You did everything right. You spent time proactively building your resiliency skills, you have a strong support systems, you have strong boundaries and healthy coping mechanisms. Then, it happened. You are suddenly a caregiver of an aging parent. Or you are left grieving the life transition of being an empty-nester. Perhaps you find yourself in a toxic work environment, or facing an illness with unknown outcomes. It could be these or a million other things. What ever “it” is for you, you are surprised at the force with which your feet get knocked out from under you. The ground that recently felt so solid now feels more like a Fun House floor. It is hard to keep your balance.
“This isn’t suppose to happen,” you think. You have worked hard growing your resilience so you would find these moments easier. Why are you feeling this way?
I will tell you, but you might not like the answer: being resilient does not protect us from the pain. In fact, it requires us to lean into the pain. I know…sucks, doesn’t it? If you are in the midst of a storm right now, here is what you can do.
Back to Basics
Check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Now, go down towards the bottom of that triangle and focus on that for a little bit. Eat. Sleep. Get fresh air. Repeat if necessary.
Give yourself a break if you aren’t functioning as efficiently as you out of crisis. Maybe it takes you a bit longer to respond to that email. You might not get pleasure out of cooking a 5-course meal. Your usual extroverted-self might feel like staying in and reading. Or just sitting. It’s O.K.
As a culture, we put a lot of stock in toughing things out, “manning up,” and getting a grip. That is a perfect recipe for repressed emotion. The thing about repressed emotion is that it is a tenacious SOB that is going to find a release valve somewhere, sometime and usually in an unhealthy way: anger, substance abuse, destructive relationships, overspending. Listen: Your mom knew best, go take a nap.
Have a Phone-a-Friend
I said take a nap, not hibernate your way through the crisis. That is where your phone-a-friend comes in. He or she is the one who will take a walk with you even if you don’t feel like talking, or brings you some really good soup because she knows that you maybe have eaten too many Cheez-its. They are also the one who will say, “Ok, you’ve got a life out there waiting for you. Time to get movin'” in that gentle -firm way that helps you feel brave and valiant for brushing your teeth and going to work.
When we reconnect with our purpose, we feel empowered. There will always be things out of our control. Having a friend who reminds us that not everything is out of our control is a gift.
Gratitude: Find It Then Feel It
Speaking of gifts, it’s important to take stock in yours. When we feel like the Universe has conspired against us, we really aren’t emotionally set up to feel gratitude. It’s hard to feel it right away. So, don’t force yourself to feel it. Make it an intellectual practice first. Make small lists of things you have to be grateful for, just like you would a grocery list. Read through it again. Maybe nothing stirs you at the moment. If not, that’s O.K. However, if you do feel a softening as you scan down the list you wrote, linger there for a bit. Breath it in. Gratitude is a reminder that we are loved and valued. It is a reminder that there are things worth embracing and enjoying. Gratitude is hope.
And finally, be the friend to yourself that you would be to someone else. Be kind and gentle and encouraging. All that work of resilience building will lift you up. Sometimes you simply need to lay down for a bit first.