Learning to Adapt

School is starting again soon, which has always been exciting and stressful in “typical” years, but this year brings a whole new level of stressors. Some schools have been closed. Some schools have been open half time. There are a lot of unknowns this coming year.

With everything going on, we want to make sure that our families have the best and healthiest bodies, especially getting back to school or work. This includes being able to manage stress, eating and sleeping well, all of which help make a stronger immune system. When we talk about stress, let’s remember we’re more able to handle stressors when we practice and teach our bodies and minds to adapt, and give our bodies the things it needs to fight that stress.

We all have been told that eating right and getting enough sleep is important for our health. It builds good immunity and resilience to stressors. I’ll save that topic for next month. This month I really want to focus on a less practiced part of healthy living, that being cultivating connections and creating routines. This practice will help develop a healthier body, stronger immune system and better resilience.

Don’t let that stress get the best of you

Flexibility is an essential part of a resilient and healthy lifestyle, and being able to handle incoming stressors includes two steps: Thinking about — and — acting on healthy habits, which will allow you to run on auto-pilot to maintain your well-being while adapting to changing circumstances. Today, let’s introduce some quick tips, and next month, we’ll talk more about healthy habits for building resilience.

Stack that “positive” scale

Quoting from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child regarding resilience …

… when these positive influences are operating effectively, they “stack the scale” with positive weight and optimize resilience across multiple contexts. These counterbalancing factors include

  1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships; (but think supportive relationships in general)
  2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;
  3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and
  4. mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

Learning to cope with manageable threats is critical for the development of resilience.

Relationships and traditions ground us when the world is constantly changing, as do having daily routines that we know and find comfort in. These are considered smart health habits. And when combined with a flexible mindset, these traditions and daily routines will give us a true sense of volition.

Here are two practical habits to get you started today:

  • Practice or create family traditions: Do you practice a weekly family function? (Like Sunday gatherings?) Do you have a daily family mealtime together. Amongst the chaos that can happen around us, when we practice a family tradition, we will find a grounding to our day, connection to each other and resilience in our life.
  • Create daily routines that will provide bookends to your day: By creating routine in our day we create a grounding to our minds. Our minds like predictable habits in each day, especially when things get crazy. Perhaps think about sitting and drinking your coffee or tea with a gratitude journal in the morning to start your day in a calm, positive manner. Maybe you like to get a 10-15 minute walk in before breakfast every morning. At night, maybe you like to read some devotionals before bed or a relaxing book. Perhaps taking a warm bath with essential oils.

When my kids were young, we had a nightly routine that was predictable and calming. It was a time we bonded and I feel developed lifelong communication with each other. Like clockwork, we had dinner together and then while I cleaned up, they played. Around 7 it was bath time and I helped wash hair and made sure they got clean. After bath, they got what we called a “head start”, which was getting in our jammies and reading books in my bed. I would read until they just couldn’t keep their eyes open or 8:30, which ever came sooner. We also would talk about the day and get things off our chest. This was a very predictable nightly routine and no matter how bad the day may have gone, we all knew the routine. There was a calm in that and a way to sooth the mind and find connection at the end of the day. Even as adults, we can create a routine that will ground us and calm us.

Take time this month to practice a family tradition or create one. Also, find a routine for your morning and evening to help create some consistency in your day. These practices will help you develop a calmer mind and develop resiliency.

Join me again next month and we’ll talk more about how you can help your whole system flex and manage when stressors arise.