Resilience: 5 Simple Ways to Improve your Mental and Physical Resilience

12 July 2022

Jane Hannah

Daisy growing

We are living in challenging times and it can feel like there is a new crisis to deal with almost every day. Whilst we cannot control the world around us, we can control how we choose to interact with it and how we respond to challenge and crisis. With that in mind, I want to share with you 5 simple ways to improve your mental and physical resilience. These simple steps will help you to develop your Warrior Spirit and align your Compass, so you are ready to face whatever comes your way.

What is resilience?

Resilience is one of those great words that gets thrown around right from early childhood through to the boardroom, but what does it mean? Well most Google searches will lead you to something along the lines of:

‘The ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult times’. 

With this in mind, the more physically and mentally resilient we are, the more we will be able to cope with whatever turns up each day, whether planned or unplanned. We won’t be so overwhelmed at the unplanned or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Instead, we will be able to tap into our strengths and support systems to get through these things. Think of resilience in two parts:

First is our systemic resilience which is what is already inside of us. It’s what you turn up to the fight with.

Second, is our progressive resilience which is what the fight brings out of you. Think of a difficult time and how amazingly you coped with it. Split what you did into these two types of resilience. Sometimes we amaze ourselves with our inner strength when faced with adversity.

Building your Warrior Spirit

At Compass for Life our West cardinal is all about the Warrior which is within all of us. It is our inherent ability to fight for what we want and believe in. Think of your Warrior as your strength of character. Don’t get hung up on the word ‘Warrior’ and thinking it’s all about physical strength, because our mental strength is as equally important which is why we want to develop both. 

It is never too late to introduce small habits which can have profound positive effects on both your mental and physical resilience. BJ Fogg, in his book Tiny Habits, highlights the importance of this making small changes, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket to make one big change. This is because the right time for the “big change” never comes and often we put it off. Think about your New Year’s resolutions and how often these usually last? Exactly. 

When we introduce tiny habits, we need to recognise our motivation for doing them and be realistic about our ability to do them. But the key is committing to when we plan on doing them. If we tag them on to another trigger in our day, then we are more likely to remember. 

Let me share my tiny habit to illustrate… for years I kept getting an injury in my hip from running and the physio would tell me I needed to improve my core strength. 

Here is what I did about it: 

Motivation – I don’t want to get injured anymore 

Ability – I can do a plank every day for a minimum of 2 minutes 

Trigger – Each morning I boil the kettle and this is when I do it 

Simple! I could have said for ability ‘go to the gym twice a week and do a core class’, but I knew that I wouldn’t stick to this. The result is that I have done a plank every day and never had that injury again. Doing this tiny habit every day has improved both my mental and physical resilience.

5 simple areas to focus on to improve your mental and physical resilience

Below are several easy things you can do to improve your mental and physical resilience. They won’t turn your life upside down, cost you money or take you ages to do. Try one this week, then maybe another the next and see how you get on:

1. Sleep

SUNSHINE IS KEY As close to sunrise as you can, get outside to absorb natural light. This is so important to improving both your mood and sleep. Open the back door when you get up and take 5 minutes to fill yourself with daylight. 

BE HYDRATED Being hydrated when you go to bed is a key part of getting a great night’s sleep. Try and drink regularly throughout the day so that when bedtime comes your urine is nice and clear and you won’t be waking up thirsty. 

KEEP THINGS DARK When its dark outside try to create a dark environment inside. Dim the big lights and replace with candles and lamps. By doing this you allow a more natural level of melatonin (our sleep hormone) to increase. 

COSY BEDROOM What is your sleep environment like? It’s much easier to fall asleep in a cool room than a hot room, so turn down the heating. Also, think about your duvet and sheets. 

JUST LIKE THE KIDS Adopt a great pre-bed routine. An hour or so before you usually get tired turn off electronic gadgets, put your PJs on, wash your face and brush your teeth, so when you do get tired you are ready to just hop into bed.

2. Hydration

#HYDRATEBEFOREYOUCAFFEINATE When we wake up, we are naturally dehydrated from being asleep. Caffeine is a diuretic which basically means it makes us pee more! So, start your day off with a lovely glass of water to kickstart your hydration. 

