7 Resilience Skills

F*ck the King’s Horses and Men

I believe, in spite of obvious challenges along the way, that I’ve been managing quite a lot of stress rather well. I know the eye-swelling-shut incident would tend to argue the other way, but I’ve decided to cut myself some slack. In fact, that’s a great starting point, and we’ll get to ways to manage stress in a minute. But first, I’m going to explain why I believe the king’s horses and men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

First off, horses have no opposable thumbs, and they are not, at least to my knowledge, healers or savvy with jigsaw puzzles. Secondly, and from experience, when a person shatters, nothing and no one can put the pieces back together except for the shatteree. Humpty, heal thyself!

I do believe that while others may offer guidance, it is up to each and every one of us to help ourselves. Others may, and hopefully do, provide support and encouragement. Ultimately however, we must develop the skills of resilience in ourselves to be our own support system for ourselves.

7 Resilience Skills

Now let’s explore half a dozen techniques I’ve been using, successfully coping with death and grief and stress. Apologies if I get terse. It’s getting late.

CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK

It’s easy to get down on yourself, or to be hard on yourself. That’s an energy sinkhole that leads nowhere good.

I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world to be my own worst critic. I’m working on it. And while I do, I cut myself some slack.

All the should-coulda-wouldas don’t erase what was and is. If mistakes were made, learn the lessons and move on. I remember to love myself as I would my best friend. I give myself the same compassion and understanding. I am worthy of that self-love and compassion.

Anything else is self-destructive.

FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL

While seemingly obvious and unavoidable, that advice can be profound if you sit with it for a minute. It means not repressing or avoiding what you feel, but rather leaning into it, and feeling it fully. It sucks a lot, and it’s way healthier than the alternatives.

When I was 17, my brother died suddenly. I did not handle it well.

I think part of the reason I struggled so much was that I repressed my feelings. They were painful and traumatic and unpleasant. I wanted to avoid my feelings, so I pushed the feelings down and refused to acknowledge them. It took a couple years to fully fall apart, but when I did, ooh, I surely did.

I learned that misery does not prove love.

See, I had this conceit that if I wasn’t miserable all the time about my brother’s death, that it meant I didn’t really love him. I thought being happy about anything meant that I was happy he was dead.

Unsurprisingly. I landed in the psych ward with loads of labels put on me like ‘depression’ and ‘PTSD’ and ‘anxiety.’ In time, I learned not to let those labels define me. Eventually, I came through the other side. But all that’s a story for another day.

The bottom line is, after momz died, I knew to let myself feel the sadness without trying to avoid it or push it away. This can be difficult. Especially if I’m in a public place because I feel uncomfortable showing emotions like that in front of people. It still hits me in waves, and I still have to nudge myself to welcome the feeling.

If you know the Sedona Method, then you already know about welcoming. Welcoming your emotions is a powerful way to deal with them because it eliminates resistance.

You may have heard the saying, ‘What you resist, persists.’ It’s true. Somewhat to my surprise, the quickest way over, is often through. By allowing myself to feel my sadness when it comes, I am also able to release it.

I also allow myself to feel happiness and gratitude. It’s important to feel the range of feelings, and to know that I can release those feelings.

I can chose what to focus on, and how I think about things. It’s helps keep me annoyingly positive, even when facing a shitstorm of stress.

INHALE, EXHALE, PAUSE, REPEAT

Breathing is insanely important. You can live for days without food or water, but stop breathing and you’re dead in minutes.

Breathing is automatic. You don’t NEED to think about it, but you should because most people hyperventilate their way through life and don’t realize it.

Next time you’re in front of a mirror, watch yourself breathe. Are your shoulders moving? If they are, you, like most people, are breathing shallowly from your chest and shoulders.

It’s not your fault, and it’s an easy fix. It just takes  a little understanding of your body, and a little practice to make proper breathing a habit.

When you lie on your back, you’ll likely breathe from your belly naturally because your shoulders and neck are supported, and your stomach muscles are free to move. However, many people spend a lot of time sitting down.

In a sitting position, your diaphragm, your primary breathing muscle is constricted. To compensate, people unconsciously start breathing from their secondary breathing muscles.

Your chest and shoulders are secondary breathing muscles. When we breathe from the chest and shoulders we’re only working with about 30% of out lungs – just the top bit, so we don’t get the right amount of oxygen. Therefore, we breathe quickly to try to make up for the oxygen we lack. It doesn’t work.

Shallow breathing from the chest can worsen pain, anxiety and sleeping issues, and it can put our bodies permanently into a stress response. Proper breathing, on the other hand, activates your relaxation response, and ensures you get the proper ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide that you need to be healthy, reduce pain and anxiety, and sleep better.

Sounds good? Good.

