Your heart is racing. Your body feels flooded with uncomfortable warmth and shame. You find it hard to focus. You seem to be triggered more easily. You want to speak, but you have no words.
It is a hard place to be, and it can feel never-ending. You feel like you are in a constant state of falling apart. So how do you come through it?
Resiliency is a key character trait of people who come through hard times as stronger more compassionate people. Resiliency simply means the ability to adapt to stress and difficult situations. Now if only it were that simple to be resilient.
Actually, it isn’t as hard as you might think. It does take some work to retrain your body to stop reacting to everyone else’s demands, moods, and personalities. It takes some time to retrain your mind to stop absorbing bone crushing self-doubt and negative thought spirals. But it is completely possible.
In his book Uncovering Happiness, Dr. Elisha Goldstein, who has personally dealt with tragedy and consistent depression, outlines some practical steps to pull your body and your mind out of depths of despair and into more emotional resiliency. He says, “I know that uncovering happiness is not about simply being drunk on life but is found in a profound and enduring experience of learning how to lean into loving ourselves and others in good times and in bad. It’s a happiness based on a sense of common humanity, connectedness, and purpose.”
So what are these steps and how can we use them more in our lives?
Mindfulness. This is one of those buzzwords in the self-help world. You have probably heard of mindful eating, mindful meditation, mindful gardening, etc. But mindfulness is really just awareness of yourself. Most of the time we as women are acutely aware of the needs of our families and friends. If you have been in difficult relationships, you may have been trained to sense the needs of your spouse, or parent, or child. Mindfulness is awareness of you, your body, your feelings, your needs. It can be difficult to recognize your needs when you are so used to putting others before yourself. Mindfulness is awareness without self-judgment. It is recognizing that you are hungry because you haven’t eaten all day.
Self-compassion. This goes hand in hand with non-judgmental awareness of your needs. It is kindness and honesty with yourself. It is recognizing situations where your inner critic speaks up. It is understanding the meaning behind that inner critic. It is also being kind to yourself when you are triggered. Instead of feeling dumb or upset with yourself for going into panic mode, it is the courage to care for yourself. The courage to nourish your body and your mind the way you would care for your best friend, child, or favorite pet. We can be so kind to others, but being kind to ourselves and not comparing ourselves to unfair standards is difficult. It is going to take some practice and some awareness.
Purpose. Dr. Goldstein defines purpose as being “actively engaged in living alongside your values.” That means you are compassionate to yourself as well as others. You are actively trying to live your truth. Purpose is often tied to using your unique abilities and talents to make a difference in the world. This is what drives many women to become involved in activism and advocacy. Many women feel that telling their stories, even through anonymous blogs or Instagram accounts gives purpose to what they are going through. Purpose is also understanding that you bring meaning to the world, just by being here. Each of us, each of our stories, has value. Purpose is using your story to strengthen yourself and others.
Play. Thanks to the work of Brené Brown, play as a way to develop resiliency is not as surprising as it used to be. Play is defined by Goldstein as, “a flexible state of mind where you are engaged in some freely chosen activity that you find interesting, enjoyable, and satisfying. Playing an instrument, coloring in one of the new gorgeous coloring books for adults, blowing bubbles, these are all play. Make sure that you are making plans for you. Plan a vacation or visit. Drive with the car windows down and your favorite girl power music playing. Swing on the swings in the park. Be silly. It is really important for your body and your mind.
Mastery: This is “any time you feel a sense of personal control and confidence and are engaged in learning to get better and better at something.” This is where learning a new instrument or going back to one you played earlier in life or learning a new language can be really helpful. It helps your brain and your body heal. Working on projects, starting a new business, perfecting a hard recipe or dance move, these all give your brain and body a sense of accomplishment and meaning.
These five behaviors help to develop resiliency. They have also been called natural anti-depressants. Each one can help to create more resiliency in your life. We will be focusing on each of these five behaviors over the next month to help give you practical steps to gain more peace and balance in your lives.
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