Looking for some help to get through a rough patch? If you’re sick of hearing tired advice like “things will get better” or “lift yourself up” (or even worse, bad things happen for a reason) then grab a copy of the new book 21 Days to Resilience ($16, Amazon.com) by Zelana Montminy, Psy.D.
Dr. Z (as she likes to be called) has created a science-backed guide to help readers learn how to bounce back from hard times and become a stronger person in the process. And don’t feel bad for feeling bad, says Dr. Z, who has a background in clinical psychology. It’s “healthy and almost necessary to sometimes be unhappy in order to find lifelong well-being,” she told Health.
Here is a quick look at some of her tips for building resilience.
Put yourself first
You wouldn’t try to patch a tire without first finding where the leak is, right? Similarly, “you have to focus on yourself before you work on anything else,” says Dr. Z. “That’s the nucleus and everything else kind of stems from that.” So turn your focus inward, and really get to know your own thoughts and emotions.
One way to do so is by focusing inward, into how your body physically reacts to certain situations, explains Dr. Z. In her self-awareness chapter, she writes, “The physical response to emotions serves as a cue and gives more insight.” Once you start to take the time to tap into these clues and understand your own feelings, you’ll likely find life’s challenges way more manageable.
Accept what you can’t change
In the “spirit” section of her book, Dr. Z homes in on the idea of acceptance, which she believes is frequently misunderstood in our culture. “People think if they accept something they sort of have to sit back and just let it happen,” she says. Instead, she views the concept in a much more active way. “We have to accept our circumstances, but at the same time proactively work to change them if we don’t want to be in that position,” explains Dr. Z. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with trying to take charge, but it’s also crucial to understand sometimes you can’t control certain parts of your life. And when it comes to those things you don’t have power over, explains Dr. Z, also remember that nothing in life stays the same indefinitely.
Don’t ignore or suppress your feelings
We all know it’s way easier to send a simple thumbs-up emoji via text than express to a friend or partner our actual feelings. While keeping your emotions in check may seem like a better option at times, it could be doing you a major mental disservice. According to Dr. Z, acknowledging and expressing your feelings is crucial for building what’s known as emotional intelligence.
She also points out it’s important to get specific about how you feel. So when you say you’re mad—are you actually angry or frustrated? Hurt or annoyed? According to Dr. Z, we’re often limited by the vocabulary we use, but being able to “differentiate it and really understand the root of the emotion gives you more insight, which allows you to shift your reaction based on what you’re really feeling.”
Each of these steps is aimed at bringing clarity to the root of your problem, which will help you get back on your feet as soon and healthy as possible.