25 April, 2017
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “resilience”? Perhaps you think of a plant growing from a crack in the sidewalk or a bouncing ball or a tree bending in the wind. These are common images associated with resilience and they focus on its often undervalued gifts – the ability to effectively handle demands, overcome adversity, rebound, recover, adapt…
The image that comes to my mind when I think of resilience might seem a bit odd in comparison – I picture a glass vase that has accumulated thousands of microfractures. Perhaps this is my image because I’ve spent some time on the wrong end of the stress curve struggling with burnout. Much like with a stress fracture to a bone, the microfractures are not a result of one big traumatic blow but rather a gradual stacking of responses to less traumatic demands that are not given the time and opportunity to repair. The vase spidered with cracks is my reminder to repair the cracks along the way.
No matter whether your demands are big or small, short-term or long, personal or professional, finding space to repair is vital to sustaining resilience – this can be especially hard in the modern world where we constantly push ourselves to do more and always be available. You needn’t carve out a week for a meditation and yoga retreat though if that’s not your thing. Just as stressors can be small and cumulative so too can acts of resilience. Take a moment to consider how you might incorporate more acts of resilience into your life using the three Rs.
• Relieve – If your stress levels are too high, devote some time and energy to relieving that stress. Think about what works for you – maybe it’s spending time alone in nature or playing your favorite sport or socializing with friends or meditating. Taking a moment to breathe deeply, stretch, laugh or connect with a friend/co-worker are also great ways to incorporate acts of resilience into your day.
• Reduce – If your stresses are too many, devote some time and energy to reducing them and practice setting boundaries. Take an inventory and then ask yourself for each one – Is it important? – What would happen if I eliminated or delegated it? – Does it further my goals? Saying “No” can be challenging for some but effective boundaries can keep you from taking on too much. Identify the boundary you want to set, communicate it clearly, be consistent in using the boundary and be prepared with how you will respond when others attempt to cross the boundary. Remember too that stress reduction doesn’t have to be planned – choose in the moment to simplify, take a shortcut, or accept someone’s offer of help.
• Reframe – Often you don’t get to choose which stressors you get or when they happen or for how long. You can choose though how you think about and respond to the demand. Determine its value, give it meaning and consider alternative ways to interpret the demand that serve you better.
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