Adaptability is the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions or circumstances. It is flexibility in the face of challenges or obstacles and it is part of being resilient, which we looked into last week. The opposite of adaptability is rigidity and when we experience ongoing and high levels of stress or when we experience trauma, our system can become more rigid as a protective response.
Rigidity in a system that is made to naturally pulsate in rhythm, inadvertently brings more difficulty. It creates patterns of resisting what we are experiencing and attempting to control our experiences, environment, and interactions. Rigidity can show up as closed minded and fixed thinking patterns, limiting our possibilities as we are not able to see alternatives and options. We may doubt our ability to cope with certain emotions and begin to stuff, deny, or resist feeling them. However, when we close ourselves off to feeling the uncomfortable, we also close ourselves off to feeling the emotions we desire. In our inflexibility, often due to fear, we may get stuck in unhelpful patterns in our actions and interactions as well.
Like resilience, we can increase our adaptability with practice. Here are a few things that can help:
- We want to recognize that in any given moment, there are multiple possibilities and perspectives available to us. If we can add new vantage points by opening ourselves up to seeing things in a new or different way, we can begin to practice more flexibility in our thinking. Try doing one thing differently today. For example, drive a different way to a familiar location or sit in a different seat at the dinner table.
- When we do something different in our bodies, our minds can follow. If we feel stuck, we can add some simple movement matched with the pace of our breath to lead our nervous system back into a state of rhythm. Try something simple in the moment like inhaling one arm overhead stretching tall through one side of the body and exhaling that arm down. Then do the same on the other side. Repeat this movement for a few rounds to become present in the body and to create movement. Any movement with the pace of the breath can work.
- If we can practice reframing our view of things not going as planned and challenges in our day into adventures and opportunities, we can increase our chances of successfully and more joyfully coping. Labeling our experiences helps our mind to know how to process the experience and how to respond. When we recognize that we are experiences adventures and opportunities, we naturally turn to our strengths and gifts to think more creatively with a more positive expectation of ourselves and our mind can identify more options and possibilities.
- If we can lean into an improv (improvisational theatre) technique, we can expand in the moment rather than contract by building on what is already happening. The technique is called “Yes, and” and the purpose is to accept what is happening and build on it by allowing anything to happen in the moment. The next time you feel rigidity creeping in and resistance coming into your mind, say to yourself, “Yes. And…” to prompt your ability to move forward from what is already happening rather than attempting to control and resist.
- Do a thing. Rigidity corresponds with getting stuck, feeling frozen, and taking no action. In the moment, do a thing. Any thing. Take one small action in any way. Small steps and actions will always add up, so start with a breath, getting up and walking around for one minute, or doing the opposite of what is happening in the moment.
We all experience times of contracting and attempting to keep things as they are or control how they happen. If we can open ourselves up in the moment to be with what is, flow with how it is happening, and see new possibilities, we can become more adaptable.
This one is for me as well. I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,