Building resilience is much like bottling sunshine; it’s part of the core of you and can help you bounce forward, or perhaps weather life’s difficult times more easily.
NO ONE REALLY LIVES A CHARMED LIFE
Disappointment, disease, drama, death, diagnosis, disaster (we call them the Ds), tend to come along when you least expect them and while we do our best to create a happy and safe world for ourselves and our loved ones, traumatic events still happen.
Resilience is our ability to embrace our challenges without letting them overcome us or hold on to grudges and blame and feel embittered or resentful. Our capacity to deal with change and adversity is also influenced by the resources and support that are available to us.
THE BEST TIME TO LEARN ABOUT RESILIENCE IS WHEN WE’RE CHILDREN
We can help to build resilient children and teenagers who are well able to cope with unexpected or upsetting news if we start early and don’t protect them from everything.
We can teach our children that it is not so much what happens to them, but how they respond to the challenges they face. This builds resilience and happiness in their lives and empowers them to succeed. As teachers, parents and grandparents we have an opportunity to actively build emotional awareness and resilience in the children who are in our lives.
But resilience can be learned at any age. It takes a willingness and a desire to no longer feel a victim of your circumstances no matter how challenging they might be. Everyone can learn to increase their resilience.
PEOPLE TEND TO WAIT UNTIL A CRISIS HAPPENS BEFORE THEY EVALUATE HOW RESILIENT THEY ARE
It’s perfectly normal to ask ourselves why I was the one who survived, or how can I have faith in life again, or how can I recreate a life for myself when I feel so emotionally, physically and spiritually drained? When we go through a major change in life such as a serious illness, an accident or a disaster, it takes time to re-orient ourselves to a different kind of life.
THERE ARE 3 MAIN KEYS TO RESILIENCE
Acceptance, Response and our Ability to forgive.
Accepting what has happened sounds easy – and I know it’s not. Accepting may involve weeping about what has happened, talking or writing about it, painting it and for many cultures, singing about it or dancing it until people come to a place of acknowledging that this terrible, unexpected, uninvited and perhaps appalling thing did happen, and it happened to me – not to someone else.
It’s not until we accept what has happened that we can figure out what an appropriate response will look like. If we don’t do this step, we’re likely to feel a victim of our circumstance and stay stuck in a reaction of resistance and/or shock. Once we accept what has happened, we can become an active participator in how we’re going to meet this challenge. We often need a safe and supportive environment in which we can express our feelings before we’re able to find a way forward.
We want to move beyond just reacting from despair, anger, frustration, fear, feelings of ‘why me’, ‘why us’ to some clarity about what is the most responsive and appropriate way to embrace the challenge before us.
It’s important to take time out to care for your body, to still the mind and make time to relax. If you have any spiritual practices now is the time to draw upon them deeply. That might be to sit quietly, focusing on the breath while witnessing the activity of the body and mind/feelings, or we can seek spiritual support to help meet the challenge.
One of the most powerful things to do is to help someone else. Another powerful thing to do is let other people help you. Giving and receiving are the same. Both of them re-establish a sense of connection and meaning, even in the dark times.
Forgiveness, the third key, is not the same as condoning the action that caused us pain. Forgiveness is an inner process by which we liberate ourselves from the consequences of having felt wounded in the past. We no longer react in the present as if we are still feeling wounded by the past wounds in our lives. Forgiveness provides a fabulous liberation from suffering because it is not dependent on the person or situation involved. It is a personal choice.
If possible, maintain a long-term perspective. Remind yourself that you will get through this and you are not alone. Even though things may never be the same, we can create a new normal for ourselves.
- Physical activity is one of the most useful things to do when you’re emotionally upset. It helps to move the chemistry of distress out of our body.
- There are many things that you might do to build your resilience including reading uplifting books, spending time listening to or being in nature, engaging in a favourite hobby, reassuring yourself through positive self-talk, talking with someone with a generous heart, doing some stretches or meditation, going for a run, volunteering – all these things help build resilience.
- It is possible to find an inner sense of calm regardless of the changing outer circumstances of our lives. This is the ‘peace that passes all understanding’. When we anchor our sense of self in that which is beyond change, we find the eternal ‘now’. When we identify ourselves as our body, we are at its mercy – depending on how it looks or feels in order for us to feel ok or not ok. When we identify ourselves with our chaotic thinking or our changing feelings, we are at the mercy of their changeability.
- There is a peace and stillness that lies beyond the chaos of the mind, the sensations and pains of the body and our changing emotions. Meditation and mindfulness connect us with this peace and stillness and from that serene place, we can better respond to unexpected challenges when they come.
Join us for our Monday evening online meditation each week at 7.30pm on Petrea King’s Meditation Group on Facebook.
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