All these years later, it’s the absurdity of the normal routine that I remember most about the morning of 9/11. I was getting my kids ready for school when my sister-in-law called to tell me to turn on the television.
I was standing in our sun-speckled kitchen, cleaning up breakfast dishes when the planes struck the World Trade Center. At first I thought it was a movie clip, it couldn’t be real. The look of disbelief and bewilderment on my kid’s faces matched my own. Little did they realize the world would be forever changed. Like millions of Americans, I watched the towers collapse in real time. What happened after that was a collective nightmare.
A few years ago, I had to face the uncertainty of cancer. I live alone and the fear of being a burden on my children loomed large. I was lucky enough to be amongst those who are “cured” with surgery, but the fear of relapse is always in the back of my mind.
Here we are again — facing an entirely different, yet terrible threat that has already claimed more American lives than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Government leaders and health care workers liken the COVID-19 pandemic to war. So far, my family has been spared. Still, I worry because testing continues to be elusive and everyday thousands of people appear to be spreading a virus they don’t even know they have. The stories of sickness, death, and people losing businesses and jobs, my kids being some of those people without employment, and worrying about which bills they must pay, make me weep. It hardly matters if we turn away from the news and our social media feeds. The silent screams of this pandemic are deafening.
Is it any wonder everyone’s feeling unmoored in the face of such massive fear and uncertainty? As someone who focuses on helping others cultivate resilience, I’m having to remind myself of what it means to grapple with the kind of looming unknowns that terrorist acts, cancer, and now, COVID-19 present. Don’t count on me to sugar coat these events. Life is full of random, unfair hardships. But I know from hard experience that we are often far more resilient than we realize.
What does it meant to be resilient? We recognize that we have choices. We accept the circumstances while doing all we can to push forward in our lives. We know ourselves — know what triggers us, calms, us, inspires us, motivates us. And we learn strategies to move us in the direction we want to go. The goal is never to get someplace quick. Resilience requires thoughtful intention. Resilient people understand that no matter how dire the situation, we are never truly stuck — ever. We allow ourselves to wrestle with fear, sadness, frustration and pain, and then we work to reimagine new possibilities. Forget about a lifetime of misery! Because we are resilient, we recognize where we are and where we want to be, and we allow ourselves to feel cautiously optimistic about the future.
Here are 7 ways to live with greater resilience in a COVID-19 world. See which ones work best for you.
1. Express yourself.
Write it out. Talk it out. Do what you must to unburden your fears. There’s a trove of research about how writing to better understand and learn from our emotions, strengthens our immune systems and minds.
2. Release stress through laughter.
Watch comedy reruns or Saturday Night Live. I try to look at a silly cartoon or graphic about the absurdity of our situation every day. I send silly jokes to my grandkids and know that their parents are laughing too. It’s not only okay to laugh, it’s healing. Take a look at The Mayo Clinic’s prescription for laughter here.
3. Stretch yourself.
This is probably not the time to tackle a huge, long-term goal. How about organizing the medicine cabinet or planting your favorite herbs in a pot?
4. Give your mind a break.
Wiggle your toes. Take a walk and smell the fragrant spring air. Listen to music. Meditate. Your fears won’t necessarily go away but your grip on them might.
5. Show empathy.
Worry and fear can keep us trapped in our own egos and mental silos. It’s not necessary to be heroic. How about making a simple phone call to a friend or sending a “thinking of you” letter? “Empathy is the game-changer. It is the trait that will ultimately save the world,” -Judith Orloff M.D.
6. Think of a time you triumphed over a challenge before.
It doesn’t matter how small. What matters is that you transitioned to a different place.
7. Have faith
Your presence in the universe matters. It’s just as astronomer Carl Sagan said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Cautious optimism. Believe.
I’m rooting for all of us.
I used to believe that arguing was a sign of a healthy relationship.
That, somehow, relationships without conflict are simply “fairy tales” and too good to be true.
However, after a three decades long marriage with a lot of conflict, I knew my idea was flawed. I began to learn about emotional intelligence, and I realized that a relationship full of conflict is not healthy.
Other people, including our romantic partners, can say or do anything to us—but it is up to us how we respond or react to it.
We can choose to work out an issue or walk away. Having emotional intelligence gives us the ability to make that choice with clarity. It also allows us to connect deeply with other people by recognizing and respecting their emotions and developing empathy for them.
Understanding the importance of emotional intelligence in your relationship is a crucial aspect of experiencing a successful relationship.
What is Emotional IQ?
Emotional IQ, or emotional intelligence, is the ability to recognize your own emotions as well as the emotions of others. When you possess emotional intelligence, you are able to label your feelings and recognize the difference between different feelings.
For instance, you may be able to recognize that you are frustrated or disappointed instead of angry over a situation.
Developing your emotional IQ will help guide you through your thoughts and behaviors as well. This relates to the concept of “self-awareness,” which involves being mindful of your thoughts and feelings and being able to control whether you react emotionally to a situation or respond logically to it.
