Learning to bounce back despite tough times
By the time I was eight, I had learned what cancer, death, and a broken heart were. I learned how to navigate the world feeling alone, uncertain, and different. I learned how to pick myself up and trudge forward, find happiness and peace again when it seemed like just about everything I knew in my first eight years of life had been ripped out from under me in the wake of my mother’s death.
To this day, this was the hardest and most defining period of my life What it revealed was my true character- my strength, determination, courage, and resilience to overcome anything that life throws at me.
These are the resiliency habits I’ve learned over the last few decades that have allowed me to not only get back up and move on but to find inner peace, heal my heart and learn to thrive again in life in the midst of every heartache, tragedy, and even the loss of my second parent all before I had turned forty years old.
Self-care is arguably the most important skill in being resilient. Being resilient is about being able to bounce back, being able to overcome what life is handing out. We have to take care of ourselves if we want to bounce back. I found out the hard way that not caring for myself puts me in a place of feeling like life is spiraling further out of control and that I’m falling deeper into the hole.
The farther I go down the hole, the more work I have to do to get out of it. When life gets tough we have to double down on self-care. As the pandemic hit and I began to feel the waves of fear, uncertainty, and unknown all hit me. I knew while I didn’t know exactly what life was throwing at me and how things would change.
I knew that the one thing I could do was prioritize my self-care immediately. Sleep, eating healthy, physical movement, nature (when possible), connecting with loved ones (virtually), and journaling all became the priorities in my day. Self-care practices often support us in helping to keep our immune systems up and stress levels down. These practices continue to keep me grounded and available to ride this out.
Gratitude is truly the antidote to everything. Perception matters, gratitude helps us see the world from a kinder place. As soon as I feel myself becoming negative or going into a downward spiral, I take out my journal and start making a list of anything and everything I am grateful for. Gratitude brings me back into my heart. When I can see all I do have, the support and resources I have, everything shifts. I can suddenly go from I’m “stuck at home” to I’m so grateful to have a home to be safe in.
Surrounding myself with inspiring, loving, and growth-minded people
Life is tough for every single one of us. We’ve all experienced tragedies and trauma. We’ve all experienced heartbreak and loss. What sets us apart from one another is not what happened to us, but how we respond to what happened. Some people choose to use hard times as opportunities to rise up, some will stay content and some will just whine about it the whole time.
I’ve found it’s a lot easier to bounce back when you have mentors, friends, and colleagues who will help you cheer up and rise up rather than keep you down. Connect with inspiring friends and colleagues, do something kind for others. Listen to podcasts, read books, watch biographies on those that overcome and lead with kindness. Remember that old saying misery loves company. Well, Inspiration is contagious too. You get to choose who you are influenced by, choose wisely.
Acceptance doesn’t mean we agree or like the situation. I believe acceptance is more about being in the reality of what is, recognizing this is really happening rather than being caught up in wishing things were different. The more we are grounded in reality, the better we can pivot our lives in response to the new reality.
When I was learning to surf, what I learned is that I had to react to the wave as they were, I had to accept them for the way they were and take action. You can’t change a wave. If you ignore it or pretend its tide is different than it is, it will pummel you. You will get tossed, turned, and thrown under. You can not fight any wave or change it, you can only react to it. This is life. We can not change the fact that we are in a pandemic, it’s the wave that has rolled in. What we can do is choose how to best ride it out.
Be Kind to yourself
We all have an inner-critic, which can be helpful at times to keep us motivated and push us out of our comfort zone. However, our inner-critic is often harder on ourselves than on anyone else. When we’re going through tough times, we want to be extra compassionate and kind to ourselves. We want to treat ourselves with the same kindness we would another who was going through a tough time. I often check in by asking myself, “Am I doing the best I can right now?” Sometimes that’s all I need to get myself off the couch and doing some yoga. Sometimes I really am doing the best I can and what I need is time on the couch enjoying some laughs with Sebastian Maniscalo, and that’s ok too. More often than not we really are doing the best we can given the current circumstances, there’s no need to be hard on ourselves.
It’s okay not to be okay
At some point as a young child, I learned that I always needed to appear to be okay, that regardless of what I was feeling inside I needed to show the world I was fine. This was one of the worst coping strategies I used. I was so good at it though, I could fool my teachers, father, school counselor, coaches, and others. I was secretly suffering in silence, miserable and depressed, yet no one knew because I kept it all bottled up. I was disconnected from myself and others. I didn’t allow others to love and support me when I was hurting.
What I’ve since learned is that it’s okay not to be okay, while everything will eventually be okay, it doesn’t need to be right now. In fact, it’s better if we don’t pretend to be okay when it’s not. Giving ourselves permission to just say the words “I’m not okay,” “I’m struggling,” “this is hard” can sometimes be all we need. Acknowledging the truth to ourselves and others can often be the first step in moving through tough times.
Find the Silver linings
Find the lessons, ask yourself what life is trying to teach you. The silver linings are the hidden miracles, the shifts in how you live your life. For some this may be about slowing down in life, more time to cook, a new perspective, a chance for self-reflection, new connections, and learning to connect in new ways.
In reflecting on some of the toughest experiences I’ve been through they’ve all taught me something- to eat more healthily, to take better care of my body, to open my heart up more, to appreciate the little things in life, to better manage my finances, to take nothing for granted, to hold close those I love, to be more empathetic of what others are going through. The hardest times of my life are also the times that have provided me with the greatest lessons in my life. The silver linings are always there, they’re just waiting to be discovered.
Developing resiliency is a practice. Life is a journey and there are plenty of opportunities to keep rising to the challenge. The more resilience we develop, the more adept we become at riding the wave with grace.