How to Cultivate Resilience When Life Isn’t Fair

Have you ever felt like life just keeps knocking you down and leaves you gasping for breath? We all have at times, because life doesn’t always play out the way we want or expect it to.

But we don’t have to let these blows keep us down permanently. And even while we’re still dealing with the situation we can find some peace and happiness in our lives, and within ourselves.

According to Psychology Today, “resilience is about getting through pain and disappointment without letting them crush your spirit.”

In the article, “What is Resilience and Why is It Important?” writer Ashley Elizabeth states that people who are able to effectively navigate the highs and lows of life have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to effectively bounce back from adversity.

Whenever you come across a difficult situation, you have two choices: you can either let your emotions get the best of you and become paralyzed by fear, or you can uplift yourself from the negative and transform pain into possibility.

…These experiences may bend you, but they do not have to break you.”

To read the article, go here: https://www.lifehack.org/715558/what-is-resilience-and-how-to-be-resilient.

Now that we have an idea of what resilience is, here are a few tips for developing more of it when we need it most. Life is certainly not always fair, easy, or pain-free. It’s good to acknowledge the situation, and our feelings about it.

But we can also do things to help ourselves not only survive whatever has happened, but get back to a state of well-being and joy as soon as possible, and keep a sense of perspective in the meantime.

  1. Give yourself a break.

I mean this in 2 ways.

  • First, don’t be too hard on yourself.

Sometimes we face setbacks because of our own mistakes, but mistakes are part of being human, and they’re how we learn. So just go forward and do it better next time. Instead of spending energy berating yourself, use it to recover.

But often, the hardship we’re facing is not our fault and has nothing to do with our actions or character. Accidents, the actions of others, and many other things beyond our control could be solely at fault.

But it is still human nature to somehow think we could have done something to make things better. Or we may just feel guilty about the natural range of emotions we’re likely to experience.

But those negative thoughts and feelings just make things harder. That doesn’t mean denying what’s wrong, or denying your feelings. Feel what you need to feel, accept the situation the best you can, but try not to be too hard on yourself. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be with a good friend.

  • Second, you may need to literally take a break.

When circumstances beat you down, it makes sense to give yourself some time to rest, focus on self care, and not expect as much from yourself for awhile. Just like if we are injured physically, a situation that is unfair, difficult, or even tragic, wounds us emotionally, and we need to give ourselves time and whatever else we need in order to heal.

2. Focus on the positives.

This one comes in 3 parts.

  • First, think about all your own positive qualities.

For every time you’ve made a mistake, you’ve probably done several things right. For every small way you’ve let someone down, you’ve likely been there for them in large ways much more often.

And even if you sometimes feel weak or lost or beaten down by circumstances beyond your control, remember your strengths. Doing so can help you feel better about yourself and remind you that you can survive this situation too.

  • Second, think about all the good things and people in your life who are there for you whatever you’re going through

As with resilience, gratitude has been a popular subject of study recently, and there is evidence that recognizing and being grateful for the good things in our lives, even in bad times, can help us feel better, function better, and enjoy our lives more.

  • Third, surround yourself with those positive, supportive people, and things.

Instead of allowing negative people to make you feel worse about the situation, spend time only with those you trust to support you and lift you up.

In addition, draw support from your faith, from reading positive books, from the unconditional love of your pets, from spending time in the natural world, or whatever else helps you to feel nurtured, grounded, and in touch with what is still good about life in general and your life in particular

     3. Give yourself time.

I think the phrase, “bounce back,” though encouraging, is not a perfect metaphor. If you stretch a rubber band almost too far and then let it go, it will bounce right back to its normal shape. If you drop a rubber ball on the floor and it hits, hard, it will come immediately back up.

But we aren’t made of rubber. When life stretches us close to our breaking point, or we have a hard fall, we probably won’t be back to normal in seconds, minutes, or days. It takes time and effort, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to get through all that healing and regrouping immediately.

