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Building resilience with mindfulness

Resilience – a term many of us have seen and heard more and more as uncertainty lingers and challenges related to the pandemic continue affecting people around the world.

“Resilience is being able to overcome obstacles and challenges– kind of like being able to ‘bounce back’ from difficulties,” says Lura Reed, a human development and family sciences instructor at Oregon State University’s Cascade campus in Bend.

Lura currently teaches a course designed to help students and community members cope during trying times, giving participants a space to practice resilience through mindfulness. The idea for the course came when Lura realized that all over the world, people were experiencing new stressors they may not have experienced before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This has been hard for everybody, and everybody could benefit from some of these skills,” she says.

Lura refers to the mindfulness skills she teaches as superpowers. Her favorites include:

  • Having a broader perspective of the world
  • Being able to pause before responding
  • Knowing where to put one’s attention
  • Letting go of judgment
  • Being more grounded

“We can practice for just 30 seconds or longer, so it’s easy for us to take them to the workplace, or home or anywhere we’re at.”

Lura recommends allowing yourself a few slow breaths as a mindfulness exercise for those just starting.

“Take slower, deeper breaths where your exhale extends longer than your inhale. As we do that, we’re telling our body that everything is ok in this moment and that it’s ok to slow down.

“What I think is the most important with mindfulness is to find the practices that fit for you and toss the others aside. Don’t worry if you don’t want to watch your breath. Find what it is that does fit for you and do those things.”

Lura adds that practicing mindfulness not only benefits an individual’s self-care and well-being but that it also has a ripple effect on our relationships with the community and our openness to social justice work.

“We’re part of a culture, we’re part of a community, and what I think is one of the issues coming up is it’s hard for us as humans to be with what’s uncomfortable,” she says.

“When we practice being able to sit with the yucky stuff, then we can be willing to see the world as it really is, which is the first step to making change. If we’ve got these different mindful skills in place, we can remain present, grow and learn from seeing the real world around us, and receive feedback to be able to make changes on a personal level.”

Learn more about Lura’s Cultivating Resilience in Challenging Times course on the OSU–Cascades’ website.

This story is adapted from our “10 in 10” video series: 10 questions, in 10ish minutes, with a college faculty member on a topic related to human health and well-being. Want more? Read the latest on Synergies and watch full episodes on the college’s YouTube channel.

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