I’ve been thinking about the word resilience lately and how it pertains to this time. At first glance, we may think that building resilience requires our toughness and fortitude in order to endure the challenges of this moment. But I like to think about resilience as strengthening our flexibility and the art of softening to what is. I like the image of a young tree branch that hasn’t yet decided its course as it bends as needed to get more light. I believe that this time in history is asking us to do things differently, giving us the opportunity to embrace the power in yielding while still feeling our feet firmly on the ground.
This pandemic business has certainly made us more adaptive, right? And more forgiving, and perhaps more engaged as we manage our day-to-day in completely unique ways. We have learned to school and work from home, to befriend our neighbors, to give love to forgotten corners of the house. We have gotten incredibly creative in connecting with friends and celebrating birthdays and making sure that precious moments don’t go unnoticed. We show our resilience every day when we excuse those with technical difficulties or unforeseen challenges. We have learned to say “oh well” and keep moving.
You may feel weak and even helpless right now, but I bet you have shown a lot more resilience and adaptability than you ever thought possible, and THAT is powerful in of itself.
This time also calls for a ton of self-compassion. I know many of us feel that we are walking in circles some days, and somehow can’t seem to get anything done. This is a normal stress response; I hope that you can recognize this and go easy on yourself – especially if you feel guilty and frustrated when you aren’t as productive, organized and patient as usual. You are still worthy of compassion if you have let your exercise and clean-diet routine slide while your piles of laundry and mail grow. Not only are you perhaps juggling more than ever, you may even be juggling new and different balls altogether.
It’s really important to recognize that you may also be feeling the collective grief that is ever-present in our environment. We are literally steeping in fear and negativity from every angle; every news and media source is a reminder of how much pain the world is in right now. It is VERY hard to feel equanimity when so much seems to be on shaky ground.
So what to do? How do we remain resilient and “go with the flow” when the flow may want to take us out to the deep corners of fear and isolation? Or when we feel like we are a bit lost, or worry that we’re squandering our time?
This time is about self-preservation and taking small but regular steps to come back to center. Again and again and again. With grace and compassion.
I have a few tips to help build your resilience as we move through fall and winter. We build fortitude from the inside out and outside in. This goes beyond diet and good vitamins (although I will touch on that too) and includes all that you consume: media, deep breaths, and those treasured nourishing moments that are more important now than ever.
Tips on building resilience and self-compassion:
Manage your expectations: suffering comes when we set our goals and expectations too high and can’t achieve them. If you have the ability to be flexible, allow some times of the day and week to have no plan and see what unfolds. When goal-setting, start small.
Create an environment around you that feels good. This means choosing the right music, right smells, right vibe, and reducing clutter so your mind feels more ease in your home. For most people, this also includes TURNING OFF THE NEWS.
Get out in nature. For real. Go sit outside, take a walk, hug a tree. Get outside every single day, rain or shine. When things are rough, nature has medicine for you that you won’t understand until you get outside.
While you are outside, take 10 slow deep breaths through your nose, slowly emptying your lungs completely. This simple action changes your nervous system output from the “fight or flight” to the “rest and heal” state.
Discover the art of breathing as an instrumental tool for good health. I highly recommend the book Breathe by James Nestor. I’m listening to it on audio and its riveting! https://www.mrjamesnestor.com/breath
Practice saying “oh well” when things don’t go as planned or hoped for. See how it feels to release some of the power around it. Our need for control is a construct of our mind. Every time we embrace being the young tree branch that doesn’t yet know its course and is ready to move where the sun shines, we free up a lot of mental energy that we otherwise expend trying to keep everything just so.
Keep walking. One foot in front of the other. It will keep your circulation going to your brain and organs, giving you fresh blood and a fresh perspective.
Practice gratitude. Sounds cliché, right? But when you change your focus for even one minute, thinking about what is RIGHT and OK in the moment, your perspective changes. I suggest doing it as an actual exercise: when you feel stuck or fearful, take out a piece of paper and write down 10 things that you are grateful for. Breathe that into your body and see how it responds.
Commit to spending time with people who you love and who feed your soul. Go for a walk, meet in someone’s backyard, sit by a fire. We may feel like we can’t move beyond “our pod” safely, but we definitely can. The outdoors has lots of space and you may need this connection more than you realize. If you have slowed down your virtual visiting, pick it back up. Even a few minutes on video chat with a loved one can brighten the day.
Have an honest heart-to-heart between you and your screen. Is it time to take some space? To create some boundaries? I realized a few months ago that I do better when I steady myself before reading the news, and now try to do it during times when I feel mentally ready. If you wouldn’t invite that vile politician to join you in your home for tea or lunch, then maybe don’t invite them in virtually either. You get to decide who/what comes in and when.
Make some comforting/nourishing food. This is a good time for a weekly big batch of nourishing soup. Add garlic, ginger and shitake mushrooms for extra immune support. InstantPot or slow cookers can make this really easy.
Drink water. You won’t be able to bend if you aren’t hydrated (both figuratively and literally). Start your day with a full glass and keep going strong till bed. The number one sign of dehydration is fatigue, so drink water and tea to increase your energy! (Extra points if you add some electrolytes once daily.)
Take your vitamins and herbs! Now is not the time to get lazy with those supplements. Here are my favorites for this time: Vit D, Vit A, Zinc, Vit C, NAC, probiotics, mushroom blends (MyCommunity brand is my favorite), elderberry, and Melatonin.
Lastly, I encourage you to be discerning with how, where and with whom you spend your time. If there’s a gift from this new pandemic culture, it’s that we are allowed to say “no” with more ease and have greater choice in our “commitments.” Practice taking charge of your time by identifying and saying what you need (e.g. “I need 30 minutes to myself today to meditate and stretch”) as an act of self-care and self-preservation. The resilience piece is taking the opportunity for that 30 minute break whenever you can find it, even if it’s not exactly when you expected (like when your Zoom call ends early) or where you expected (like in the nearby park as your kid shoots hoops with a friend).
Lastly, I leave you with a beautiful song by the Bengsons that I think expresses the sweet humanness and struggle that we all share right now as we Keep Going On.
Excerpt from “The Keep Going Song”
By the Bengsons
Are you alright? Are you okay? I hope your body is whole tonight And if your heart is breaking I hope it’s breaking open And if your breath is shaking I hope it’s shaking through And I hope that you’ve watched a lot of Really great television Like, a lot of it! And I hope that you find a hand lotion that Actually makes your skin feel better And I hope that you have enough to eat Hope you’re getting enough sleep And I hope you have enough good company Or enough good memories To last you a long time ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
With fortitude and flexibility,
PS. My *really lovely* clinic is open and I’m here for you if you need any support right now. We can have some tea and sit outside and chat, or have a COVID-safe acupuncture session. I also am happy to have our visit over the phone. (Schedule here)