Resilience

It’s a rainy, Monday morning. I’ve just locked myself out – out of my house, out of my car…and I’m on my way to teach a class! What do I do? I’m not sure who to call to let them know I won’t be there. I can’t find the spare key!! No one with a spare key is answering their phone or able to come and rescue me!!!! I hate being not being someplace I said I was going to be. I feel stupid, like I’ve failed to live up to my word and failed the people waiting for me to show up. The rabbit hole of negative self-talk starts to flood my brain (along with neurotransmitters like dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine as well as cortisol).

Now what? How do bounce back and I turn my mind around? How can I tap into my psychological resilience?

Psychological resilience is defined as the ability to mentally/emotionally cope with a crisis or rebound, returning to pre-crisis status quickly (de Terte & Stephens, 2014). Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors” (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar, & Curran, 2015). 

Good news – being resilient is not a personality trait, it is a dynamic learning process (PositivePsychology.com). Psychological resilience can be developed to allow a person to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences. If you know me, or have read many of my posts, you’ll also know that yoga is my go to for philosophical questions.

A tenant of yoga is the process of dealing with the inevitable, unavoidable pain of living while separating ourselves from suffering – the state in which our fear of pain and our desire to avoid it close us off to the possibilities inherent in every situation (see the book The Resilient Spirit by Polly Young-Eisenstadt). From the yogic perspective, this is resilience. The Bhagavad Gita states that yoga is the “dissolution of union with pain.” The work in yoga is learning to untie the knots that make one self-identify with the suffering.

So, what is the How-to of resilience (I want more, how do I get it)?

Find Perspective in the Moment – In psychology it’s cognitive reframing or pratipaksa bhavana in yoga. In the moment your mind goes to the worst-case thoughts, find a way to change your thinking. This is not easy. The suggestion in both views is to identify the negative thoughts, then modify or replace the thoughts with ones that are more accurate and useful (Benggeli, 2010). The process must start with understanding/belief that events or situations do not have inherent meaning. We assign meaning in our interpretation of the events.  Our brains are story makers. Often, we get so caught up in the story that we increase our suffering.

Connect to Your Strengths – In times of struggle, it’s easy to switch into absolute statements. “I’m always forgetting things.” or “I’m always thinking of something else.” or “I should be focused on all things all the time!” When you become aware of this type of thinking, recognize that you are not absolutely anything. Take a minute to think of your strengths. Recognize that you have resources and strengths to help you move forward. (Want to know more about your personal strengths? Take this survey.)

Practice Self-Care –Sometimes, when we are tired or depleted, the ability to be resilient in the face of obstacles is low. This means we need to make time for self-care, to rest and nourish ourselves to have the resources needed to deal with the challenges of life. This means having daily habits that support your body, mind, and spirit. AND notice when you’re depleted. Recognize the signs that you need to take a step back and take care of yourself.

As for me, the drama is passed. Of course, I didn’t have to spend all day in the cold and wet. (I found the spare key 😜) I made myself a lovely pot of tea, had something good to eat, and watched some GBBO…my kind of self-care.  

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