Developing Resilience?

As you’re reading this blog, my home state is just crawling out of a snow and ice storm that took down power in several towns. (And that’s not even talking about the deep freeze that just happened the South.) The punches just seem to keep coming, don’t they?

Well, after a year of pandemic unknowns, unemployment, school ups and downs, and residual fear, we need encouragement. I don’t know the specifics of your last 12 months, but consider this blog a note of encouragement wrapped with some practical perspective.

One Day at a Time
Sure, we’ve heard this idea; but what does it look like to “take one day at a time”? In the article 5 Steps to Persevere (Even When You Really Want to Quit), author Jessica Stillman writes, “You might think the truly mentally tough never want to quit, but the truth is that perseverance is usually about keeping going even though you really want to stop.” She offers five short and practical ideas, which I’d recommend; let’s look at the first one:

“Step 1: Make sure your goals are worthy of your perseverance.
Sometimes you actually should quit. Make sure this isn’t one of those times before you do anything else. ‘You can be determined to a fault,”’ Hanson cautions. ‘Don’t ‘keep going’ down a tunnel with no cheese.’ Also consider the collateral damage to your health, relationships and integrity that your quest is causing.”

While the author wrote these words in 2015, the concept applies today, maybe even more. In 2021, we might voice this concept as “give yourself some grace or give yourself a break.” Real life today can often be unsettling and at minimum “interrupted.” It is tiring and sad to read about the continuing political strife, the riots (including the ongoing violence in places like near-to-me Portland), the struggle of students and teachers, the loneliness.

With all this “stuff” happening around and to us, living in the present moment and not worrying so much will look different for each one of us — but for all of us, it will require a realistic view of our energy levels and what’s really needing our focus. You’ll benefit from cutting good-intentioned-but-ill-timed activities and tasks and expectations that you have influence over.

Remove What’s Not Needed from Your Calendar
A book I’ve enjoyed is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Author Greg McKeown writes, “The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.”

Part of being able to take “one day at a time” is figuring out what are those non-negotiables and what does not need your time and energy right now.

Here’s a lighthearted example: one person might decide finishing painting that office would really decrease their stress (a healthy distraction, if you will). Another might look at that same project and say, nope! It would be an additional stressor.

Keep Prioritizing. Stay Flexible.
Sadly, we’ll continue to see the fallout from just the last few months (e.g. academics, job loss, future job prospects, finances), and getting through the next season must include building resilience. Talking about his book, “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges,” co-author and Professor of Psychiatry Steven M. Southwick writes:

“When we began our study, we assumed that resilience was rare and resilient people were somehow special, perhaps genetically gifted.  It turns out, we were wrong. Resilience is common and can be witnessed all around us.  Even better, we learned that everyone can learn and train to be more resilient. The key involves knowing how to harness stress and use it to our advantage. After all, stress is necessary for growth.  Without it the mind and body weaken and atrophy.”

I love the idea that any of us can grow in our resilience. I know I need to hear that after 2020! We could talk for hours about this topic. Yet, what can we takeaway for today?  

First, remember that we can’t do it all — and that’s ok! Pick what is essential in this season of life. Cut or set aside the rest.

Second, pick what is essential for stress reduction and management, which is a key part of building the resilience we need for each day.

Like last month’s blog, being healthy in the various seasons of life is really about creating a habit or training our minds/bodies/hearts/habits/etc. Find a pattern in your routine that both expends stressful energy and engenders relaxation. 

Not that you need my permission, but if you need someone to say to you right now that is ok to take 10 minutes to relax or 20 minutes to laugh or 30 minutes to go for an intense cardio workout. Do it.

I sign off with this last tip. We all need something to enjoy and look forward to. I found this unique list of Holidays and Observances in March. Some are silly. Some are serious. I’d recommend using this list as a reminder to enjoy the little and big things, to be thankful and to keep celebrating, to use humor, thankfulness, and celebration as part of being and building resilience.

As always, if you have questions, give me a call.