I am fascinated by resilience. Not because I have it all figured out but because it is an endless process. Resilience is a personality trait and a skill set. As human beings we are hard wired to be resilient, and we can increase our resilience through our own efforts. By increasing our awareness of our strengths and making deliberate efforts we can become more resilient.
My goal is to share what I have learned so far, and to engage with others so that I can continue to learn. This is the first in a series of seven posts in which I explore how to move forward when our journey is difficult. This post is an introduction, and the posts following will go more in depth into each of the six practices named below.
Resilience is both the ability to overcome bad things and the ability to continue to function well during difficult circumstances. I refer to these as the bounce and the trudge.
Bounce tends to be more obvious and shorter lived. It often has a clear precipitating factor. One “bounces back” from a job loss, a death in the family, a sudden financial setback. Not to say this is easy, but it often feels less confusing.
Trudge is about staying resilient during a longer process. Sometimes what looks like a case where bouncing is possible turns into a trudge. How do we continue to move forward during difficult times? T.R.U.D.G.E. on:
T ell the truth (to yourself at least). This is hard. The end is not in sight, in fact you may not be sure what you want the end to be. Write in a journal, talk to a professional, and a few trusted friends. Clarify the truth about your difficulties, your needs, and your process.
R emember you are not alone. Someone else has/is going through a very similar journey. Connect, reach out, ask for help and suggestions. Read. Pray.
U npack your history. What did you love/hate at a different age or time in your life? How can you build more/less of that into your next step? Your own history is a resource for you. Also, are past events triggering how you feel about what is going on right now? We use the coping skills we have, that we learned throughout our journey. Are they helpful now?
D ecide which way you want the fear/excitement switch to point. The part of your brain that processes emotion looks the same in an fMRI whether you are afraid or excited. The physiology is the same; the cognitive framing is different. That means your expectation of the situation influences which side of the fear/excitement switch you experience. When opportunities come up that bring you to that edge, you can make a decision. If it is a bad idea, step away. If it is a good idea, but you are afraid – get excited. Move forward.
G o one step at a time. Once basic safety and day to day needs are met, take a break. This is not the time to blaze out or keep yourself busy with frantic activity that does not move you forward. Consider your next step(s). Pace yourself. Be patient with the process.
E nergize yourself for the long run. Literally take care of your body as if you were preparing for a marathon. Eat healthy, exercise, breathe, stretch, hydrate. Take care of your specific needs. A healthy body helps your brain be more resilient in times of stress.
Times of difficulty allow us to stretch and grow which is often uncomfortable and inconvenient. Old habits, ways of being, and even relationships may need to be discarded. New ideas and opportunities are just over the rise. T.R.U.D.G.E. on with hopeful anticipation.
Laura A. Gaines