I trusted that the American “can-do” spirit I had always believed in would spread across our country. We would all be in this together, we would all hunker down, flatten the curve and life would resume as normal by summer, at the latest. Ah, what a joke. The Covid-19 pandemic has been the ugly spotlight that exposed the deep divides that exist in the U.S. Lines drawn across economic, racial and geographic strata. The “can-do” spirit is gone, replaced by that American independent trait that has been twisted and turned by some citizens into “I’ll do what I want because this is America.” Personally, this lack of respect for fellow Americans has been so discouraging to me. Throw in a wild election season and a bizarre and frightening riot in Washington D.C. and it’s been rough. At times, I have dropped my head into my hands and wondered what the hell we as a country are coming too. It’s enough to make me want to move to Canada. Oh wait, the border is closed… Over the last several months I’ve felt despair. It’s a bad feeling. In the beginning of the pandemic like many of you, I’ve stumbled around, read articles about how gaining weight was fine, day drinking was acceptable and it seemed baking sourdough bread would save the world. As a swimmer who didn’t have a pool to swim in, I even did a dry land version of 100 yard IMs (individual medley) in my backyard. I was just trying to hang on.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and researching the concept of Resilience lately. What is it? Why do some people seem to do better in certain stressful situations than others? Is it something that you can build up, fine tune? Because, if there was ever a time to tap into and build resilience, wouldn’t it be right smack in the middle of a friggin’ pandemic?!
If, like me, you are a bit gob smacked by the opening days of this New Year, there’s no time like the present to build your resilience muscle! As busy multi-tasking boss Moms, resilience is key to balance and overall well being. Numerous scientific studies have been conducted over the years with both adults and children about the “what” of resilience as an idea and the “how” of resilience as a presence in our every day lives. The bottom line from these studies is that you aren’t just born with resilience. Yes, life circumstances (both negative and positive) can have an impact on if you are resilient, but more importantly, scientists found that HOW you perceive the world and your circumstances has a major impact on your resilience. They compare resilience to a muscle, use it or lose it! In a Harvard Health article from November 2017, several suggestions were made about how to tune up your resilience and maximize it. These are three of the suggestions that really resonated with me as a wife, mom, caregiver, entrepreneur and coach.
I was raised to “look on the bright side.” Many times when my Mom would say this, I would roll my eyes and say to myself “whatever.” But Mom was right and eventually (probably because she said it so much) I started to adopt this practice of reframing a situation. For example; I have not been able to visit my Mom in almost a year. She lives in an assisted living facility and her dementia is rapidly advancing. Because of the strict and necessary Covid protocols her facility has in place, I cannot see her face to face. Not even with a mask. (Note: because of this policy, not one resident in her large facility has had Covid!) I FaceTime with her three times a week. She still recognizes me (hooray) and I spend a few minutes telling her what’s going on with me or showing her my garden or dogs or whatever may interest her. I am so thankful that there is the technology available that allows me to interact with my mom in this way. I am so happy that she looks happy and content. I chose to “look on the bright side” in this situation. The ability to reframe any situation and find the good or positive points is a key way to build your resilience.
Another way to build that resilience muscle is meditation. The classic meditation we all think of has shown time and time again in scientific studies that it has healing effects on our brain and central nervous system. Personally, I reinterpret meditation into activities that produce a flow like state for me. Swimming, gardening, and walking solo produce a combination of a tension release and heart strain that induce a calm for me. The physical benefits combined with the mental stimulation and flow leave me feeling rejuvenated. It stays with me for some time. Consistency in any meditative practice is a big key.
Asking for help, any kind of help, can be hard. Some of us may feel like we are a bother to those we seek assistance from. We may feel weak, not capable. Get over it. Leaning on family and friends is a really important way to stay strong. Know who your support team is and use them! And do the same for them. From the friend who will offer advice via text at any time to the family member who will meet you at the hospital, to the neighbor who will let the dog out for you, lean on your team. It’s a win win for everyone. I’ve been asking for help from friends and family for a while now. I feel better when I know someone is taking care of something for me or offering support.
I received a text on Friday January 15th from my 24-year-old son who lives in Houston letting me know he had tested positive for Covid. He is routinely tested at his university and had tested positive that day. Please picture this; I’m standing in the kitchen reading this text and the world stops. No mom wants to receive a text like this one. (This is also the kid that when he was 12 texted me from the bathroom that he needed toilet paper.) A couple of deep breaths later I’m reading another one of his texts that he has no symptoms. Phew. The next day, he texts me slightly panicked...still no real symptoms but he is wanting to know what to do and where to go if he starts to feel really bad. And again that Mom dread kicked in because I didn’t know what to tell him. I live near Seattle...I am not familiar with Houston. But, because I’ve built up my resilience muscle and I have created my own personal resilience team, I knew I could count on my cousin who is a doctor in Houston to help answer my son’s questions. So, another text string is initiated and within minutes my cousin is giving reassuring and helpful information to my son. This Mom felt relieved and happy, my son was thankful and had peace of mind and my cousin was more than happy to help out. Talk about a great resilience team!
The world spins around us everyday. We are a collection of beings that think we operate independently but really we are all connected together...for better or worse. So build that resilience so that you can weather any storm and lend that helping hand and heart to those who may need it.
Thank you, Christi for your encouraging advice and for helping us be more resilient during this crazy times! Read more inspiring blog posts from Christi and learn more about Inspirata Coaching at https://inspiratacoaching.com/