then I also move on. If you can incorporate both positive and negative feedback, standing in that middle ground is a good mental place to be in terms of resilience.

Being Flexible in Your Approach

In our professional and personal lives there is such a strong need to be flexible. Deadlines change, projects get altered and events get postponed. The pandemic has shown us that while we may appreciate a well-thought-out plan, the end plan may not be the one we originally created. Being flexible in our approach to whatever happens day to day and being kind to ourselves if the unexpected happens both make a world of difference. Exercising flexibility and patience builds our mental resilience — one day at a time.

What does mental resilience mean to you? What suggestions do you have for others who want to improve their own resilience?

Don Antonucci serves as Senior Vice President of Growth for Blue Shield of California. He has more than two decades of experience in the health care industry and is the host of “Healthy Dose of Dialogue” podcast available on Apple iTunes or Spotify. The monthly podcast invites healthcare leaders to share fresh perspectives and engage in healthy dialogue about marketplace trends and industry insights impacting health care today.