How to Be More Resilient
I attended a Get Loved Up workshop Sunday night, led by Koya Webb. Koya is a beautiful, tall, amazingly strong, yet approachable woman whose life has shifted from going for a gold medal in track and field to finding her own gold in yoga. With her 604K+ followers on Instagram, I was surprised to see there were only 25 of us in the room that night. I felt honored to have been included in the exclusive group. The workshop began with Koya leading a 30-minute vinyasa class and in her casual, meaningful commentary, she talked about how life tends to throw things at us – things we don’t anticipate – things we aren’t prepared for – requiring us to “roll with it” as she noted. It got me thinking about how much comes our way, whether professionally or personally, and our response to those things. Our actions and reactions greatly affect how the rest of the day will end up. And that led me to the word resilience. I looked up the definition of resilience from several sources but this one caught my attention:
Resilience: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.
I love this definition because it paints a vivid picture of exactly how it can feel when we are faced with life’s challenges. We feel deformed, because something has been pulled out of us, or we swell up somewhere, causing us to overcompensate, whether by acting a certain way, eating a certain way, avoiding something, yet pretending all is well. Resilience is more than simply recovering – it’s literally coming back into the same shape you started (or close to it). Think of the little kiddos who are running, fall down, shed that one tear, and then are off again playing, having forgotten the entire incident five minutes later. That’s resilience! While it seems so simple when we are that young, resilience can require more of us than just brushing off some dirt. Sometimes returning back to your original shape takes a whole lot more.
Koya reminded us we that learn resilience when we are on our yoga mat – some days you just can’t seem to catch the vibe of the instructor or the sequence. Sometimes it takes what seems to be an eternity to master a pose. Yoga can be frustrating, so we practice resilience on our mat when we can step off of it with no judgment and a feeling of gratitude, having had the opportunity to spend time there that day.
How can we practice resilience off the mat? I’ve put together five ways you can become more resilient to the bruises, bumps and gashes life serves us:
Loosen Your Grip:
Remember that change is as certain as death and taxes. Sometimes what makes life difficult is our clinging to what we had before. When we cling, it makes it too difficult to move and we can’t respond, pivot or make adjustments. Remember the lyrics by 38 Special: “Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling to tightly you’re gonna lose control.” It’s true. It turns out the tighter we cling the less control we have overall because we are clinging so tightly to one aspect of our life but the rest of the world continues to move. By the time we actually let go, it’s a completely different scene, so instead of responding to one change, now you have many to deal with and that really throws us off! We can blame our ego for that. Our ego likes to be identified with something, and when we see things changing around us, our ego fights to cling to what it has known – what is comfortable. We have to silent the ego and allow the change to happen.
Keep Your Gaze Forward:
If you get motion sickness on a winding road or wavy sea, one thing that helps you feel better is to keep your eyes on the horizon. It’s the same with resilience, you need to keep your eyes on what lies ahead. Don’t know what lies ahead? Neither do I! And that’s just the thing with life, isn’t it. So we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we can remind ourselves what is important and where our priorities lie. That will help us focus. We also need to remember that nothing is permanent, and change is as definite as death and taxes. So keep looking forward because the crazy of today may not be there tomorrow.
Get a View from 30,000 feet:
Life up close can seem like such a disaster. It’s like the old science experiments. Remember looking at a surface through a microscope – gross! But if you pull you eye off the microscope and see the surface for what it is, you know that really it’s simply there to hold things. If you’re going to worry about the microscopic life, you’ll never be able to set the groceries down (leading to a ripped bag or very sore arms!). When you see the bigger picture, those microscopic items seem much less dramatic.
Apply a Scooby-Doo Band-Aid:
Okay, maybe not literally. Heaven knows some wounds need more than a Band-Aid! But my point is that Scooby-Doo will offer some color, some humor and a little light-ness to the situation. How can you step back, and find a way to lighten the mood? Maybe you need to physically leave the negative environment. I’ve literally left a room in the house before because my mind was going so hard and creating such negative thoughts that walking into a different space helped me mentally leave my thoughts behind, and that made me feel better. Maybe you need to send someone a funny note or pick up some flowers on the way home. Repairing relationships often takes small steps and little actions of love and humor. Even a smile can go a long way.
One of my biggest teachings from yoga was how little I breathe when I am stressed. I would come to my mat and realize I wasn’t sure I took anything more than micro-breaths all day long. No wonder my stomach was a mess. In order to digest, your organs need oxygen, and the only way they get that is when you breathe. Taking a deep breath allows that small moment of time for us to gather our thoughts, compose our bodies and assess what is going on around us. Breathing leads to pause, pause leads to better evaluation, and better evaluation leads to better decisions. Life throws so many things our way, and we can get through it all, we just need to pause and breathe.
I thought I would close today’s blog with this quote from John McCain’s farewell letter: “We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But, we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.” If John McCain could still see similarities in us after the many positions he has held, maybe we owe it to him to see the same.