Take the time you need. Be patient with yourself. But trust that like that rubber band, you will eventually take on your usual, healthy form, and like the ball that had a hard hit, you don’t have to stay down. It’s a process that happens in stages, and it’s more complicated than with the above objects, but trust that you’ll get there.

Think of resilience as a muscle. You can build it up, so that it will support you when you need it. And you may be amazed at how strong you can really be.

Exercise Snacks — The Painless Way to Satisfy Your Body’s Appetite for Movement

“Exercise snacks” have recently come to my attention through my eclectic online reading habits. It seems to be a popular idea right now, but I was able to trace it back to at least 2014, in an article from the New York Times website: “Exercise ‘Snacks’ to Control Blood Sugar” by Gretchen Reynolds.

She defined “exercise snacks” as “multiple, brief, snack-sized portions of exercise.”

Apparently the concept started with a study(ies) on how short bursts of exercise spread throughout the day can be helpful in managing blood sugar.

More recently, the idea is applied to more general benefits of exercise.

In a January, 2019 article in Psychology Today, Meg Seleg makes the point that “too often people view exercise as a dreaded chore.  The phrase ‘exercise snacking’ reminds us that we can view exercise as a treat.  Moving around can feel good and give us pleasure!”

I completely agree. I’ve gradually come to really enjoy exercise. Nothing fancy or extreme. Just a brisk walk, a tiny jog, a few minutes of bouncing on my mini trampoline. But it feels great, and makes a good break from whatever else I’m doing.

Looking at a good habit as not something we have to do, but something we want to do to nurture ourselves, can reframe our feelings about it and make us more likely to  actually do it.

So as I see it, these exercise snacks have three main lifestyle/fitness benefits.

  1. For people who don’t like to exercise, doing it in snack form throughout the day may make it less overwhelming and more achieveable. It can even become a fun break to look forward to, that you start wanting to do more often.
  2. Another prevalent concept is that if your work or lifestyle is mainly sedentary, then doing even a substantial workout once a day is — though of course beneficial — not enough to counteract the negative effects of being inactive most of the day. Adding in exercise snacks can keep you more active throughout the day.
  3.  These exercise breaks can also refresh your mind and renew your energy, so you’re more productive when you get back to work.

So whether you replace your longer workout with several smaller ones or you use these “snacks” to supplement your regular workout the way you would supplement regular meals with healthful snacks, they can be a fun and easy addition to your daily routine.

Some possible snacks listed include activities as simple as standing up for a few minutes, climbing a flight of stairs a few times, walking around in your house, or going outside to get the newspaper (or mail).

Other possible exercise snacks

  • Walk or jog around the block
  • Walk on the treadmill while you enjoy a chapter of an audiobook
  • Jump rope
  • Play with your (grand)children.
  • Energetically perform a chore, like vacuuming or gardening.

Use your imagination. The point is to fit exercise in more times in a day, and enjoy it more.

That’s it for now. Happy snacking, and next time we’ll talk about tomatoes, (sort of).

 

Something Different, Again: Two Announcements and Two New Kinds of Snacks

Announcement 1. With some reluctance, I have decided to put this blog on hold for awhile. Probably for 2-3 months. The reason is that I am currently focusing on other projects, including an intense class to help me improve my skills as a writer and content marketer. I just didn’t feel I could do everything — including this blog — justice, so a temporary break seemed like the best idea.

The good news is that the skills I’m learning in this class will probably make this blog better. I’m planning to try them out with the next part of my post about Words With Friends. So I appreciate your putting up with this temporary change.

Announcement 2. Though I had planned not to blog at all during this “sabbatical,” I’ve decided to stay in touch with shorter, more informal posts, if possible every Tuesday, since they won’t take as long to write – or read.

I wouldn’t want to abandon my vast audience that I now almost need two hands to count, and as a writer I can’t really stop writing for that long. So this is a way to keep writing, keep sharing, and keep trying out new ideas to see what you’d like to hear more of, while keeping it all short and sweet.

