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Tips for nurturing resilience and growth in 2021.

By Anna-Lisa Wick

December 1, 2020

Close up of person sitting on a park bench.The events of the past nine months could be described as heart-wrenching for many of the people who seek care at the Health Center at Auraria – death of loved ones due to COVID-19, the shock of financial insecurity, political unrest and the trauma of systemic and violent racism are all part of our campus community’s lived 2020 experience. 

Intensely painful or exceptionally joyful news leads to the release of hormones that may heighten the intensity of our emotions and attention. In response, it is not uncommon for a person to be able to recall relatively inconsequential details from the day they learned of a loss or received profoundly exciting news, such as one’s exact location, clothing worn, the weather, smells in the environment, etc.

Within each of us exists a lifetime of such emotional memories. Many of us will carry forward a particularly dense and salient patchwork from 2020.


One definition of resilience is the ability to recover quickly or “bounce back” in the face of difficult, frightening challenges. Resilience is often characterized by openness and flexibility vs. rigidity and fragility. It is noteworthy that resilience cannot exist without experiencing hardship. 

Many paths to resilience

There is research identifying qualities and behaviors of people who find resilience, and it is important to remember there are many paths to adapting and finding stable ground to move forward.

  • Awareness: Finding resilience is not akin to ignoring the suffering of 2020; it begins with mindful acknowledgment of our suffering. The words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “Look deeply and listen with compassion,” seem a particularly appropriate framework for our interactions with ourselves and others. Giving ourselves permission to experience nonjudgmentally all emotions (even painful ones) is a fundamental step in our ability to move through suffering and find openness toward our future.
  • Taking inventory and gratitude: As we experience suffering, we are often propelled to take inventory of our lives, and this can lead to an elevated understanding of our values, priorities and vision for the future. Taking inventory can lead to a flourishing of gratitude. Gratitude is a virtue that allows us to celebrate and find joy today vs. longing for what was or aching for something different.
  • Developing a narrative: For some, writing about their experience(s) can be orienting and heighten clarity.
  • Social connectedness: There is inherent value in identifying our support systems and allowing them to be there for us during this time. Data also supports the role of community in finding resilience. Creating connection will require intention and creativity, given the unprecedented barriers in social connectedness.
  • Functional rebounding and structure: Resilience leads to an ability to reclaim one’s role within their network of family, friends, work and community. The foundation for functional rebounding often begins with a renewed focus on nourishing ourselves:
    • Setting a sleep schedule
    • Committing to daily movement
    • Eating more whole foods (the Mediterranean diet has the most evidence for supporting mental health)
    • Practicing mindfulness by creating space for rest, observing/being rather than doing.

Aim to be flexible and adaptive while prioritizing these anchors.

  • Resilience leading to growth: If you are looking for a place to begin the process of reflection, the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory can be a valuable tool in understanding the impact of 2020.

In closing, this year has been challenging, and humans are certainly a resilient bunch. Many Roadrunners and members of our community have gained hard-earned wisdom from 2020, and resiliency can move us toward a space of gratitude and courage in 2021.

Topics: Health, Health Center at Auraria, Mental Health

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