This topic of resiliency is, in fact, becoming more popular. Just recently it has been explored with some depth in a series of published articles in The New York Times, looking at how do we build the resilience necessary to weather setbacks and navigate life’s volatility.
How we cope with the unexpected, the unpredictable and the uncontrollable has to do, according to The Times, with complicated factors like our genetics, our personal history, temperament, personality characteristics and, going back to our childhood and teenage years, were we exposed to different, but manageable experiences? Some of us are more successful, remaining largely unscathed, while passing through those trying ordeals that everyone's life will face.
The prevailing list of obstacles, set-backs, challenges is long, including our economic and financial uncertainty, continuing social isolation, extreme political polarization, growing racial tensions, threats of violence from opposing factions, the dramatic and devastating climatic changes, and more. How can we readjust to this unique, never-before-seen-time in history?
Consider the dandelion, the bright yellow flower, a weed really, one that often appears in the garden. It has been named "the flower of resilience". The dandelion blooms and flourishes everywhere, even in the harshest of environments. And, they just keep coming back, no matter what. Although often unwelcome, this plant can provide the fun of blowing the soft white tufts into the wind, knowing we're helping to blossom a new flower. And actually in traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion root has long been used to treat stomach and liver conditions. Herbalists today believe that it can aid in the treatment of many ailments, including acne, eczema, high cholesterol, heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes.
Just like the dandelion, developing the quality of resiliency has its health benefits and is a remedy for giving up and giving in to an attitude of gloom and doom.
A friend tells me he is miserable, hearing every day new developments about our climate or the politics or police brutality and rioting. He learns of the daily news, almost hourly, having online subscriptions to four newspapers. When I suggest he might want to limit his involvement with the current events, he tells me,
"As a responsible citizen, I feel I have to keep up with what is happening."
I then offer my advice. "Since there is nothing you can do about world events, other than vote and financially support your favorite candidates, political party or non-profits, you best drop out for a while since it is adversely affecting your mental health."
My friend did not take my advice to heart, but should you want to improve your own state of mind and strengthen your resiliency, here are some suggestions…
…While we often cannot control the circumstances around us, we can control our reactions. Strong negative reactions can be detrimental to our health; you can actually feel your blood pressure rise when you allow yourself to be triggered.
….Come to expect the unexpected. Accept things are different now and they will not go back to how it once was. Everything changes; everything is impermanent, even life itself.
…Use this time of more aloneness to bring into your experience that which promotes your personal growth, perhaps learning something new, or rethinking old ways and habits.
…Find the means to escape from too much over-thinking, worrying, regretting. We need places to go, out of the storm. Spend more time in nature or check in with an old friend or turn to spiritual texts with an uplifting message. These short retreats can quickly change our dark moods.
…Be aware of turning to bad coping habits, like using alcohol and other drugs or over-eating, gambling, shopping. In the short-run they seem to help you to feel better, but they do nothing to promote a lasting resiliency.
…Let go of spending too much time with those who are always negative and complaining. They can wear you down. Instead, surround yourself with people who are doing well in these trying times and exhibit an optimism that is also reality-based. These are the folks who continually look for opportunities, even in the darkest of times.
Exercise is an antidote to so many of our ills. It is a sedentary lifestyle that destroys our physical and mental health. Get out of the chair, at least once every hour, and move your body. Remember other hard times in your life, times when you thought you might never get through and out to the other side, but you did and you will. It is truly an act of triumph to surpass these daunting challenges, and keep reaching for the light.