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“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~ Nelson Mandela
We are a stressed nation—a global pandemic, political upheaval, gun violence, and the challenges of 24-7 connectivity have ramped the pressure up to be the perfect storm. On this larger scale, we are a nation in need of healing. There is only so much we can consume, so many medications we can take, and only so many operations we can undergo using our Western medicine (allopathic) model to deal with our fear, anxiety, depression, and trauma.
According to the National Council on Behavioral Health, 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced some traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people. Did you know trauma is a risk factor in nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders?
The antidote? Resilience.
Resilience is our capacity to not give up, keep going, and mend and recover from difficulties. It is a kind of flexibility, toughness, and the ability to spring back from and deal with adversity. Take the resilience of Louie Zamperini in “Unbroken.” Zamperini was a troubled young man who became an Olympian runner who survived — through a plane crash, then was set adrift on a life raft for months only to end up in a series of brutal POW camps. He survives it all, returns a hero, and learns to skateboard at age 80!
There are general factors of resilience: assertiveness, self-efficacy or believing in ourselves, the ability to solve problems, and to learn to live with uncertainty. Then there is self-awareness, a positive outlook, empathy for others along with having goals and aspirations.
Resilience can also be thought of as the ability to strike a balance between working to be independent yet being willing to depend on others for support/treatment as needed. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one won’t necessarily make our troubles go away, it allows us to share our feelings, get support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to our problems.
Being resilient could be the appropriate use of needed prescription drugs or alternative remedies. It also could be abstinence from drugs or other compulsive behaviors like gambling and binging. It could be a sense of duty or purpose to others or self as well, depending on our culture and temperament.
Resilience Is An Inside Job
Like happiness, resiliency is said to be an inside job. Resilience is a state of mind. Ask yourself. What helps you lighten up? Then do that thing as much as possible. For me, it’s been laughter. It really is the best medicine. When I got a cancer diagnosis, I listened to comedy. Relentlessly. It was a busy time and I was getting ready to move. As I was prepping the house for showings, I consumed lots and lots of comedy central radio. I’d have my iPhone in my pocket to listen to as I cleaned. Science shows how laughter builds resilience.
Resilience joke: I saw a bird with broken wings but a resilient look in its eye. It was unflappable.
The Resiliency Zone is when our mind and body are in a state of well-being. It’s when we are in a good headspace. When we are in our resilient zone we can handle the stresses that happen during the day and react with the best part of ourselves. Stress can bump us out of our resilient zone into our high or low zone.
Resourcing, aka finding and using things that comfort us (cue the laughter), is used to help us get back into a resiliency zone. That enables us to go from a place of stress to a place where the adrenaline, cortisol (stress hormone), and all of the body chemicals that have been stored from the trauma can be released. Living with addiction or grief from a long-term trauma such as the death of a child, a sibling, or a significant other can disrupt the resting state of the nervous system. Finding strategies to discover the means to restore your sense of self and create a new identity is about getting into the resilience zone.
If you find yourself living in constant reaction to the outside world, becoming free of that pattern might feel like being freed from prison. Getting into the resilience zone is the change in perception that flips the script.
Steps to getting into the Resiliency Zone:
1. Change your perspective of adversity.
2. Cultivate gratitude.
3. Practice self-care.
4. Laugh it off.
5. Cultivate caring and supportive relationships.
6. Give back to others.
7. Practice yoga and meditation.
8. Spend time outdoors.
Do you have other ideas?
Excerpt from the book Stress Nation: An East Meets West Approach to Healing Trauma by Jacqueline Jackson
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