How to Grow Your Resilience

How to grow your resilience comes from many sources including an innate ability. We don’t often hear the word resilience. A Google search results in this definition for resilience – the capacity to recover from difficult circumstances or simply toughness.
In addition, it involves:

  • Connecting to a positive attitude
  • Developing a determination to work through
  • Saying “Yes” to difficult emotions
  • Developing the capacity to allow

Is This Something I Can Develop?

First, it’s nice to know resilience is a common occurrence in most people. However, we need to cultivate more of it. In fact, anyone can develop toughness or build upon it.

A meditation practice is key to developing all the qualities to build resilience. In fact, the capacity to recover (equanimity) is built-in to the meditation practice on Ten Percent Happier. A short meditation by Sebene Selassie is the basis for this article. Furthermore, you can watch a YouTube interview with Dan Harris and Sebene titled “The Joy of Allowing Life to Be”.

Practice

Although I recommend a set time for developing the habit of meditation, you can use these steps anytime you find yourself upset about a difficult situation. Allow your intuition to determine whether or not you remove yourself to a private location, safety first, always.

  1. Find a comfortable posture
  2. Either close your your eyes or gaze downward
  3. Begin with slow breathing, in through your nose, out through your mouth
  4. Soften any tightness in your body on the out breath
  5. Connect to the breath or whatever sensations in your body are prominent
  6. Accept anything happening right now; annoyance, distraction, ease, even pain
  7. Say to yourself, “Allow”
  8. Slowly open your eyes

Meditation practice is just that… practice. It doesn’t matter when you lose your way with distraction or thoughts. Noticing and starting again happens for everyone. Make space for exactly what’s here. Saying yes, starting over, allow.

Learning how to grow your resilience, your toughness, through cultivating a positive attitude, determination, and the capacity to allow result in working through difficult times.

The Effects of Self-Imposed Stress

Note: this blog was written right before my awareness there was a  pandemic looming in February 2020. At the time I felt it was insensitive to write about my ‘self-imposed’ stress. Now, sixteen months later, I resurrected it from my drafts.

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Last week I suffered the effects of self-imposed stress. Just thinking about it sends chills down my spine.

Some part of me knew I’d let my activities and choices get out of hand. However, it was more obvious to my husband and mother, who live with me. During the previous month, I had whittled away the major contributor, giving away my time and energy to aid causes more than myself. Yes, I resigned my last job as a volunteer. I thought that was enough. It wasn’t.

Stress Manifests in My Life

First, I noticed a small headache, off and on for a few days. Then exhaustion hit me about midday on day one, Friday. Although unusual for me, I took a nap, a two hour nap. Meanwhile, my plan to cook an elaborate dinner with the chops I’d purchased, evaporated. I found some hot dogs in the back of the meat drawer. It sounded appetizing with the leftover, homemade macaroni and cheese. After serving up the Cleveland Red Beet Kraut, I found a spurt of energy, looking at the colorful shades of red and yellow food choices.

I went to bed early and slept over seven hours, meeting my Fitbit sleep goal. Yeah!

Day Two Starts a Little Better

My usual routine in the morning included a breakfast of carefully measured oatmeal, chopped apple, crystallized ginger, and a boiled egg for added protein. I logged it, just as I’ve done for the last three months.

Essential items were getting low; milk, half and half, peanut butter, bananas, and I needed apples for the Waldorf salad I planned to make. As I finally left for town it was close to lunchtime. I opted for the cafe in Bok Tower Gardens and one of my favorite wraps, Buffalo Chicken. Afterward I went for a fifteen minute stroll.

I was feeling unusually tired from my little walk, but there were still groceries to buy. Arriving home, I carried the groceries and headed for the stairs to the kitchen. My legs seemed so heavy. I took each step slowly, first the left foot, then the right, resting the grocery bags on the steps above.

As soon as I put the milk away, I fell into bed, noticing I had two hours before a group coaching call with Connie Chapman. Just twenty minutes before the call, I awoke and hurried to my downstairs office.  As usual, my Internet was too weak for Zoom in my office, too far from the signal. I went outside and sat in the carport, directly below the WiFi modem.

A Release Valve

The positive energy of the call with women around the world, left me feeling energized as I walked to the back door. It was locked. I had no key. I carefully placed my iPad on the washing machine and phoned my husband. No answer. I lost it. I pounded my fists on the door, and let out a blood-curdling scream. There were no words in the scream, just a huge release.

My mother, who lives downstairs, opened the door with a look of surprise.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m much better now,” I calmly replied.

Even though late in the day, it was much easier navigating the stairs, until the last four steps when exhaustion set in again. As I headed toward the bedroom, I told Wayne I couldn’t prepare supper, and fell into bed. I slept a few hours, ate a banana smeared with peanut butter, and returned to bed and my usual restlessness.

Day Three Looms

Waking up early, I felt better. However, some of the activities I had accepted as normal the week before, seemed out of place or needed adjustment. Shortly after sitting on the pew in church with my mother on Sunday morning, I felt woozy.

“I’m going to sit a spell in the Ladies Lounge, Mom. I’ll make sure I come back during the recessional.”

