The Power of Resilience: Moving from Surviving to Thriving

Can you believe that it is already October? If you are anything like me, it seems like this year has gone by with whirlwind speed…one could even argue that it also left behind some remnants that resemble the aftermath of surviving a whirlwind. What do those remnants look like for you? For many that may include sickness, anxiety, anger, financial struggles, the end of certain relationships, conflict, loneliness, isolation, fear, stress, change of travel plans, inability to leave the house, and a general sense of unease. While we cannot minimize how difficult those things are, is it also possible that we were left with some valuable remnants amid those challenges? Maybe one of the key remnants that this year gave us was a reminder of the power of resilience.

Surviving Versus Thriving

It seems to me that there have been three groups of people I’ve encountered during this year. Before you read on, this is not meant to shame or criticize anyone as we typically do the best we can and what is necessary to survive. This is about helping yourself move from barely surviving to thriving.

The first group are those that are paralyzed by fear and anxiety and feel like if all they did was survive the day, that is a huge accomplishment in and of itself (and it most definitely was as anxiety can be extremely debilitating). They feel like things will never get better and may even wonder what is the point of life if this is what it is all about. They feel isolated and like they don’t have a purpose. They consume as much information as they can to give them a sense of feeling prepared, even when it is to the detriment of their well-being. This group is what I refer to as the well-meaning worriers.

The second group of people refuses to acknowledge any sort of fear or possible severity of the situations we are facing as humans. They try to stick to their routines as much as possible and do not want to have to think about having to alter them, even if it is necessary to do so with the changing circumstance. They get upset and angry by others who are not sticking to a sense of normalcy and feel like it brings them down to be around those that are in group number one. They stay as busy as possible and will not let anything slow them down, even when just like group number one, it is to the detriment of their well-being. This group is what I refer to as the determined denialers.

Then there is the third group which I refer to as the thriving thinkers. They are somewhere in the middle of the first two groups. The main difference between them and the other two groups is that they are self-led and remind themselves often that humans are resilient. All humans are born resilient and remain that way, we just may forget that along the way. So, what exactly do those people do, believe, and value that cultivates that sense of resiliency?

They Are Emotionally Intelligent

They are not happy all the time nor are they paralyzed by fear and anxiety all the time. They understand that emotions ebb and flow and make their expectations match the reality of that fact. They make space for those emotions so they can be proactive in altering their emotional state. They view their emotions not only as valuable but also as important messengers with information that they need to be aware of.

They Understand That Balance is Key

They stay informed but limit their sources to those they feel confident in and keep those sources at a manageable number. They also are mindful of keeping the amount of time that is spent consuming new information to a manageable amount. They are also willing to acknowledge other valuable and reputable information from newly emerging sources. They are not overly identified with one “expert” or news source as they know these are unpredictable times and no one has the answer.

They Base Their Expectations Off Reality Rather Than Their Wishes

They have accepted the fact that things are changing and will continue to be different for a while. This means they don’t try to make any concrete plans that they will inevitably be disappointed about if they don’t work out. They also maintain hope for being able to do so again in the future. They have self-compassion and know that they are doing the best they can and are not “shoulding” all over themselves or others.

They Know That They Are Not an Expert

They have accepted the fact that not everyone is going to agree or have the same beliefs or views on what is the “right” or “best” thing to do as they know these are unprecedented times. This means that they know they are not the expert but can still choose to do what is best for them and their families while understanding that may look differently than what others choose to do. They understand that debating this with others is a waste of energy as they cannot change others but they have a choice in who they choose to be around or what they choose to consume. Feeling empowered is derived from this exact notion, what can I actively change or do to alter how I’m feeling about this situation?

They Take Care Of Themselves

They stick to a routine as much as possible and make sure they are continuing to meet their basic needs (which includes self-care) on a regular basis. Eating, sleeping, bathing, and moving their bodies are a non-negotiable. Even if they do not have the energy to cook every meal, they still strive to fill their body with things that make them feel good. Rather than comparing themselves to others, they move their bodies in ways which bring them joy and feel good, not because they need to burn a certain number of calories or look a certain way. They also have self-compassion and don’t focus too much on the things they should have ate or done, they instead are mindful of those things and instead direct their attention to how they can do better next time.

They Strive for Contentment

They understand that feeling happy and joyful all the time is not realistic now, nor maybe ever, and instead strive for contentment. They make the conscious effort to elicit happiness and joy within their life because they know this requires them to be proactive in making that happen. They engage in activities or experiences that will leave them feeling fulfilled and give them a sense of purpose. They are mindful and grateful for those small moments throughout the day that allow them to feel content and grounded.

They Value Connection With Others

Humans are social creatures and need connection. This is part of why mental health has declined so rapidly this year and is now considered the new healthcare crisis. Those people continue to stay connected to others as much as possible. Sure, it may look different than it used to (zoom calls, facetime, etc) and it may not even bring the same sense of joy and connection as other measures, but some connection is better than none. Remember, it’s not about only doing those things that align with what we wish they would look like, it’s about making our expectations realistic and figuring out how to still care for ourselves based off of that reality.

They Engage in Self-Care

Self-care is not just massages and vacations. True self-care encompasses a variety of areas we need to tend to such as emotional, physical, intelligence, spiritual, and relational. This group of people prioritize those needs by doing things like going outside often, journaling, meditating, moving their bodies, interacting with others, learning a new skill, etc.

They Turn Inwards for Validation and Comfort

They know the value and importance of being able to self-soothe and having a sense of self-love. They are both accountable and self-compassionate. This may look like having a practice of checking-In with their higher self when they are feeling lost and knowing that that is the best place to turn in times of chaos and unknown. This is not to say that this takes away all the fear we have but it will lessen the intensity of it. They also know that if this feels impossible to do, then it may be time to ask for help from others like a therapist or healer of some sort.

Progress Over Perfection

If you are feeling overwhelmed or notice that your self-critical voice is starting to take over after reading this, please remember a mantra I remind myself of often which is progress over perfection. Even those that tend to be in that third group do not get it right everyday of their lives. It is not about feeling like you must tend to all those categories every single day if you want tap into your resilience, it is about doing the best you can while being mindful of your areas of growth. Rather, see if you can start to make small but manageable changes in those categories this week and reflect on how you felt at the end of the week. It is the small actions that we take that eventually become habits which eventually become part of who we are. If you take away nothing else from this post, please remember that whether or not you can see it you are resilient, strong, and perfectly imperfect!

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