How to be Resilient in a Topsy Turvey World
Being Kind to One’s Current and Future Selves is a Good Place to Start.
Way back in July, I wrote about my intentional efforts to extend Hedonic Adaptation. It was a reflection on my delight following my first visit to NYC in a year. Armed with a full Covid vaccination, I had felt ecstatic about the possibilities in my emergence from isolation.
I was euphoric as I continued to purposefully capture moments of awe, most certainly enjoying the honeymoon period of freedom from fear and worry. But that protective honeymoon period turned out to be short-lived, as breakthrough Covid infections were reported across the country, and then eventually right on my tiny suburban street.
After a personal scare, and a negative Covid test just last week, the fall of Afghanistan, the hurricane in Haiti, and the stress due to Tropical Storms Henri and Ida, I am finding myself feeling deflated, exhausted and defeated. Arghhhh!
My toxic head began playing tricks on me as I considered the near future: What will the autumn and beyond look like? Will I be able to attend the delayed memorial service of my dear Uncle Ed in October? Will I be back in isolation when my nephew Jason graduates from college in December? Will I ever feel comfortable having people visit my home?
Okay, deep breath, Deborah. I recognize how my mind can run away with my emotions. I also remember that I GET TO choose what to focus on. So, here’s how I’ve decided to deliberately be kind to my current self and future self. If what I’ve said thus far resonates, perhaps these suggestions will ring true for you, too. Or at least they may help you recognize that with choice, resilience is possible (It’s when we have no choice that we become hopeless.)
Managing My Morning Mindset
While historically this is not the case, currently I am finding it difficult to “hop out of bed” in the morning. While this may be partly due to my status as being old (you know: cranky body parts, a touch of arthritis or perhaps even a bad mattress), I find that negative messages are slipping through into my inner banter. And when my attitude succumbs to the aches in my back before I’ve stretched and done my pushups, I have caught my inner critic, Eve, more than once stealthily whispering judgmental sentiments of laziness, worry and general bullying into my subconscious.
My older, wiser self is now slightly tweaking my morning routine. I start my day by injecting positivity first, through writing a “daily declaration” of gratitude into my journal and then doing my stretching before immersing myself into full journaling mode. The intention with my proclamation is to focus on this kernel of gratitude throughout the day. The sentiment of, “Where attention goes, energy flows” leaves me hopeful that my neuropathways will flow toward my good fortune. It’s pleasing to realize that there is SO MUCH to be grateful for, from the local tomatoes of late summer to the mail carrier’s consistency.
Selecting My Words Vigilantly
Word choice can have a direct impact on mood. Whether they be spoken aloud or remain as thoughts in our brains, words have the ability to make us feel either empowered or uncomfortable. This is why Judith E. Glaser’s mantra “Words Create Worlds” proves to be an enduring nuance.
Here’s an example. I consider the word “Busy” a 4-letter swear word. This word alone can very well signal “threat”, which releases cortisol and adrenaline into the body. These hormones are crucial for staying safe when danger arises, but too much creates toxicity. This is especially concerning since “Busy” is so often the default answer in common, everyday conversations. For example, “How are you?” gets the familiar response, “Busy. Crazy busy.” When someone hits you with this inevitable question, wait a beat to check in with yourself. What is the real answer? How are you feeling? This will serve to bring you to the present, and perhaps open the door for a real conversation, instead of an exchange of empty words.
Other common toxic words hiding plainly in sight are “I should” and “I need to.” These sentiments relay subtle messages of guilt or inadequacy to the brain. Consider replacing them with “I get to…”, as in “I should lose the Covid-19 I’ve gained” becoming “I get to eat more healthfully” and “I need to call my uncle” being substituted by “I get to make my uncle’s day.” Try it out and experience the delightful results!
Cuteness Contributes to Joy!
Although I’m battling the blues these days, I recognize that cuteness can completely melt my heart. This happened twice in quick succession this week, and I felt my historic sensation of joy emerge from temporary hibernation. First, a dear colleague shared an absolutely adorable video of her baby granddaughter discovering the taste of bananas. Then, later that day, I became mesmerized by the scene of a puppy and a baby interacting at the local park. I’ve now added the dimension of adorableness to my awe quest!
Most importantly, I maintain the perspective that my emotional state is a temporary one, that I’m healthy and safe, that my self-care practices, while currently feel unfulfilling, are reinforcing my resilience, and when I focus on gratitude, that’s what seems to surface before despair. Baby steps can equate to immense improvements in well-being. Don’t ever forget it!
What are you doing to take care of yourself as the season changes?
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