“Okay,” she replied.

Sitting nearly alone in the quiet of the supportive, yet comfortable chair, felt like a perfect solution to my ‘spell’. I rested, meditated, and felt somewhat refreshed as the time drew close to my scheduled return to the sanctuary.

I was mildly concerned that my ninety-one-year-old mother might have had some difficulty as I steadily walked down the aisle by the modern, stain-glass windows. However, there she was, turning slowly as the cross held high, went past her pew. I slipped in and found my absence had the benefit of offering up my unused bulletin to a late comer. They had underestimated the number of people coming to worship.

Driving home was uneventful. It was somewhat difficult to get out of the car, but my legs seemed fine, that is, until it was time to climb the stairs. At first, I wasn’t sure I could make it. But I stood tall and willed my legs up each step.

The Next 18 Hours

I slept. Eighteen hours were spent in and out of bed; sometimes tossing, sometimes thoughts invading, sometimes restful.

A New Day Dawns

There was no doubt in my mind I’d had a wake up call. I was a different, calmer person who knew what to do and felt no emotion as I started the routine of my Monday. With my cup of coffee resting on the table, I took my iPhone and started making methodical changes. Notifications were the first cut. Then the Group Memberships on Facebook dissolved. Next I made the decision to quit logging my food, moving the app to a less visible screen. By the time I’d finished my coffee, I felt lighter, calmer, and refreshed.

Right now, however, in my new way of being, I’m feeling the need to sit and stare at the lakeshore, waiting for the resident white egret.

To be continued…

Was Stress the Only Factor?

Now, in hindsight, I realize through my over zealous activity, I’ve been avoiding the one thing I fear most, writing my stories in a book, a memoir. This physical breakdown was like a door that allowed me to walk through to the other side, where my destiny awaits. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter, where I’ll bring you farther into my world of writing.

Calmly,
Dawn

From a Suicide Survivor to PTSD Diagnosis

When I wrote my suicide survivor article a few weeks ago, I had no idea I would go from a suicide survivor to PTSD diagnosis so easily. Although the likelihood you or a loved one will develop PTSD from any traumatic event is small (6.8% according to a 2020 Psychology Today blog), it is important to recognize the symptoms.

WHAT IS PTSD?

The acronym stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was first brought to light in 1980. Yet, some World War I survivors in the early 20th century were known as suffering from “shell shock”. Today, we realize it was PTSD.

Although the trauma typically associated with PTSD is extreme, as in combat, it can also occur from many other types of trauma, such as long term abuse. This Psychology Today article covers the basic information about PTSD in much more detail.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE?

Complex disorders like PTSD have a long list of possible short term and long term effects. The full list is included in another article.

A PEEK INTO MY THERAPY SESSION

As you might imagine, my therapist (I’m using her first name, Mary) asked me questions, allowed me to ‘tell my story’, took notes, and led me down the path of discovery.

When I used trigger words, like shame, she asked me where I thought that came from. I’ve been on my own path of self-discovery, so sometimes her questions were easy to answer.

“Shame was instilled in childhood by my parent,” I replied.

”Hmm.”

I continued my stories, clearly illustrating my PTSD symptoms with flashbacks followed by sudden emotional outbursts that I quickly quashed. There were many more nuances of my illness that Mary picked up on.

Near the end of the session, she took out a small book, which was a pocket handbook of PTSD symptoms. Reading each one, she noted her observations that matched my exhibited behavior. Thankfully, I didn’t exhibit every single symptom.

”Ahhhh…”

A huge sigh of relief escaped my body.

I had found the right therapist, there is a name for my suffering, and we will work together on a solution.

HOW IS THIS THERAPY SESSION DIFFERENT?

Unlike some therapists I’ve had in the past, Mary got to the root of the cause quickly. As I pondered the session this week, I believe there are a few clues about why this therapy session was more useful vs. past less useful sessions.

  1. I understood I had a problem.
    • I’ve allowed my intuition to guide me when I faced my sudden teary outbursts over the last few weeks rather than stuff down my emotion.
  2. I acted on my perceived problem.
    • Writing about the teary outbursts in an earlier blog resulted in research, which brought me to a suicide survivor group. The facilitators recognized my PTSD symptoms and recommended I seek out a therapist who specializes in trauma therapy.
    • A search on Psychology Today led me to a local therapist who specializes in trauma and PTSD.
  3. Finally, I was ready to acknowledge my true condition in order to grieve and come out of this.
    • My openness, honesty, and choice to not hold back during the session have developed over many small steps of journaling, seeking holistic and spiritually based avenues to peel away layers of self protection.

This list illustrates, in the bullet points, how small steps are truly the key to developing a life of fulfillment.

NEXT STEPS

This opportunity to share parts of my mental health journey is too precious to ignore. I invite you to join me as I move beyond viewing this week’s reality from a suicide survivor to PTSD diagnosis. In contrast I want to also share the many everyday discoveries that make us smile and keep us moving forward in difficult times.

By signing up for my newsletter, you will always receive the information in my blogs along with glimpses into more joyful moments of my life.

Hanging in there,
Dawn