HYDRATE YOUR BRAIN When we are dehydrated our brain shrinks in volume. This can affect our mood, energy levels and make easy tasks feel like climbing a mountain. So, keep hydrated throughout the day to keep on your A game. 

GENTLY DOES IT When we are eating try to only sip water and not glug too much. The digestive system is complex and we only need a little water to help our food through it. Glugging too much will force the food through too quickly and prevent the lovely nutrients from absorbing.

3. Nutrition

ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU EAT? To fill a hole in our bellies or our heart? When we are hungry we have, a super hormone called Ghrelin. The release of this hormone is what makes our tummies go GRRRRRRR. So, any time you are diving for the biscuits take a moment before eating them to think about the why? What is the feeling you are having which is making you want to eat? Once you observe this it might be you can replace the food with something else that will satisfy the feeling. 

WHAT TIME IS IT? When we eat is just as important as why and what we eat. Our digestive system isn’t set up to be digesting food all day long as it wants time to repair. Therefore, try and restrict the consumption of daily calories (including drinks) to between 10-12 hours. 

HOW LONG?! If you unravel your whole digestive system, did you know it’s as long as 7-9 metres!! That is a complex system for our food to go through. Give your nutrients time to work their way through this by having time off from eating throughout the day. 

SALT OIL SUGAR (SOS) Think of a sweet potato. When you pick one up it has no packaging and no list of ingredients, it’s natural. Go down to the freezer aisle and find the sweet potato fries. Suddenly you’ll find packaging and a list of ingredients. Processed foods have salt, oils and sugars added to them to change their natural flavour. Try to limit the amount of processed food that you eat by opting for foods which resemble their original state.

4. Movement

WHAT IS YOUR NARRATIVE? Do you talk about movement and exercise like its self-abuse or punishment or is it to celebrate the outcome? We want to hear more things like, ‘I am going for a walk as it’s a great way to get some me time’, rather than, ‘I hate my bum, so I am going for a jog’. Be kind to yourself. 

MOVE MOVE MOVE Moving our bodies releases wonderful happy hormones which are endorphins which boost our mood. When we move outside in nature this boosts even more happy hormones including serotonin, the mood stabiliser, which reacts to daylight. 

WALKING IS YOUR SUPERPOWER If you can walk, do it!! Research shows that 30-45 minutes a day of brisk walking is enough to provide us with all the benefits for general health and longevity. When you need to take other transport, try getting off a stop early, or parking a bit further away! 

BUILD SOME MUSCLE AT HOME Don’t just wait for the kettle to boil, instead do a few press ups or squats, and walk around when you are on the phone. Building muscle has so many benefits. It burns more calories when we are resting and allows us to store more glycogen so it doesn’t turn to fat. 

HAVE A STRETCH Yoga is so great for having a good old stretch whilst also building some muscle and working your core.

5. Me Time

FINDING FIVE Me time doesn’t have to be a spa day. Instead find 5 minutes throughout your day where you can disconnect from technology and do something you enjoy. Perhaps it’s listening to your favourite song, having a stretch, enjoying your cuppa outside and listening to the birds. 

LOVE YOURSELF FIRST Have your own back and be kind to yourself. If a friend was feeling down or had a problem, you would do everything you can to boost them. Remember to start with you and give yourself a high five each morning to show you have your own back for the day. Check out this great podcast with Mel Robbins ‘Can you really high 5 your way to happiness’? 

DO IT NOW To reduce the feeling of overwhelm building up, don’t put off small tasks which only take a few minutes. For example, if you pull off your jumper and its inside out, turn it around straight away. Because turning ten jumpers inside out after they come out of the washing machine is a much longer task! 

DISCONNECT FROM TIME TO TIME You will know how much time you spend on your phone as the little things send us a weekly update telling us! Try to disconnect, especially an hour or so before bed. All the emails and WhatsApp messages will still be there the next day.

Remember it’s the small things you do consistently that will have the biggest impact in improving your mental and physical resilience. 

Have you introduced tiny habits? What have you started and what are your triggers for them? 

Learn more about the Warrior cardinal and how the Compass For Life team can help your team to develop it by getting in touch.