Resilience: The Why and How

May 30, 2024
Resilience is a key success factor in every aspect of living. Find out why that is and how you might cultivate resilience.

In the work I do, it’s interesting that I sometimes end up noticing trends in my work with clients. Maybe for 6 months, I seem to be working with a lot of folks with digestive disorders. Another time period, it’s hormone imbalances. Or suddenly, everyone and their brother wants to rediscover empowered health with a Body Sass® Cleanse.

Maybe it’s a reflection of global feelings of unrest on so many levels (weather/climate, political, social, economic, etc.), but as of late, the trend has been healing the far-reaching effects of unmanaged stress. From time after time of life taking unwelcome turns, big and small. From major life events that seem to rock the very foundations of our personal life. From anxiety and fear becoming a way of life, instead of stones that we infrequently trip on.

This client work, in my practice, has a great deal to do with discussions about RESILIENCE. As the saying goes: You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.

 

What is resilience?

 

Let’s start by getting clear on what resilience is. In my book, Wild World, Joyful Heart, I use the term stress resilience, because mental-emotional stress—and how we allow it to derail us—is really what we’re talking about here.
I wrote:

“Stress resilience refers to our ability to withstand and adapt to what we perceive as stressors and adverse events. We achieve this skill when we regain our innate ability to effectively cope with stressors and quickly return to equilibrium. This resilience means we need to cultivate a different relationship to self-care, to time, and to life events. Over time, many things that once felt stressful no longer have the same negative charge.”

Resilience is our ability to navigate everything from disappointments and minor setbacks to traversing deeply disruptive Big Life Events. When you observe someone remain relatively calm in the face of challenges, you’re witnessing resilience in action. This isn’t necessarily about someone who is an island of strength or who remains Spock-like when the earthquake hits.

Instead, a discussion about resilience is about regular people intentionally navigating disruptions, challenges, disappointments, loss and tragedy. Developing resilience involves…

5 Resilience Tools

  1. Cultivating and utilizing healthy coping skills
  2. Marshalling available resources
  3. Reaching out for help within trusted relationships or groups
  4. Creatively finding ways to respond to, and manage, the situation/experience we’re facing
  5. Tending our mind and our mindset

Resilience isn’t about “toxic positivity,” where we deny real emotions and act differently than we really feel. Yucky! Unhelpful! Instead, resilience involves continually coaxing our mind from the Victim Mindset to the Creator Mindset. Resilience is about intentionality and empowerment. And, as with many worthwhile things, resilience is a continual journey, not a destination. It’s less about nouns and more about verbs.

 

Nouns and verbs

 

It’s worth noting that resilience, like a lot of human qualities, is both a noun and a verb. What on earth do I mean by that? Let’s explore.

Often, when we think of personal qualities like courage, kindness, compassion, curiosity…and resilience…we think of them as nouns. And, indeed, they are defined as nouns in any dictionary. This is referring to a quality that already exists. “Her resilience serves her well,” or, “His compassion is a gift to others.” This can lead us to think that someone is either compassionate, or he’s not. She’s resilient, or she isn’t.

In reality, resilience involves active engagement with resilience in its verb sense, instead of the fantasy of achieving a static and impenetrable noun state (aka, a corrosive myth of perfection).

The tricky thing is that for many folks, something like resilience (or courage, kindness, compassion, curiosity, etc.) feels like “not-me,” simply because we don’t feel that way *all the time*. So, people often come to the conclusion that a person is either resilient or not. This is false in two ways:

  1. I can guarantee you that that same woman whose resilience serves her well also has times when she is completely melting down.
  2. Someone who may not feel like a particularly resilient person can actively develop resilience. Resilience becomes a verb, a lifelong practice that strengthens with use in the same way that a muscle strengthens with use.

Again from Wild World, Joyful Heart: Resilience hinges on us becoming a more conscious steward of our mind.”  

 

A simple practice that supports resilience

 

Q: Why on earth would we go to the trouble of being a more conscious steward of our mind?

A: Because empowered well-being serves us, in every way.
In the case of resilience, a key to developing it involves embracing the idea that disruption is a fact of life. Often, our fantasy world depicts life as this journey that should be stable, enjoyable and happy, happy, happy; maybe with the occasional inconvenience or setback.

The truth is the reverse of that statement.  

Life is a gift, yes. It’s rife with inherent beauty and growth, yes. And it can feel HARD, a lot of the time. Since we have little to no control over how, when, or how much HARD shows up, we NEED resilience to keep our ship sailing. And, we show ourselves and others kindness by recognizing that resilience (and any of the lauded “soft” skills) exist along a continuum, both from person to person, as well as within any one person at different times.

Fun fact: Flexibility promotes resilience!

A key aspect of flexibility is a willingness to face, and sit with HARD, with discomfort. Disruption and change can feel uncomfortable, especially in the beginning. Flexibility helps us let go of how we think things should be, which allows us to relax—in some measure—around what IS. We can practice flexibility, all-day-every-day because there are SO many opportunities where what we want is not what we get. (Haha…right?!?)

Remember that starting small and remaining consistent is how we create anything lasting. Notice the moments today when you tense up, move into “poor me” and/or lament how you don’t want what IS happening. Invoke the simple tool of flexibility that you’ve been practicing.

And then I invite you to ask yourself:

  • Which of the 5 resilience tools listed above might move me closer to mental/emotional acceptance, equanimity and a Creator Mindset?
  • Which of the Ten Healing Practices outlined in the Tend the Mind chapter of Wild World, Joyful Heart do I find most helpful?
    (mindfulness, gratitude, humor, simplicity, generosity, perspective, meditation, humility, forgiveness, and focusing in the present)

Tools abound for developing resilience, which is a foundational practice in creating empowered well-being. And YOU are worth your own effort!

To your empowered well-being,
Laurie

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