If only I could have seen into the future a year ago, I would have written my book on resiliency sooner and titled it “At the End of my Roll” and then released it in mid-March. I would have hired the best marketing firm in the world while teaming up with every major grocery store, supermarket and pharmacy that sells toilet paper to create the most incredible book display you’ve ever seen that is custom built to fit in the toilet paper aisle. Then I would have bought one million rolls of toilet paper and given away a free roll with the purchase of every book. Brilliant plan, right? If only I could have seen into the future.
Now six or seven weeks into this global pandemic with the stay-at-home guidelines, I think many of us have hit the end of our roll… and I’m not talking about toilet paper this time. I overheard two moms talking at the grocery store today about how “all the moms they knew were just about at their tipping point and desperately need things to return to normal”.
I immediately had many thoughts on the matter.
It’s not just moms. This is a fight I will spend the rest of my life fighting, and to be honest I’m not sure I’ll ever win it. But, for the love of God, Dads matter too! If I had said to a friend the same thing about all the Dads being at their tipping point, and a Mom overheard me, how do you think she would have taken it? Regardless, that’s a topic for another day. Just know this has been tough on everyone. Moms, Dads, Stay-At-Home parents, working parents and even our kids! Everyone has had to adjust and everyone is struggling.
What if things are still weeks or even months away from returning to normal? What if this “new normal” doesn’t make things easier for those parents who are at their "tipping point"? Then what?
I wonder how many people are “just about at their tipping point”, or just about at the end of their roll because this is their first real, big life problem. This is their first difficult situation that is forcing them to react or respond (hopefully the latter) to things out of their control.
This is where resilience comes in; a life skill that is tough to hone and master without real life, practical examples. It’s almost like scar tissue. Scar tissue refers to thick, fibrous tissue that takes the place of healthy tissue in your body that has been damaged - perhaps due to a cut or burn.
I find it fascinating that learning about people's physical scars often tells a captivating, yet intimate story about who that person is and what they’ve been through. But, without those stories, without those situations, no scars would appear.
Similarly, without a trial or difficult situation in life that you’re forced to navigate, resilience may not be a skill you’ve acquired yet. This is a topic I love to write and talk about because my entire life has been one trial after another. In fact, one of the most common things said to me by friends and strangers alike as they learn more about my life is, “I don’t know how you do it.”. The simple answer is that I’ve become very proficient in understanding the art of resiliency.
Each chapter in my life tells a story about who I am and has helped form who I have become.
With each painful season, I’ve developed another layer of resilience. Now, when I’m faced with a new demanding challenge or fatiguing situation, I have an array of resources at my disposal to help me navigate whatever life may throw at me next.
Here are three strategies I’ve used that may help enhance your resilience.
Take things one day at a time and live in the moment. So much time is (unnecessarily) wasted while anxiety levels rise as we attempt to predict the future or dwell on the past. Although this next sentence might seem ridiculously obvious, it may surprise you at how much we all forget and become consumed by it.
We can’t change the past and while we may be able to predict the future, we never know for certain what the future will bring.
Worrying will never change the outcome. Now, there is still a time and place for learning from the past and planning for the future, but that time is seldom (if ever) in the middle of a crisis. When you are in the middle of a crisis, when you are in a state of emergency, rule number one is that you focus on the here and now. You block out everything else. That is how you survive.
This segues perfectly into my next point.
Focus on things within your control. This is a HUGE step in building up resiliency. It’s human nature to want to control everything. We all have opinions and ideas on how things should be, so often we sit there projecting our thoughts and feelings onto problems and situations that are out of our control. By doing this we add anxiety into our lives as we wait and the anticipation grows for the situation to be resolved. Then, if it is not resolved the way you had hoped it would be it causes even more anxiety and “rattles you”. You’re thrown off. You become emotional. All the while, you never had any control over this to begin with.
Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action. So, rather spend your time and energy focusing on situations and events that are within your control. This is how you will have the most impact, while feeling empowered and confident within your situation.
And once again this flows nicely into my final strategy for today.
Develop a routine and stay regulated. This is an essential element of resilience that I’ve learnt most recently from my autistic son. When Ethan falls out of routine and becomes dysregulated, the meltdowns and tantrums begin as he struggles to cope with the most basic aspects of life. Fully capable adults are no different - we just hide it better. Don’t give up on life because things are tough at the moment. Look at the difficult situation as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. Make it a priority to exercise regularly, eat well and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress more easily.
It's so easy to fall into bad habits when we feel we’re “at our tipping point” or at the end of our roll. We trade our workout pants for pajama pants, salmon and veggies for chips and cookies, and before you know it it’s 2AM and we’re still awake trying to binge-watch our problems away. But it doesn’t work, does it? In fact, it just makes you feel worse. This is why remaining regulated and in a routine is so important; because the stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome any challenges that come your way.
We each go through our own struggles, difficult situations and crises in different seasons of our life. Interestingly, it seems like the universe decided to align all these things for everyone this year. That being said, while we’re all struggling right now and “we’re all in this together”, it doesn’t mean we all will react or respond (again, hopefully the latter) to this situation in the same way.
I’m hoping that before you reach the end of your roll or your "tipping point", you take a moment for yourself and implement some strategies like the ones I’ve presented here so that not only do you survive these challenging times, but you thrive and come out even stronger than you were before.