building resilience

Photo credit: matti-keponen-APmBcTBLRic-unsplash

I mentioned in my last post that I needed resilience. I didn’t know yet the depth of that truth.

A few weeks later and the “drag” of our situation is wearing on me more than ever. I feel the weight of my own emotions and inconveniences. I am burdened by the pain and struggles of those who are suffering much more than me. I see others reacting with great frustration to the limitations and longevity of the virus impact.

Our stress behaviors show off loudly these days.

It helps to remember that anytime we adjust to something new (new job, new home, new family member), it tires us out. So much about our situation is new right now. New ways of working or going to school – or losing those things. New ways of getting basic supplies or doing without. New ways of interacting or missing interactions no longer available to us.

Uncertainty is wearing. We typically do not like to stand at the crossroads without clear direction, but everything about our future feels unknown. Many decisions that were previously straightforward require more thought now. In addition, we often have to consider the complexity of how our choices affect others.

The loss of anticipated activities and celebrations also depletes our motivation. Feeling out-of-control, vulnerable, or trapped is unnerving. Isolation, loneliness, fear, and grief are physically exhausting. So is living in tight quarters with others who are also expressing their reactions to this out-of-control life. Everyone is at least slightly on edge – some of us much more than others. So what can we do?

SHUT DOWN THE “SHOULDS”

Erasing unrealistic expectations and perfection-pressure helps us conserve needed kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. When I replace “I should be… do… act like…” with a humble recognition of my weakness, I often find others willing to step in with forgiveness and help. I am learning to set goals (significantly) lower than normal at times, leaving margin for those days when motivation, energy, and creativity wanes.

GRACE.  GRACE.  GRACE.

I have repeated this word more times than I can count. Encouraging myself and others to offer grace and acceptance rather than criticism, judgement, or anger is crucial. It’s not easy to do, and I fail often, but we all desperately need it. I’m taking initiative to reach out to others and lean into relationships – even when it is hard for me. I hope that practice will stick with me over time.

TAKE CARE

I am thinking about how I can prepare myself for the long-term effects of our “new world”. Awareness of all the above helps. As does taking care of my physical needs as much as possible (healthy routines, sleep, fresh air, good food, water). Working on a significant, joy-giving, or worthwhile project each day/week gives me energy too.

The flower above is my inspiration – beautiful, strong, and resilient – growing courageously and miraculously in the crevice of that challenging rock. Ironically, that impressive perseverance would not be needed or visible without the challenge.

What has been most difficult for you this past week? How are you building your resilience?

lessons learned climbing a volcano

We had an incredible time climbing the Iztaccihuatl volcano yesterday. (Here you can read a blog my husband wrote about the volcano legend.) It was a demanding ascent through the snow to over 16,000 feet elevation. I learned some important lessons from the experience; I don’t want to forget them because I believe they are relevant to so much of life and leadership.

  • push beyond the comfort zone

This kind-of hike is not a normal everyday activity for anyone in our group. It was difficult – physically and emotionally… legs hurt; lungs ached; wet and cold harassed; nausea and headaches assailed, fear attacked; exhaustion was real. However, at the end, even those who had suffered most claimed it was a (horribly) awesome experience.

Isn’t it true that we often get to great achievement only through agonizing struggle? There is something very satisfying about pushing through the challenge to accomplish something worthwhile. Where can I push myself beyond my comfort zone to a greater challenge…physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually?

  •  prepare and take care

Without a doubt, previous exercise routine, warm wool and polyurethane clothing, and hiking quality boots made the climb easier. Extra socks, hats and gloves came in handy, as did the lemon-grass tea and the Ibuprofen and Excedrin tablets. It was also important to drink plenty of water and re-apply sunscreen throughout the day. (I learned this hard lesson last year – I paid a heavy price in sore muscles due to dehydration.)

It makes no sense to take on a big challenge unprepared. Strengthening ahead of time and planning well means I am ready for the test and can even support others. How am I training today for tomorrow’s challenges? What can I do better prepare for the future?

  • go with others

During the day we talked, laughed, took pictures and praised God’s creation together. All along the climb, different people battled seriously with fatigue, cold, fear, altitude sickness, and pain while others took turns to encourage each next step, accompany those who needed rest, help and protect on the treacherous slopes, share food/medicine/clothing supplies, and celebrate and rejoice at each milestone. I was so proud of those who persevered when it was tough and of those who served when others were weak. We made an incredible memory and “bonded” because of what we went through together.

I would never consider attempting a climb like that alone, and I was so impressed by the support and camaraderie offered that enabled others to achieve more than they could by themselves.  I need that kind of team in all areas of my life. Who encourages me? And who am I helping to accomplish what they could never do alone?

What have you learned from a challenging experience? Are you ready for the next one?