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Published on February 16, 2021

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How to Build Resilience and Motivation in the New Year

The COVID-19 vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yet the pandemic resulted in a lot of loss and change over the past year, causing grief, stress and just plain feeling tired of it all.

How do you become resilient – in other words, able to bounce back after hard times? Avera Behavioral Health expert, Matthew Stanley, DO, gives us tips.

Change Your Thinking Patterns

Being under stress or duress for an extended period of time can cause your mind to fall into negative patterns of thought – or ruts.

“It’s important that we recognize those ruts and not get stuck or caught up in these streams of thinking,” said Stanley, Avera psychiatrist and Clinical Vice President of the Avera Behavioral Health Service Line.

“When you catch yourself having negative thoughts, learn a method to stop and redirect those thoughts to a more positive or at least neutral frame of mind. Have a plan ahead of time,” Stanley said.

Make a plan for a physical and mental break, Stanley recommended.

“For instance, if you’re at work and find yourself going down a really negative pathway, take a short break to run up a flight of stairs and back down. Try to reset that mindset.”

Another effective technique involves deep-breathing exercises. You can find techniques on the internet. “How they work has to do with both our physiology and our psychology,” Stanley said.

A different cognitive technique is to imagine a stop sign when you find your thoughts are turning toward a negative direction.

Reestablish Your Motivation

“Purpose, enjoyment in what we do, and a sense of autonomy are critical components in our motivation to work,” Stanley said. “If we’ve lost one of these three things, we can easily lose our motivation.”

It’s important to get back in touch with your values and what generates positive feelings for you. “Try to optimize those thoughts and feelings and reframe your thinking,” Stanley said.

Recall past successes and interactions with grateful people.

Remember those times when you have impacted someone’s life in a positive way – maybe just by listening or showing empathy. Consider the ways in which your work helps people experience a better quality of life.

“You can reestablish a positive attitude and motivation by trying to change one person’s life every day with something as simple as a smile, a kind word, or a bit of assistance when you see they are struggling,” Stanley said.

Allow Yourself to Grieve Losses

“Grief is one of the hardest things we deal with in our society and perhaps the one of the most misunderstood,” Stanley said. Loss is often associated with the death of a loved one, but can also be experienced in the loss of a job, friendship, colleague, financial security, personal identity or way of life.

The stages of grief are well known, but were never meant to be a pathway or structure for grieving. “We don’t all grieve the same and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. We all cope in our own ways,” Stanley said.

You may be feeling sadness or anger, or you may not. You may want to share your burdens with others, or you may want to grieve alone.

“In any case, you do need to let your emotions out. It’s helpful in most cases to share with at least one person that you trust and feel comfortable with,” Stanley said.

Practice Self-Care

“A lot of times we underestimate the importance of self-care,” Stanley said. “It’s common sense, and yet we can get to a point where we’re not taking care of our physical and mental self.”

Self-care involves getting the rest, nutrition and exercise your body needs. “This becomes the hardest when we are under stress, yet that’s exactly the time when we need to be most attentive to it,” Stanley said.

Find Your Hope

“Hope is such a critical component of resilience. If you’ve lost hope, that’s a dangerous position to get into,” Stanley said.

“Hope is that one thing that keeps us moving forward in dark times. Sometimes the only way to get through difficult times is to just keep stepping forward, one step at a time.”

You might find hope in your faith, your belief in the future, your belief in yourself or others. “If you’ve lost hope, seek help. It’s that essential to our lives,” Stanley said.

If you are struggling, reach out to a close family member, friend or mentor. Or, reach out for professional help through your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or local behavioral health services. Avera’s 24-hour assessment center can be reached at 800-691-4336.

Misuse of alcohol or drugs can also be a symptom of crisis. Learn more about Avera’s Addiction Care services by calling 605-504-2222.

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