I’ll share an insight, an experience, a quote, a poem, a book review, a quick summary of a concept or trend I’ve learned about, etc. Anything I found inspiring or funny or useful that I think you’d also enjoy or find worth applying to your life or work.

Usually these mini-posts will be just three or four hundred words, maybe sometimes even less, so you can think of them as reading ‘snacks,’ rather than a whole meal.

I got the idea of non-food snacks from a concept I’ve been reading about lately. It’s called “exercise snacking.” Hope that whets your appetite, because that’s what I’ll be writing about for next time.

Words, Friends, and Words With Friends: How to Win, Whatever Your Score

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I love words. And word games. And my friends. And my Mom. And my Aunt and cousin. By playing Words With Friends on my phone, I find a way to combine all these loves every day.

And as a somewhat introverted ‘word geek,’ I not only love the challenge of using my vocabulary, along with various strategies I’ve acquired to play the game well – I also love keeping in touch without leaving my house or making a phone call.

I’m able to stay connected while also happily living my reclusive life at the same time. And I can do what I’m good at, which is everything to do with words, and with competing with myself only, to keep getting better.

My Mom and I even use our daily multiple games to keep in touch, and to keep track of each other. We know each others’ routines fairly well, so if one of us doesn’t send words within a few hours of when they’re expected, we get a text making sure we’re okay!

Playing “Words” Bring out the Best and Worst in Me.

I am grateful and amazed that my friends and family keep playing with me, even though I fairly frequently beat them, sometimes hard. And instead of hating me, (though my Dad has reported that sometimes he hears my Mom calling me names under her breath), they congratulate me on those 90 point words, praise me for how I play, and keep coming back for more.

Something I can (mostly) feel good about too is that they also keep getting better, which keeps me growing, and shows that I’m teaching and sharing my knowledge of and love for words, and the game, with others.

I also have one or two players who frequently beat me quite soundly, which keeps me humble, gives me empathy for what it feels like, and continually challenges me to do better.

I’ve never been someone who cares all that much about winning or losing. And I don’t think of myself as highly competitive, except against myself. I always want to do better and beat my record. But I have found that this game tends to bring out my competitive side, and I behave much more assertively in this space than I do in life.

I often find myself apologizing for drawing the high card, getting the better word, or otherwise doing something that might, however unintended, make the other person feel bad. Even with “Words” I sometimes feel sheepish if I win by 100 points, (which, by the way, happens much less often, now that most of my opponent/friends are on to me and learning, literally, how to beat me at my own game).

But still I find that a different personality comes out when I play. Though I still care more about the friends I play with than winning, or even my score, I do get more competitive than I usually am. I’m always trying to beat my best score, my average score and other stats.

The game shows you your own stats on various details of the game, and when I found out I was only playing 90 something percent of 2 letter words, I set out to learn, and play,  more of them, and somehow I reached 100%. I also keep trying to increase the number of “unique words played” and of JQXZ words, which means sometimes straying from the tried, true and convenient to challenge myself to expand my game-related vocabulary, and use more of my regular vocabulary as well.

The Good and Bad of Playing, and How it Affects my Work.

The downside is obvious, especially when I’m working from home. It’s far too easy to let my ‘breaks’ expand into my work time. I try to at least turn off notifications on my phone, so there isn’t the siren song of the game calling me when I’m supposed to be doing other things.

But I do think playing a few words makes for great short breaks throughout the day, which can, when used right, actually increase productivity. I also think my mindset when I play – that of continually wanting to rise to the challenge, learn new skills, and keep trying to beat my own records – may also help me face the challenges and unknowns involved in running and marketing my new business.

I’ll try to view it as a game, a fun challenge, something to keep doing a little better at, a little at a time. Just like I’ve found that meeting new, small challenges in my daily workouts – learn how to turn on the balance beam, increase the minutes I jog instead of walk, and so on have helped give me confidence that I can meet other challenges, in life and work, meeting challenges in the game can also stretch my brain, and my comfort zone, and what I feel is possible for me to do.

