A New Kind of Resilience

“Resilience” is defined as… 

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

Hi friends – 

I write this while breathing in smoky air from yet another devastating string of wildfires and thinking about how this year, perhaps more than any other, has had our resiliency tested in such intense, profound ways. 

With the above, traditional understanding of resiliency, at best I am left in the shape I started in, but tougher.

But this understanding falls short for me and I’ve been wondering about what resiliency looks like without simply hardening in order to survive something.  While I am all for elasticity and strengthening my ability to recover from challenges, I also want to invite into my resiliency a sense of softness and tenderness that can better allow a new shape to emerge.

By now, it’s nearly cliche, but no less true, that the idea of “going back to normal” is a fantasy. Not because all is lost – but because hard things change us.  At our best, challenges shape us into a version of ourselves sensitized to loss and therefore able to show up with more humility, compassion and creativity. 

Nothing is likely to make this time in our history easy — reckoning with imbalances never is — but there are tools to build a deeper type of resilience – one that allows life to happen WITH you, rather than TO you.  

Firstly, PRESENCE. Simply placing yourself in the moment that is at hand is the fastest way I know to slow down a spinning mind. Our minds were designed to scan our environments for potential danger. When we don’t pause and allow our actual physical senses to do so, our thoughts take over and begin weaving an infinite number of tales around what might go wrong.  

When you notice this happening, stop, slow down your breath – counting in for three and out for five –  and then begin naming everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel right in the moment. Count your pulse out loud until you get to 25 and then, again breathe in for three counts and out for five counts a few times.  

When there is a real and imminent threat in your immediate surroundings, your fight or flight instinct will take over and act. When there is not (and if you are actually even considering trying this exercise, then likely, there is not) then simply getting present should help the body to calm. 

Secondly, CONNECTION.

When we isolate ourselves, our bodies struggle physically, emotionally and spiritually. Resiliency thrives in the context of relationships. These days, connection requires more creativity. Some attempts at connection leave us drained or triggered. Others leave us feeling more energized, compassionate and open to new perspectives. Get curious about the former and more committed to the latter.

Finally, AUTHENTIC EXPRESSION.  Trying to hold it all together, when parts of us are falling apart, can leave us anxious, numb or exhausted. Often the most relieving and rejuvenating thing to do is to just feel your feels. 

Take time to pause and give yourself permission to cry, pound a pillow, shake your body, scream or just laugh at how ridiculous it all is. Simply acknowledging the thing you thought you weren’t allowed to feel, is often the permission your body needs to release it and move forward. 

Emotions are meant to be in motion.

Presence, connection and authentic expression are three ingredients to a kind of resilience that allows you to not just get through something – but to let that something get through to you. 

In this with you all,  

Vanessa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s