In the realm of physics, the definition of resilience is the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed. In reference to a person, it is the ability or capacity of a person to recover quickly from difficulties. And according to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.
In the experience of prolonged or repeated stress, our resiliency can take a hit as the amount of stress we are experiencing begins to outweigh our capacity to cope. The allostatic load (cost on our mind-body system of attempting to cope) overwhelms us and we begin to see signs of burnout.
When we feel upside-down in our stress to resilience ratio, we can start to doubt that it will ever get better. We may begin to question ourselves and feel like our passion, empathy, and energy have all been zapped down to nothing. We may experience a wide range of emotions (such as any combination of things like anxiety, panic, overwhelm, frustration, depression) that get in the way of our being able to function in our day-to-day lives or we may feel completely numb and devoid of life as we do our best to go through the motions.
The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be built with practice. And small steps can make a big difference. Our mind-body system thrives when it is functioning in rhythm with nature, and when we have been pushed beyond the limits of our ability to recover, we will find that we are attempting to function in a system that is out of rhythm.
Symptoms we may experience can include irritability, difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, racing heart rate, difficulty breathing or “catching” the breath, immune disfunction, cloudy thinking, and low energy, to name a few.
Here are a few small steps to begin on the path of healing:
Tune in to the body– Listening and opening our awareness to what our bodies are trying to tell us in the moment can help us to hear our body’s wisdom in how to come back into balance. Our bodies cannot lie to us and when we respond to the sensations that are coming up in the moment, we can support the natural healing rhythm within us.
Shift the posture– We can use our posture to shift our internal experience as our body-mind system is always working to align the external presentation with the internal experience. In the moment, lengthening and opening in our physical bodies can make a big difference. We begin by lengthening the spine, reaching the crown of our heads away from the tailbone. This increase core stability and create space for the breath to come in. Then, we open through the heart by moving the shoulders back and down away from the ears in one or several movements.
Practice Self-Compassion– When we can treat ourselves as a friend, we can give ourselves permission in the moment to recognize that we are struggling and we can talk to ourselves in a way that helps us to cope rather than in a way that piles on to the difficulty. It can be helpful to place our hands on our heart, acknowledge what we are experiencing, and label what we are feeling in the moment to calm the mind.
Mantra or Affirmation– We can also use a mantra or affirmation to direct the mind to a more helpful and peaceful place. We can think of this as a personal peptalk and to help us break the pattern of unhelpful and unhealthy thinking in the moment. We may use something like “this too shall pass”, “so hum” (I am that which I desire), “I got this”, or any short statement that feels helpful.
Baby Steps– Finally, we want to choose 1 action we can take in the moment to shift what is happening. That action may be something like moving the body (ex. walking around or going outside), talking to a friend, or shifting the focus by looking up at the sky for a few minutes.
We have the ability to overcome adversity and to get back up after finding ourselves face down and feeling defeated. One small action can make all the difference and we have the power in the moment to experiment with what that action could be.
I will be practicing right along with you.
Feel free to reach out if connecting would help.
Chat again soon,