Monday, March 22, 2010

Resiliency...How to cope when change happens

Man, change happens...everyday, every hour, we all know that, right?  So, what happens when the calamitous events hit -- you know those tragedies that rip apart our sense of comfort -- when the earth shifts and life as you have come to know and expect it to be on planet no more.  I am talking about the very difficult things that hurt our hearts and sense of who we are -- serious illness, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce...etc.

We will go through the aftermath of devastating change
no matter what -- there is no avoiding it.  --DCR

I have a word for you.  Resiliency.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, resilience is "the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change."

Guess what I discovered?  We will go through the aftermath of devastating change no matter what, there is no avoiding it.  The unthinkable actually happened and I couldn't undo or fix it.  I had to learn to live with it and rebuild a life that made it ok and me happy.  

Being resilient is a process that takes some time and effort.  Sadness and pain happen when we experience trauma -- whatever type it is.  That sense of uncertainty we feel is normal -- strong emotions, again...normal.  We don't all react the same way, so there is no guaranteed formula for recovery, but somehow, we do just that -- rebuild.

So what are we to do?  Really?  We can take a deep breath and realize that we will recover and it isn't necessary to see that recovery immediately -- that bounce we all seem to expect of ourselves.  Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not!  The steps to it, however, are individual (follow link). 

I think one key in the process is to give ourselves room to acknowledge the bad thing that happened -- to feel the way we feel about it -- but in a positive way.  Here is what that might look like for you:

  • Think about you -- as in, your own needs and feelings.  Do the things you enjoy; excercise, eat well, maintain a routine and try to keep the normal life stresses under control.
  • Keep in contact and maintain relationships that are important to you.  Family and friends can be very supportive, or you can be there for them. Rely on others, it is ok.  
  • Focus on the good stuff and try to stay away from the violence in the media, on tv or at the movies.  Sad, bad, stories can pull you down.  I am not saying to ignore current events, but just try to structure what you are allowing to take up your time.
  • When you think about the "problem, event, loss" recognize that you can't change it, but you do shape how you react to it.  Try not to see it as "impossible to recover."  Try looking at the future in a positive way and acknowledge even the little victories of feeling just a little better about it.
  • Have faith and hope, daily.  The universe loves you -- really, really, loves you.
The next part of the process holds another key and requires more active participation:

  • Accept change as a part of life.  Some things may be different for you now -- loss of someone you loved dearly, life or job goals, a critical relationship, marriage -- and there is no denying it.  You can't wish it away, you can only accept that it happened and begin focusing on the circumstances you can control.
  • Move forward.  Develop some realistic goals, even small ones and champion yourself when you reach them.
  • Don't detach, stay engaged and take decisive actions -- small ones and then larger steps.
  • Expect that good things will happen in your life.  Stop looking at the bad thing that happened and worrying about it...instead, visualize what it is that you want and how you want to feel. It takes some work to be hopeful -- don't tell yourself, "it will never get better."  Expect that it will get better.
  • Think good thoughts about you, it builds confidence to nuture yourself and trust in your ability to make it through.
The benefit of extreme change or loss is that it never leaves you where it found you.  Take this time to grow.  Through adversity your relationships can become deeper; your capabilities develop and strength grow; your sense of self-esteem increases; faith becomes stronger and you have more appreciation for life.  You learn you can rely on yourself and trust that you are loved.

Me?  I am in a good place and I used every one of the steps listed above.

Here's to you -- flexible, balanced, resilient.



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