Emotional intelligence also ties in directly with empathy, which is the ability to connect with other people’s personal experiences and feelings.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Having emotional intelligence will lead you on a path to a happy and fulfilled life. Being in touch with your emotions means you can deal with negative feelings and embrace the positive ones.
It also affects the overall quality of your life and influences your behavior and your relationships.
This is because developing emotional intelligence awards you with emotional regulation. Having emotional regulation means you can control strong emotions and avoid impulsive actions caused by those feelings.
In other words, it allows you to take the time to process those negative emotions, look at the situation, and make better decisions about how to act.
You can imagine how effective that is in interpersonal relationships—especially romantic relationships.
BY MADISYN TAYLOR
Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.
A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.
A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner's mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn't have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn't necessarily mean we don't believe in anything at all, and it doesn't mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.
Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.
1. Stop complaining and appreciate how lucky you are every day.
2. Embrace loneliness and reinvent yourself in the process.
3. Say goodbye to the people that don't bring positive energy into your life.
4. Turn off the TV and set Internet controls.
5. Pick one skill you want to cultivate and put all your effort into developing it.
6. Commit to the goals you set and never look back.
7. Sweat every day to boost your mood.
8. Fall forward. Learn from every mistake you make.
Imagine that you're driving home from work, it's late, you're tired and hungry and you see the infamous Golden Arches on the horizon. In your imagining you can taste and even smell the hot, crispy French fries and you start salivating. The angel on your shoulder tells you that you shouldn't pull over and enter the drive-through, as food like this isn't good for your health and the more you eat it, the unhealthier you become. The only smart thing to do is to go home and make yourself a healthy dinner.
But the devil on your other shoulder begins to tell you that it has been a long day, so you deserve to treat yourself and the fries will make you feel better! This is a battle we can all relate to - whatever habit you are guilty of having on replay in your life, we can all agree that there are certain battles our logical mind loses, and our desires win.
We are aware that we are putting our health at risk - so we try desperately to kick these bad habits to the curb and encourage ourselves to live a healthier lifestyle.
What's Behind the Habits?
Why are bad habits so difficult to change even though we already know they are damaging our well-being? It is important that we understand how these negative habits and dependencies are created, so we can equip ourselves with the right tools to make lasting changes.
Nora Volkow, the director of the American National Institute on Drug Abuse who has spent the last fifteen years studying the reason why our habits are so difficult to change reveals the answer she discovered:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brains responsible for our feelings of desire. It is the "feel good" chemical our brains produce when we eat something pleasurable like French fries, or chocolate, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Dopamine itself cannot depict whether the thing we desire is good for us or not; it simply sends off the signal that leads us to crave it. This process occurs in two separate phases.
1. Feeling the pleasure:
When we experience something pleasurable - like eating McDonald's French fries our brains begin to produce dopamine, where it then speeds through to the part of your brain known as the 'memory center'. Here, a chemical memory has now been created, one where your brain now associates your feeling of pleasure with each action that caused it (i.e. the French fries). Researchers would label this memory as 'salient', which means every time we cross paths with these French fries, our brain now recalls the dopamine hit we previously received from them and thus leaves us wanting more.
2. the dependence:
So, now we understand that dopamine is responsible for our feelings of desire, we can see why we salivate every time we cross paths with French fries. Since our memory center has recorded what action gave us that pleasurable feeling, every single time we return to that same action, we strengthen the connection and it becomes more and more 'salient', quickly growing into what is called a 'dependent state.'
Now, our brains have associated this item with a wondrous hit of 'feel-good' chemicals, and so the cycle of reminders (cravings) begin to play on repeat. With this understanding of how habits are created in our lives, we can begin to understand why they are so darn hard to break. Every time we try to make a decision based on intellect and rationale - like the decision to drive home and make yourself a healthy dinner - our brains scream 'dopamine!" and leaves us with an overwhelming desire to return to the habit.
To fight this urge is to literally go against your brain chemistry, and this is why making changes feels like an uphill battle.
But we are not hopeless.
As we are armed with the right decisions, motivation, strength and solidification of healthy, new ways of living, we can make positive changes in our lives. To not make the change means allowing your brain chemicals to dictate your life - something that we cannot let happen if we want to live a life of empowerment, health, and fulfillment.
What do you gain from the things holding you back?
Procrastination. Self-sabotage. Perfectionism. Playing small. People pleasing.
We know these things hold us back. We know that big things lie beyond these traits. We know that our life could be very different if we could just stop…
We force ourselves past these blocks; feel the fear and do it anyway. Unfortunately, because these traits are so deeply rooted, they don’t just trip us up once. They appear in different areas of our lives, and in different scenarios all the time.
You do have to get to the root cause of each one and address why this trait is coming up in the first place.
And a simple way you can get to the cause is to ask yourself:
What do I gain from this trait?
The first reaction most people have is: “Nothing! I gain nothing from this trait.”
But you do – you get a reward from these traits.
What might that reward be?
Obviously, these things aren’t true. But our mind makes a ‘logical’ conclusion that the best way to be liked is to do what everyone else wants you to do, or that he best way to avoid rejection is to push others away, so you stay ‘safe’.