I have an app on my phone (android from the play store) called ‘One Deep Breath.’ It’s free, and super helpful. It has a variety of guided breathing exercises, you can program reminders, and it’s got educational materials to help you understand the mechanics: everything from the best tongue position for breathing, to the neurological effects of breathing, and so on. I highly recommend you try it out. Did I mention it’s free?

Anyway, breathe. It’s good for you, and breathing properly has so many benefits that it’s more than worth your time to practice a variety of breathing techniques, and to make proper belly-breathing a habit.

Inhale to a count of 4.

Exhale to a count of 6.

Pause for a count of 2.

Repeat.

Be gentle with yourself. If you’ve been breathing a particular way for decades, it will take practice to build new habits.

MEDITATE AND BE MINDFUL

I’ve written a lot about meditation and mindfulness elsewhere. I’m obviously a big fan. I won’t rehash a lot of old stuff again, but i will tell you that meditation is easier than you think.

A lot of people tell me they can’t meditate because they can’t empty their minds or sit still. Hogwash!

You neither need to empty your mind, nor have perfect silence, no be completely still in order to meditate and get the benefits of meditation.

In truth, meditation is simply awareness and being in the moment while you breathe properly. Distractions, movement, sounds thoughts, these can become the object of your meditation. Notice where you feel the distraction in your mind. Be aware of how you feel in your body. You can also choose to acknowledge the distraction and release it.

It all sounds harder than it is. In any case, if you get stuck or have difficulty meditating, try the brainwave entrainment mp3s.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed using brainwave entrainment technologies. I’ve also found that the benefits last beyond the session. For example, I now realize that my brain slips more easily into meditative states, even when I don’t use the brainwave entrainment mp3s. It’s like Bruce Lee practicing the same kick 10,000 times. Eventually, the meditative process is absorbed into the body, and it just ‘goes there’ – like muscle memory.

KEEP IN CONTACT

I have a tendency to withdraw from people when I’m emotional. It’s natural, and it’s a mistake.

I struggle with this because I don’t want to burden others with my BS, or I feel like I should be able to handle it. Also, being around people is or can be demanding on your energy.

When you are at the end of your reserves, it can be hard to feel like you have the wherewithal to be around people. However, this is often when you most need the support of friends and family, or whomever makes up your social support network.

I am horrible at keeping in touch with people. Over the years, it’s cost me friendships I’ve valued.

Fortunately, I’m blessed to have friends that will reach out. I’ve learned to do some reaching out myself. It’s been said that the quality of your life depends on the quality of your relationships. I’ve decided to take that to heart.

GET MOVING/GET OUTSIDE

Exercise produces endorphins – feel good chemicals in your brain. It helps reduce stress, give you a physical outlet for excess energy, and all kind of other good things.

Exercise is good. Enough said.

Getting outside, I’ve lumped in with exercise because I personally prefer to combine the two whenever possible.

First, I prefer exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise: walking, dancing, swimming, canoeing, hiking – all great exercise that doesn’t feel punitive the way running on a treadmill does. In fact, these things are fun for me, and I’m more likely to do something if it’s fun.

Second, being outside is innately soothing to me. Something about sunshine and birdsong and the burbling of the creek makes me feel peaceful and connected to the broader creation.

IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE

Sure, it could probably be better too, and there’s the rub. However, feeling grateful has an immediate calming effect on me. I’ve been around enough to know that no matter how bad things are, they could be worse. In fact, someone else is having a rougher time at this moment, no matter what I’m dealing with in this moment.

I have a little habit I’ve developed that’s been helpful. Every time I wash my hands, I take a deep breath and think of something I’m grateful for. I try to think of new things each time. If you get stuck, I have a gratitude list that can give you a good starting off point.

As a related point, try not to “Yeah, but…” your way out of being happy. Accepting what is doesn’t mean you have to stagnate. You can still learn and grow. However, focusing on what you lack, or on how things aren’t the way you’d like them to be is a recipe for unhappiness.

Happiness is your natural state and birthright. It is achievable by anyone at anytime, if we only get out of our own way and allow ourselves to feel happy.

In Summary

I’ve been gone a while. It’s been rough. I’m back now, and ready to share 7 strategies for managing stress:

  • CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK

  • FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL

  • INHALE, EXHALE, PAUSE, REPEAT

  • MEDITATE AND BE MINDFUL

  • KEEP IN CONTACT

  • GET MOVING/GET OUTSIDE

  • IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE

And that’s it for now. It’s about 3am, and I’m overdue for bed. Fortunately, I get to sleep in in the morning, so it’s not too bad.

OOH! SLEEP SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN MY LIST. READ 8 TIPS FOR GOOD SLEEP.

One final thing before I go: I don’t plan to post daily anymore. I think I’ll reduce that to weekly in order to give the content I want to share proper time and attention, and to reduce self-imposed stress. We’ll see how it goes, and adjust as needed.

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