As unparalleled stress, unrest and uncertainty are becoming more common, our physical, emotional and mental health are being tested every day. In a recent survey, participants were asked to describe how they felt using one word. A resounding number responded with the word, “done.”
There is an extraordinary need to build, foster and practise resilience so we can navigate our lives. Yet so many people had to borrow energy from tomorrow to get through today, and have nothing left to give. That’s why being told that personal resiliency and self-care are the remedy can be exasperating.
Telling someone to be resilient or use self-care to return to health when the world is on fire is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It might stop the bleed for a millisecond, but the injury needs a proper intervention. The reality is that organizations, systems and companies also carry some responsibility in addressing the urgent needs of their people.
While professional care is needed to mediate and address some of the stressors, a few of my program’s practices can help support a sense of steadiness and foster self-stewardship.
Here are some simple tools:
1) After-action report: Honour and recognize not only what you’ve gone through but what you have grown through. List the things you’ve discovered and learned about yourself these last two years.
2) Small wins: I surrendered my need for a clean house (but I won’t budge on a clean kitchen), and it has done wonders. Challenge the belief that everything needs to be in order and perfect. Hold standards, not ideals.
3) Ask for help: There is no shame in asking for help, yet some may feel it’s easier to do things themselves than explaining them to someone else. When we are in a constant state of doing and giving, it may be hard to receive. We are not meant to do all of this alone.
4) Find micro-breaks: Take five when and wherever you can. Spend these minutes in solitude to drink coffee or listen to a podcast. This will benefit you and also models for your children or people around you that taking breaks and moments to re-charge is part of being productive.
5) Hold empathy for yourself: As you show kindness and gratitude for others, please extend that same courtesy to yourself, especially on a challenging day. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you are drowning in two feet or 10 feet of water; you are still drowning. Take what you need to be well.
6) Recognize dual truths: You can love your life and need to cry. You can love your job and fantasize about owning an animal sanctuary. You can love your family and need time alone. Living in the extremes is small real estate; there is much more room in the middle.
7) Honour all behaviours: Every behaviour serves a purpose, even some of our maladaptive coping strategies like Netflix marathons, rompers, pets, chocolate and venting sessions. You don’t have to grow, heal and achieve every second of your life. There is a remarkable change when we show grace and a wee bit of mercy for ourselves.
8) Go for ONE thing: Choose one thing per day that makes you feel like you’re living your values, and make it non-negotiable. This could be reading a story to a child, supporting a local business, walking your dog or sending a thank-you email. Often, our value-based behaviours fall to the bottom of our never-ending to-do lists.
9) Recognize your limits: The function of our nervous system is to keep us alive, not happy. We need to purposely create moments of joy, ease and pleasure. While feelings of anxiety, fear and avoidance are automatic, adding good feelings takes more effort. Holding hope is a skill. Look for precious moments in a noisy world.
10) Focus on what matters most, and make it matter most: We are replaceable in most of our professional roles. Invest in the roles where you are irreplaceable: don’t miss the phone call with a loved one or that basketball game or cheer competition. Show up.
Remember, you have the right to be well and feel good, even in challenging seasons. You are your decisions, not your conditions. Make the decision to be well in this unwell world as we co-create a better future for all.
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