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Another Word on Resilience

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

In my last post, I talked about how I used to think I was fated to be un-resilient. I said that I thought there was "nothing I could do about it."

Turns out, I was wrong. Sure glad I was.

First, the disclaimers:

  • This post is not intended to be five-easy-steps-to-resilience. Everyone's journey looks different.

  • This is far from a comprehensive list. The items listed are not "the most important" but some of the ones that helped me.

  • While there is much research on the topic of resilience, I'm primarily writing from my own experience and observations.

Without further ado, here are some factors - in no particular order - that helped me to slowly, resiliently live again.

1. Grant yourself time

Time to move past the shock of what you just lost/experienced. Time to move past the numbness. Time to grieve. Ironically, looking back at my own journey, I realize that the most prominent impediment to resilience was my own insistence on rushing back to being OK asap (see my previous post).

2. Grant yourself kindness

When I first heard that I needed to be gentle and compassionate towards myself, it sounded like ridiculous, soft, squishy psychobabble (and I was a Psych major at the time). I thought it meant allowing myself to eat nothing but ice cream every day. What I thought I needed was more willpower and more discipline. There is a time and place for willpower and discipline, but first I had to learn to grieve, and it is hard to grieve when you're standing over yourself wielding an old-fashioned pedagogue's rod.

Oh, and I had to stop comparing my loss to that of others. That took me about three years. I trust that you are a much faster learner than I was.

Not sure if you're being compassionate toward yourself? Check out the Self-Compassion Test.

3. Get out into nature

I thought that nature was just healing for me, a huge nature buff. According to The Nature Fix, it's beneficial for everyone. For those of you who aren't able to wander through an ancient forest or kayak down a meandering river, is there a park near where you live or work? Can you make it a habit to gaze up at the moon each night? Is there a tree or bush outside your window? Can you sit on your balcony and feel the evening breeze on your face?

4. Eat well

I say eat "well" because when in pain, some of us overeat, some of us under-eat, some of us sporadically eat and some of us eat junk. I'm not here to hate on the way you eat, and I recognize that food itself can be a battle. But the choices we make regarding our mental and physical health affect each other. There were times that I felt there was nothing more I could do to help my spiraling, frail mental health. But I could choose to stir-fry and eat some rice and veggies.

What I am NOT saying is that food can make your problems go away. What I AM saying is that poor food choices can make other problems appear. Problems that can slow-track resilience.

5. People.

People told me I needed people. People told me not to isolate. I really didn't want to hear it. I will say that the times I spent in solitude were helpful. But it is ultimately loving, imperfect people that help us to heal. There's a lot that could be said here, and I can hear your "yeah, but"s and I acknowledge them. But I have now joined the chorus of people chiming "It's true, you really do need people."

Hint: When possible, I recommend spending time with little people. Don't tell them your woes, just respectfully play with them or watch them play.

What do you need to help with your resilience journey right now? What is within your power to do that would help with your resilience journey?

This post is dedicated to Uncle Paul, who remained convinced that I would be resilient when I was convinced I was anything but.

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