Our world is a 24/7 almost 365-day place that is ever evolving and dynamic. Rapid and sudden change has become the “new normal.” These changes sunk in for me last year when I was getting emails on Thanksgiving morning and LinkedIn invitations on Christmas Day. On some level, I found it mildly entertaining and on another quite concerning. Regardless, it became apparent to me that there has been a shift in the way we are navigating life, not to mention the erosion of boundaries that have historically protected out down-time.
There is more, however. We are all aware that our world is in a state of flux. World-wide shift in weather patterns, competitive business climate, mergers, acquisitions, the turbulent economy, and fragile international politics are requiring us to adapt and live differently in order to function. The problem with that is we just don’t change that quickly. In fact, did you know that it takes many hundreds of years for humans’ and animals to adapt to a change in their food source? If that’s the case what do, we do in the face of constantly changing conditions in our lives? After all, for some of us getting a new Smart Phone is a big change!
Think about this – Last spring’s hail storm left immense damage. Many who had been affected continue to address damages to car’s and roofs. The storm we experienced here in Chester and Berks Counties was very minor as compared to the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy that devastated communities so badly that they continue to recover. Many along the eastern seaboard experienced such severe damage that they needed to settle their losses by selling their homes. These homes belonged to families passed down generation to generation. These were places of family bonding, childhood memories and enjoyment over the course of many decades. The recovery from a devastating loss is long term goes beyond financial transactions. Devastating events leave us feeling confused and unsafe in the world. Feeling safe is necessary to be healthy – physically, emotionally and mentally. We need to feel some sense of control.
The way we think emote and act either supports our bodies in being more flexible and energy conserving or promotes ongoing stimulation and internal stress taking excess energy and straining our health.
The Importance of Having a “Teflon” Mind
Being safe and effective in today’s world requires a quality, skill and “way of being” called resilience; the ability to be flexible, adaptive, and tough in the face of life’s challenges. Some people have more of it naturally; others need to develop it. We need resilience to cope and manage in order to feel safe, stable and healthy on the inside regardless of what might be happening on the outside.
Resilience is connected to our health and well-being; physical, mental and emotional.
It is the mental “Teflon” that maintains our focus on what’s important and filters out fear-based thoughts and feelings that fuel reactivity rendering us powerless and ineffective.
As Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., Behavior Therapist and pioneer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) indicates in her teaching of mindfulness skills; “Stay watchful like a guard at the palace gate.” Focused and watching – deselecting all information that is minute and meaningless, while paying attention to what is happening in the moment near and far – still, solid and unflinching and tough like Teflon.
What is resilience?
Creating the Conditions for Resilience
As a Behavior Therapist and Coach I help people work through difficulties including, mental health and addiction, as well as unwanted changes, including divorce, job loss, and death of a loved one. Over the course of many years, I have found the following personal qualities and tools as being critical in becoming more resilient and stress hardy in the face of adversity and pressure.
- Solid self-management skills. If we can’t trust ourselves to do what is in our best interest then we operate out of fear and reactivity. Being aware, controlling our impulses, managing our energy, soothing ourselves and self-avocation are life skills that make it or break it for us.
- Strong collaborative relationships. None of us can make it alone. We need connection, validation, feedback and support. There is power in “Let’s look at this together.”
- Gratitude. Focusing on what we do have and the gifts we possess as well as the people who care about us is more important than focusing on the deficits or believed lack. Comparing out is a losing proposition.
- Appreciation of ones ’self. Viewing ourselves as a work in progress is important to our self-esteem. It is a journey and what we learn along the way not the hard line destination that counts. Learners make it. Paying attention to our positive qualities and our effort counts – A lot.
- Laughter and humor. “Laughter is the best medicine” This saying has been around forever, probably because it is true. Having a sense of humor and seeing the irony of it all fosters a buoyancy of mind and keeps one mindfully curious and entertained.
- Curiosity and a spirit of learning. The learning brain is a resilient brain. Waking up with a set of questions and living them develops a meaningful life. Asking one ‘self “What did I learn today- About myself – Others- Life? Self-reflection is good self-development hygiene.
- Examining standards and expectations. Unrelenting standards and high bar setting is a recipe for self-defeat and loss; loss of opportunity, enjoyment and self-esteem. It is important to set realistic goals taking the limitations and challenges of the environment; stressors and personal barriers into account when setting goals.
- Manageability. The 80’s were the era of “You can achieve anything.” Fast- high growth is over. Life is changing. The days of more are less frequent. Continued growth and building are possible, but looks different and requires more strategy and effort. Sustainability is a new household word. Designing a life that is manageable (emotionally and materially) is important in the short and long-term -Plan for life’s speed bumps.
These skills help up design the internal and external conditions we need to feel safe in an evolving unpredictable world. Our individual world needs to serve us well and make sense in relationship to our individual needs.
And, remember to breathe and meditate.
Dr. Joan Borysenko shares her insights on stress management, life balance, and bigger picture orientation in healing.
“Meditation is a lot to do about nothing, but it is the most important nothing you will ever do – We do it, because our lives depend on it!”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.