Cultivating Resilience in an Ongoing Crisis

Rest, Resilience and Mental Health Strategies with Pretty Mental

Pretty Mental is a mental health and wellness podcast. Everything to do with being human, anxiety, stress, sex..and more. Valentina and Paula Sinisterra are sister and co-hosts of Pretty Mental. Paula is a therapist trained in cognitive therapy and in mindfulness and Valentina is a trained breathwork facilitator.

Our theme for the month: What is Our Why and Values-Driven Goals. Paula and Valentina spoke at The Lola’s January mini-conference and, through their session, we built a toolbox to build emotional resilience so we can be equipped to deal with life.

Resilience reflection exercise

What comes to mind when you hear the word resilience? What Is your relationship to rest? What is your relationship to uncertainty?

What does resilience mean to you?
  • Grit and determination
  • Flexibility and balance
  • A positive outlook
  • Team no days off!
  • Never feeling negative emotions
  • Any others?
What does rest mean to you?
  • I feel guilty when I rest so I don’t do it often
  • I feel guilty when I rest but I still make sure I do it
  • I love resting. No guilt!
  • I do not rest, it is a waste of time
  • I don’t even know how to rest
  • Any others?
What does uncertainty mean to you?
  • Uncertainty causes a great deal of anxiety for me
  • Uncertainty makes me feel unsafe
  • I am ok with uncertainty
  • I enjoy the unknown
  • Any others?

How can we build resilience?

Resilience is our bounce-back ability to come into a place of acceptance around what is taking place. If we’re obsessed with being comfortable, we will get thrown off when things don’t go as planned.

“We can use mindfulness to examine what is happening. Come into contact with it. Rather than avoiding it.”

— Pretty Mental

Challenge the tendency of our mind to look for certainty. To increase tolerance for uncertainty, do what is counterintuitive. Don’t engage in compulsive behaviors, for example, focusing on lists all the time and obsessing over small details.

Psychological flexibility

Psychological flexibility is being able to be fully present in the moment and connecting with what is taking place, then coming into a place of acceptance and willingness to work with what is taking place rather than what we wish were taking place.


Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

We tend to project our own interpretation onto the experience based on what is going on in our minds. We end up getting into knee jerk reactions and activating our survival instinct.

“Try to come back into the present moment, consciously respond to what the situation is asking”

Both mindfulness and meditation are practices that help us learn the skill of working with life rather than trying to control it. They help us cultivate qualities like acceptance, openness, compassion and creativity.

The stories we tell ourselves

As humans, we are natural storytellers – we craft stories to help us make sense of our experiences. We need to ask ourselves, “Is the story I am believing in helpful?”.

“An empowering narrative will lead to an empowering experience”

— Pretty Mental

We need to work to lower our expectations of ourselves when we are going through challenges, especially in times of crisis (challenge those “shoulds”).

Surrender the mind-reading habits

Ask yourself, am I engaging in black and white (right or wrong) thinking? Am I trying to mindread other people? Because we’re social beings, we tend to lean into these behaviors with black and white thinking. We have a need to put life into concrete categories to get a feeling of certainty but nothing is ever certain. Black and white thinking is the root of anxiety experiences. Always thinking about what others think/don’t think of us is exhausting.

Just breathe

Breathwork is a powerful tool. It brings you back into the now, can change your own physiology and lower mental, emotional and physical stress. Not breathing fully can keep us trapped in mental loops.

Are you holding your breath right now? Is your jaw clenched?

Emotions can get trapped in our bodies, which tells our brains to panic. Energy needs to release. You can do this through breathing.

Breathing exercise:

  • Breathe in for 3
  • Hold for 5
  • Breathe out for 5
  • Hold for 3
  • Repeat for 1,3,5 or 10 mins

See what impact this has on your nervous system




Decrease vulnerabilities

When we’re overstimulated and tired, we need to drink and we need to eat. It’s important to learn to take care of ourselves. If we don’t those vulnerabilities will get the better of us.

  • Build in mindfulness moments. Enjoy lunch or a hot coffee to give our nervous system a chance to calm down.
  • Connect with community. A good laugh with some friends can lighten experiences of depression, give us a huge boost and regulate our nervous system.
  • Love and connection release the feel-good hormone in our body.
  • Mind/body connection. Western medicine focuses on the body only – we need to focus on the mind/body connection. Get into your body, go for a walk, it will give you a huge boost for navigating your emotions.
  • Be gentle. Dance, yoga, exercise that is gentle and kind not aggressively trying to get your body in shape. Approach with love vs. fear.

Rest and recovery

The higher the quality of work you put out the higher quality your rest and recovery needs to be, but often it goes down and work goes up – and that is where burnout happens. Our society today is all about produce, produce, produce and work, work, work. We’re wrapped up in hustle culture. You can’t force a flower to continuously bloom.

“Overwork and exhaustion are opposite of resilience”

— Pretty Mental

It’s not fair to expect ourselves to perform at the same level if we’re not taking the time to replenish. Are we taking time to nourish our bodies? What are we consuming (caffeine, sugar, processed food)? Be aware of how ingredients in our food and drink affect us.

If you’re running on empty, just show up that day. That will be enough.

Body and mind need to join the recovery. It’s not “rest” if you’re laying down but your mind is still spinning. Stress 100% affects our sleep. The body and mind need to feel safe enough to sleep – sleep is recovery mode. Set healthy boundaries: turn off tech, go in nature, rest, eat, breathe.

“The more still you’re able to become, the louder your internal compass will be”

— Pretty Mental

Photos by: Mushaboom Studios


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