Building Resilience Can Be a Mother!
When was the last time you got swept away by negative emotions?
Did you try to push the feelings aside? Tell yourself it wasn’t that big of a deal? Or did you give yourself time to sit in that discomfort?
On Mother’s Day, I was spending time with Evan and I wanted him to join me on a walk with our dogs around our neighborhood, something the two of us have done together for years. He refused. I asked again, he refused more adamantly. This led to a power struggle (something I know how to avoid) and ended with me going on the walk alone. While on my walk, I saw an adorable little girl running through the yard to her mom who was waiting at the front door. Her mom scooped her up in her arms and the little girl was laughing so loud I could hear her from across the street.
At first, I smiled. Then, I started to cry.
I thought to myself, “Evan doesn’t have many of these happy memories of being a kid”; “Hell…I don’t have many of these happy memories as his mom.”
For me, raising a child with special needs means going through the grief cycle daily. I grieve for the struggles Evan will have to endure. I grieve for the child I thought I was going to have. I grieve the loss of the life I had imagined.
When we face grief or loss, it’s easy to want to run from the discomfort. It takes strength to process what is happening. Allowing ourselves the time and space to grieve is not a luxury, it is a requirement for resilience.
Sometimes we are so busy judging how we should feel, that we forget to just feel. Negative emotions are uncomfortable. We want to hide from them, thinking we will deal with them later. Only there is never a good time. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, cry. And if you just want to scream, that’s okay, too. But remember, we plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative emotions.
When we face grief or loss, it’s easy to want to run from the discomfort. It takes strength to process what is happening. Allowing ourselves the time and space to grieve is not a luxury, it is
a requirement for resilience.
It would be nice if resilience was built at a spa, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, building resilience is a MOTHER…here are five ways you can leverage your emotions to build resilience:
1. Stop living on autopilot.
We can’t begin to process our emotions if we don’t let ourselves sit in them. One study from Duke University put the amount of time we spend in habitual behaviors at 45 percent. That means we live almost half of our life on autopilot. If we are not careful, we can become slaves to our habits, and they become a way to live life unconsciously rather than deliberately choosing what we want and creating a path to get there. We can’t control our emotions, but we can build habits that help us manage them productively. And while some of our emotions aren’t comfortable, they are all necessary. If we didn’t have the uncomfortable emotions, we wouldn’t appreciate the great ones. This doesn’t mean you have to marinate in them. Build a habit of taking time to acknowledge what you are feeling without trying to run from it.
2. Name it to tame it.
Labeling and naming negative emotions makes them easier to deal with. By putting our feelings into words, we give ourselves more power over them. This isn’t always easy to do on our own. If you’re angry, is it really anger? Or could it possibly be hurt and disappointment? If you are anxious, what is causing it? Get curious about the root of those emotions.
3. Seek support.
Support groups were one of the ways I have been able to survive this journey with Evan. I credit my support group and my teachers at NAMI for helping me survive some of my roughest times. Studies have found that meeting other people who are farther along in the same journey helps us to overcome permanence by showing us that we won’t be stuck here forever. Support groups connect you with others who really get what you’re going through and provides human connection. The club that no one wants to be a part of provides incredible bonding.
4. Rethink happiness.
Happiness isn’t the absence of negative feelings. Just like sadness, anger, fear, and frustration, happiness happens in micro-moments. Emotions are not a constant state, and just like the weather, if you wait it out, they will change. You can increase the likelihood of positive emotions by taking time to savor them. Every time you sit in a positive moment, you embed it more deeply into the neural structure of your brain. Whether it’s keeping a gratitude jar, savoring delicious moments, or simply acknowledging it, when you take time to notice the positive, you train your brain to start looking for it.
5. Practice Mindfulness.
Be mindful and take time to quiet your mind. It could be setting a timer for three minutes and just being still. If you haven’t sat alone in your thoughts in a while, beware, three minutes can seem like an eternity. Every time you bring yourself back to the present moment, you are training your brain to manage its attention, making you less likely to be carried away by negative emotions.
After the walk, I started to beat myself up. “I shouldn’t feel that way, I should just be grateful for the good moments we have” and “stop having a pity party, it is what it is”. I realized that I’m human, and taking time to process those emotions is how resilience is built. We achieve strength through struggle. When we make it through a trauma, crisis, or stressful time, we learn something. It is called post-traumatic growth. It’s like flexing your resilience muscles. Although you don’t usually see the lesson at the time, you are able to look back with perspective and learn from it.
That walk helped me build my resilience muscle. What will you do to build yours?
We live in a world where we are bombarded with information, saturated with stimulation, and overloaded with deadlines, tasks, and deliverables. Demanding schedules, competing priorities, and a never ending list of to-do’s have made stress and burnout common place. Stress is the leading cause of heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a whole host of other ailments, and it has literally become a public health epidemic.
Resilience Training & Productivity
The good news is that research has found a way to help combat the many challenges associated with stress, and companies that practice this are more productive, more profitable, and higher performing as a result. More and more organizations are turning to resilience training to help their employees manage stress, navigate change, and overcome obstacles and setbacks.
Resilience Is A Skill That Can Be Learned
Resilience is not a personality trait but rather a set of skills and habits that can be developed and honed, and there are skills, behaviors, and attitudes that can be learned. For example, research has consistently shown a link between job satisfaction and the degree to which managers express gratitude to employees. Gratitude affects your brain at a neurological level, producing serotonin and dopamine (the brain’s feel good neurotransmitters), and reduces cortisol (our stress & “fight or flight” response). Practicing mindfulness has been found to significantly impact and improve the part of the brain responsible for memory, attention, and emotional regulation.
One size does not fit all. Learn a ton of cool ways to build your courage resilience.
This is a resilience revolution, and it starts with you!
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.