Day 3: Creating your Resiliency Roadmap
Welcome to day 3 of our resiliency roadmap journey. If you are just joining us, take a look here to see our introduction to this project and then day 1 and day 2. So far, we've identified our personal symptoms and signs of stress in our bodies (e.g., muscle tension), our emotions (e.g., worry), our thinking (e.g., being more distracted), and our behaviors (e.g., withdrawing from things we enjoy); and we have identified aspects of certain situations that are likely to cause stress for us (e.g., having to be separated from family, lack of control). Today, we begin building our stress management behavior tool box.
Identify what already works!
I want you to spend a moment reflecting on positive coping strategies that you know already work for you. Many of you have already posted some ideas in the comments of this series so far--Nice job! Sometimes in times of stress, we forget to fall back on these active, positive coping strategies, so now is the time to really identify what works for you already and write down that reminder list for yourself. Then when you notice signs of stress in yourself or you know a situation is coming that has stressful components for you, you can intentionally pull these active coping strategies forward.
Below are some possibilities, but just like our signs of stress, each of us can have our own list of active coping behaviors that work for us. For example, if I'm really worried and find that my mind is really distracted and ruminating on a problem, I may try to distract myself temporarily (to get my brain out of this rumination cycle) by watching a funny movie. In addition, I added to this list below going for a bike ride with my kids. This one really helps me activate my body to fight against some physical stress signs, and I'm able to practice mindfulness. My kids and I focus on what flowers are blooming, how many lemons/oranges/grapefruit are on our neighborhood trees when we pass by, and other "in the present" observations (that again get me out of my head where I'm worrying about the future that I usually can't control).
You also can review our recent post about ways to cultivate mindfulness in this time of stay at home orders. I also have a favorite song that helps me remember to "live in the moment". I sometimes take a short break and actually pull the song up and listen, but other times I can just mentally play it back, and it is enough to give me a mental re-frame. Finally, I also fall back on having lunch or dinner with a good friend. I'm lucky that a good friend and I work in the same place, so it is easy to meet for lunch. And, she is ALWAYS a comfort and makes me laugh, bringing focus to positive emotion. So, what do you already have in your toolbox that works for you? That's how you are already resilient, so lets be sure to reinforce these activities!
A few more tips you may not be doing already
To round out today, I want to offer a couple more tips to add to your road map if they are not among the stress coping techniques you are already using.
- First, whatever your situation, remember to take breaks. Sometimes, in a time of stress, we can get so focused on "solving" the problem that we can be consumed. If that's happening, I encourage you to take a break and use one of your coping strategies.
- Second, I've been encouraging all our staff (and now you too!) to limit your media consumption. Certainly I want you to be informed and aware of current events, but in this time of 24/7 news channels, we can get really sucked into feeling like we have to be up on the news all day every day. Remember back when the news was just from 6:00-6:30pm and 10:00-10:30pm everyday? Or a newspaper on your driveway in the morning? Somehow we all managed to be informed enough (in my opinion) in those days. Can you limit your media intake to something more like that?
- Third, remind yourself what gives you meaning and purpose. Is it being the best partner, mother, grandmother, father, grandfather you can be (remembering that none of us are perfect!)? How do you do that in this time of social distancing and staying-at-home? Is it your volunteer work? If so, has that changed because of COVID-19 such that you may need to temporarily find a way to give back in another way (e.g., making masks, phone calls instead of in person visits)? Given all the changes in our lives right now, being able to focus on what gives us a sense of purpose and meaning may have been altered, and perhaps we haven't realized how that's impacted us. Now's a time to reflect on this issue to see if it is relevant to you and see if there is an opportunity to adapt.
- Fourth, get some time outdoors. You can do this at appropriate social distancing (I've found when we are out in our neighborhood everyone really does a great job of staying distant if we happen to cross paths). Fresh air, vitamin D, warm sunshine activating our brains, need I say more?
I look forward to seeing what resiliency tools you already have in your toolbox, AND I hope you'll share. When I've done this work with our staff, they often come up with lots of unique suggestions that are not on this starting list. And, when they share with each other, I hear, "Oh, that's a great idea! I didn't think of that!"
Join me again on Wednesday where I want to highlight some formal relaxation techniques we often recommend and give you some tools to try them. I hope then you'll add some of these to your coping technique list that you've started today. See you soon!