During the Pandemic (and Other Challenging Times)
Resilience is one of the most important attributes that influences the quality of a person’s life.
Our level of resilience affects our mental and physical health, how much difficult people and circumstances impact us, and our ability to remain strong and centered in the midst of change, challenge, and uncertainty.
Given the amount of change, challenge, and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, being intentional about cultivating our resilience is even more important than ever.
To build resilience, we want to intentionally step outside our comfort zone—i.e. challenge ourselves—and balance this with practices that restore us, practices that enable us to recover from the emotional, physical, and energetic toll the challenge takes.
Just as with physical fitness, the greater the emotional challenges we face, the more recovery we need if we are to remain at high levels of emotional wellbeing.
Thus, the pandemic requires that we “up our game” when it comes to making sure we are doing things that fortify us and prevent us from becoming energetically depleted, overwhelmed, or depressed.
In this article, we’ll explore “The Six R’s” of restoration. These practices will help you offset the emotional impact of these challenging times and help you cultivate greater resilience.
Perhaps the simplest—and most foundational–thing we can do to fortify ourselves during these challenging times is to make sure we get enough sleep.
If you’re thinking “No kidding… tell me something I don’t know,” ask yourself if you are actually doing it versus knowing it. If you are, feel free to skip this section and go on to the next.
While it might seem obvious that it’s important to get enough sleep, 1 in 3 adults don’t, according to the CDC.
During sleep, our body repairs itself and creates biochemical changes that optimize mood and performance, both physical and mental.
The more stress on the body and mind, the more sleep one needs. Just like athletes need more sleep during times of intense training, we need more sleep during times of intense emotional challenge.
So are you getting enough sleep?
None of the other practices will have anywhere near their potential effect if you don’t have this foundational one in place.
When I first got into health and fitness in a big way, I was struck by how clear the people, whose work I respected, were on how critical adequate recovery was, if you wanted to become more fi t, and … not get injured.
We MUST design in enough recovery time and activities to offset the “emotional workout” our life puts us through. The more challenging the time we’re going through, the more recovery we need, just as with physical workouts.
We do this, first by inserting brief spells of recovery time throughout the day—such as a quick walk, a fun conversation, an inspiring video, some stretches—whenever we have the flexibility to do so.
Equally important, we can boost our energy and spirits by becoming more intentional about making time throughout the week, and especially on the weekend, to do things that uplift us, and therefore add to our energy store.
If you tend to be very demanding on yourself about needing to always be productive, this might be challenging. However, the time you invest in joy, play, or serenity will pay you handsomely in greater productivity when you get back to work. I know some of my best creative work has come after surfing, doing an intense workout, or reading about a topic that fascinates me.
What kinds of things boost your spirits or provide you with nourishing downtime?
Are you doing enough of them?
If not… are you willing to do so?
What activities have you found in the past that provide you with an energy boost or simply “fi ll your well” that you haven’t been doing, and would benefi t from reintroducing into your life?
We all need refuge at times … a place or person or time of day … that provides us shelter from the storm, offers us safety and softness in the midst of harshness, and enables us to get centered again to go out into the world.
For some people, their whole home is their refuge. They’ve created a living space that nourishes them.
Look around where you live and note if it lifts you up or brings you down.
If it’s the latter, ask yourself how you might bring some beauty into it, or tidy it up, or ask what else it might need to be a place of refuge.
For others, it’s a room in their home or a corner of their room. Perhaps for you, your refuge is being by the ocean or in the forest.
Maybe the one time you have true peace and quiet and stillness is in your car, driving to and from work.
Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who are emotionally safe to be around— you can be vulnerable and unguarded with them. With them you feel seen and understood. These people are a source of refuge. (Note: I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give others is to be a refuge).
Ask yourself what are your sources of refuge and are you making use of them, and…how might you add more refuge choices?
ROUTINES AND RITUALS
The pandemic has been quite the “in your face” reminder of how uncertain and unpredictable life can be. Coming face to face with this has caused many people significant anxiety and even fear.
Even if you are someone who is comfortable with uncertainty and you don’t need to feel in control all the time, it can be unsettling to be bathed in uncertainty month after month.
This is why it’s so helpful to step up our use of routines and rituals.
The structure, predictability, and familiarity that routines and rituals bring to our lives, helps to off set the uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and disorganization brought on by the pandemic.
Just as small children and dogs thrive on routine because it makes them feel safe, engaging in routines and rituals helps our Reptilian Brain (the ancient part of our brain that is all about survival) feel safe and secure.
Routines and rituals strengthen our ability to deal with the unknown in ways that are similar to what happens psychologically to toddlers in what psychologists call the rapprochement stage of childhood development.
So…what rituals and routines are you engaging in?
Are there ones you used to do—such as meditation in the morning, or doing some reading— that you stopped for whatever reason, that would help ground you…and are you willing to start them up again?
What routines and rituals do your friends engage in that you might experiment with?
There’s a large body of scientific research showing how critical healthy relationships are to health and wellbeing, including resistance to illness and recovery from life threatening illnesses.
For an example of this powerful relationship, do an internet search on “The Roseto effect” and you will fi nd a fascinating study about how an Italian American community in Pennsylvania had remarkably lower rates of heart disease NOT because they were yoga practicing, meditating vegans (actually they were as far from that as you can be), but because of their close-knit relationships and Old World-style family ties.
Sadly, when they became more Americanized, and adopted the typical “move away from your family and relatives when you grow up” approach that is common in America and no longer focused as strongly on relationships, their level of heart disease began to match the national average.
As we all know, relationships per se aren’t necessarily a source of nourishment and positive wellbeing.
The wrong kinds of relationships can be a major source of stress and emotional pain. Healthy, nourishing relationships, on the other hand, are not only a powerful buffer against the challenges life can bring, they can also be the greatest source of joy and fulfillment, which also boosts resilience.
So ask yourself: Are you making time for the important relationships in your life, or are you telling yourself you’re too busy?
Do you relate in ways—like being open and vulnerable with those who are emotionally safe—that foster rich, soul-satisfying relationships…or do you keep it superficial?
INFUSING YOUR LIFE WITH THE SIX R’S
Becoming more intentional about making the 6 R’s an integral part of your daily life can make a huge difference in how fortified you feel in the face of the change, challenge, and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
While these factors are important components of cultivating resilience, they are even more important during these difficult times.
Which ones are you already attending to?
Which ones would you benefit from infusing more fully into your life?
How will you start to do so?