We all gain something from the things that hold us back. Once you identify what the reward is, you understand the motivator behind the behavior. Then, you can shift your reward to something positive; something that genuinely helps you.
Think about the most significant trait holding you back, right now. What reward does it give you?
adapted from an article by Andrew Thomas
Humans are emotional beings. We make decisions based on feelings and emotions. This truth applies to people, and how much we like them.
Likable people are more successful even if they aren’t as intelligent, skilled or experienced as others. People want to work with people they like – and they like helping them too. We need to start putting focus on the emotional intelligence side of our personal development.
As we strive to become more likable, we need to realize we will often fall prey to our ego getting in the way. We might allow fear and discomfort to affect our communication skills.
As a way to help you with your desire to become more likable, I have listed 28 habits of likable people that you can adopt in your daily life:
The 28 Habits of Likable People
If you take a good look at these habits, you will find that they can all be categorized under the ‘golden rule’.
The Golden Rule: Treat others in the same way you wish to be treated.
Applying the golden rule is simple, yet powerful. If you don’t want people to lie to you, then don’t lie to others. If you want people to put themselves in your shoes, and see things from your point of view, you must be willing to do the same for them. If you like how someone can listen to you and make you feel heard, then you must learn how to actively listen to others without passing judgement.
Some tools that may help you on your journey:
If you would like to enjoy a more connected and meaningful human experience take the time to incorporate these habits. Invest the time necessary to identify the ways in which you can improve your adherence to the golden rule.
excerpts from "Cultivate your Resilience" by Becky Andrews, LCMHC
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern." – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Resilience: The ability to pull something from deep within to keep moving forward.
The ability to bounce back and thrive under adverse or challenging circumstances.
The ability to rebound from life’s difficulties and challenges in a healthy,
"Life isn’t about how fast you run or how high you climb,
but how well you bounce." – Tigger
You have permission to:
Identify your feelings.
We often have trouble identifying our feelings. Before you can articulate them to yourself or someone else, you need to be aware of what you are feeling. Check out the following website for an example of an emotion wheel.
Articulate your feelings.
There are many physical, social, cognitive, and emotional responses to the losses
and challenges we experience. Knowing and expressing our emotions in healthy
ways is an important step in our ability to cope, cultivate resilience and thrive.
Ask yourself regularly: How am I feeling today? Journal, draw, or share with a friend
the answer to this question. Feeling is Healing.
Practice Self-Compassion. Take time for Self-Care.
“Some people worry that self-compassion will close them off from other people
by making them selfish and self-centered. The reverse is actually the case – the
more open hearted we are with ourselves, the closer we feel toward the rest of life.
Self-compassion is the foundation for kindness toward others.
When we’re more accepting of our own, we become more accepting of others.
Full acceptance of ourselves, moment to moment makes it easier to adapt and
change in the direction we’d like to go.” – Christopher Germer, Self-Compassion
We need to nurture ourselves in five areas: Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, Social
and Spiritual. What nurtures you in each of these areas? This is your go-to list
Be Authentic (YOU) in your journey.
"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle – Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite joy, grace and gratitude in our lives." – Brene Brown.
"Comparison is the thief of joy." – Theodore Roosevelt
Have healthy Reciprocal Relationships. Boundaries.
When we feel understood, validated and cared for it fuels our ability to be resilient. Healthy relationships – accept and give support when needed.
Who has been there for you? _______________________________________________
What are your Boundaries? Where do you need to give yourself permission to say no?
What do you want to say yes to? _____________________________________________
"Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give, and we need to receive." – Brene Brown
Identify your strengths and utilize them.
Get to know yourself. What do you enjoy doing? What brings you joy? What are your strengths that give you energy?
www.viacharacter.org is a wonderful Positive Psychology Test that will help you understand your strengths.
Take time to utilize one of your top 5 strengths each day. When you are experiencing a challenging time – take a moment to pause and bring one of your strengths into cultivating your resilience for that situation.
What is a strength that has helped you in your life? ________________________________
Dig deep. Take small steps. Persist.
Break down what seems overwhelming into small tasks and acknowledge your small victories along the way. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon not a sprint.
A practice of gratitude can connect us to everything and everyone. It is helpful to have a daily gratitude journal. Take a moment to remember how many people have created or made possible what you experience each day. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life. Each day savor the feeling of gratitude.
"Develop an appreciation for the present moment. Seize every second of your life and savor it." – Wayne Dyer
Laugh and find joy in each day.
Laughter can be a powerful force and finding humor in our difficult moments (in time) can help us on our path to resilience. Take time to notice the small moments that bring you joy in each day.
"Every time you are able to find humor in a difficult situation you win." – Avinash Wandre
Be open. Be flexible. Be creative.
"We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them." – Epitetus.
"We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguise as impossible situations." – Charles Swindoll.
Find meaning and purpose. Give Back. Serve Others.
In time, you can create meaning and purpose from your challenges. Spend time serving others.
"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." – Nietzche
"Strength, courage, and resiliency exist in everyone, but they start as a tiny spark and its only through facing challenges that they grow and blaze into the force that directs our lives." – Erik Weihenmayer