A Very Few Words about Strategy in Words with Friends

It’s important to have fun, with words and with friends, to gain vocabulary, and to be balanced rather than to over-analyze all the strategies just to win. It’s about learning and connecting, not just scoring points.

But that being said, let’s be clear that this game is definitely a lot about strategy. A good vocabulary and feel for how words work helps. And you will gain a special vocabulary specific to the game itself. That’s really important.

But you really do need to have a strategy also for how to place your words to maximize special spaces on the board, block your opponent, etc. At the risk of getting beaten more often, I’ll share some tips about that next time, including some from an expert or two that have thought out the whole strategy part more than I have or intend to.

So until next week, have fun and I’ll see you on the screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Meaning in the Mundane: Three Musings on Daily Life – Part 2

2. The resilience of green, growing things.

I don’t know if I could say I have a purple thumb, because I don’t know what that would mean, though I love purple enough that nearly everything else in my life is purple, plum, mauve, lavender, lilac, violet, or something in that category.

All I can say is that my thumb has not been known for being green. In fact, I have for most of my life had trouble keeping any plant alive.

So I feel like I’ve grown (pun maybe intended) as a plant person over the years, because I now happen to have two house plants and two outside plants that are all alive, some after several years. There have been some rough moments, but with help from two or three “plant doctors” in my life, I’ve managed to keep them alive for an impressive amount of time compared to my history.

One thing I’ve learned when it comes to plants: if all else fails, cut off all the brown parts, even if it means leaving only nubs sticking out of the soil, give it water and sun, and wait for it to use its own ability to renew itself.

My most recent addition to my tiny plant family is a small mint plant I’ve been keeping, only partly successfully, by my kitchen sink.

At first I had to experiment with the container to keep it in, and how much water to give it. Too many brown leaves told me I wasn’t getting it right at first. But I cut off the brown parts, encouraged that they would soon be replaced by the miniscule, infant leaves I could see beginning to sprout. Plant procreation right under my eyes. Amazing.

Another amazing thing about this plant is that I can purposely cut off leaves, literally for my consumption, and feel confident that they will soon be replaced by new growth.

The plants in my life have proved to be, not only resilient but forgiving, giving me a new chance again and again, and in the case of this small, fragrant adornment, almost as many mint-sprigged cups of tea and recipes as I like.

I can take, and it continues to generously give of itself, without ceasing to exist. I give back by watering it, admiring it, and celebrating its generous nature with these words.

I think we can also be like that to a degree. Though we can’t cut off parts of ourselves and regrow them (except hair), we can come back from things we thought we might not survive, and continue to grow and thrive. We can also give to others, within limits, without depleting ourselves. In fact we do better when we give, allowing for new growth, sprouting leaves of our own kind.

3. A clean, blank calendar.

Last week I made the observation that this week would bring a new week, a new month, and a new year, all at once. That’s a lot of beginnings.

Though I don’t make new year’s resolutions, I usually can’t resist the pull and possibility of a whole new year stretching out as a blank slate on which to write goals I’d like to accomplish in this seemingly vast stretch of time.

I know the time will go by faster than could seem possible, and there are limits to what I can accomplish, but it is both motivating and inspiring to write down goals, and set out the steps to achieve them.

But this year I find that it is not only the clean canvas of a new year that inspires me, but an actual uncluttered calendar as well. I use my calendar to write down, not just appointments, but goals, to-do lists, business records, small steps achieved, personal reminders, and so on. So by the end of the year I have a convenient record, but also my usual inky mess.

I haven’t figured out how not to do this, but a completely clean calendar to start with rested my eye and my mind, and made me want to fill it carefully and mindfully, not to mention a little more neatly if possible.

But this pure, free space didn’t last long. Before even the first day of January I have (neatly) made notes on squares representing two days of the first month. But I will try to use the calendar, and the time it represents, joyfully, purposefully, efficiently, and well.

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Next time I will try out yet another subject, a surprise, to honor the suggestion of a valued reader.