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Why does it seem like some people can take life’s challenges in stride, while others are brought to their knees?  Life can seem like a series of blindsides, but what makes it possible for one person to cope calmly and rationally, and another person freak out over the same situation?

The key is resiliency and it’s never too late to learn the skill.  No matter what challenges you’re facing, resiliency has the answer for coming out the other side with your mental, emotional and physical health intact.

The ability to trust in yourself to overcome any challenge life throws at you is worth learning at any point in your life or your career, but it’s especially relevant during economic and emotional upheaval.  You will always face challenges both professionally and personally, but how you handle those challenges will make all the difference for your future and your family’s future.

By learning how to build resilience, you can:

  • meet the demands of your work and personal life successfully
  • take action to deal with challenges, problems, and setbacks
  • seek support and assistance when you need it
  • know when to stop, rest, and replenish inner resources
  • have a sense of independence, self-efficacy, and self-worth
  • form and maintain positive, mutually-respectful relationships with others
  • have a sense of purpose and goals for the future

No matter what you’re facing or where you are on your career or your life’s path, building resilience can be learned, practiced, developed and strengthened.  The skill of building resilience is really based on how you handle things emotionally – you are either being emotionally reactive or emotionally resilient.

When dealing with life’s challenges, what you really want and need, but probably don’t know how to get, is the ability to maintain a calm and rational state when life throws large rocks, and sometimes large boulders, on your path.  Emotional resilience makes room for big shifts in your life, and it is your greatest ally in times of change.  

No matter what you are facing, you can create a turning point where you shift the old, unhelpful way of handling things, to a newer, more powerful way of thriving instead of just surviving.  The better you get at building resilience, the better you get at handling life.

In reality, change is and always has been inevitable, but how you accept and move forward from it, is going to make all the difference.  You are more in control than you realize, especially when you learn how to build resilience and how to manage your mind.

This week I’m going to discuss the difference between reactivity and resilience and how to build emotional resilience. 

The difference between reactivity and resiliency

No matter how you’ve handled difficult situations in the past, or who has modeled reactivity or resiliency for you, learning how to be resilient is a skill that can and should be learned.  The more you understand where you fall on the range of reactivity and resiliency, the easier it will be to make any desired changes.

Normally, most people fall somewhere in the middle between reactivity and resiliency.  However, since what we are experiencing right now is not “normal”, it’s even more important to know where you gravitate towards and to get clear about how to shift towards resilience.

During this time of health and economic uncertainty, being less reactive and more resilient will help us all weather current and future storms.  As moms, our children are looking to us to set the tone and to be an example of how to handle whatever life throws at them, no matter what age they are.

Reactivity 

Emotional reactivity often seems like it takes on a life of its own.  Something seems to trigger you and before you know it, you’ve reacted in anger, frustration, sadness or any other negative knee-jerk response.

Emotional reactivity is the tendency to experience frequent and intense emotional responses.  It can feel so automatic that it’s difficult to be aware of and control.

When you are emotionally reactive you may not even realize how often you jump to negative conclusions or how much time you spend sighing or complaining.  It might be difficult to recognize because this might be the way you’ve handled things for so long.

To make it easier to determine if you are emotionally reactive, see if any of the following apply to you:

  • You get overwhelmed by your emotions and are often emotionally drained by the end of the day
  • You say or do things you later regret
  • You react in extremes, often feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster
  • You are prone to lose your temper as a knee jerk response
  • You become overcome with waves of sadness or waves of panic
  • You make big decisions impulsively, without much thought
  • Other people walk on eggshells around you because they’re afraid to upset you

If one or more of these apply to you, you might want to consider that you are reactive.  However, don’t let this be a reason to judge yourself; just allow this awareness be the first step.

When you can acknowledge that emotional reactivity isn’t working for you, that acknowledgment can become your reason for building resilience.  When you are able to direct your emotions, you can handle challenges in stride.

Resilience 

Emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises.  It’s the ability to weather challenges without deviating too much from a normal state of calm.  

Research shows that those who deal with minor stresses more easily, also can manage major crises with greater ease.  Therefore, resilience has its benefits for daily life, as well as for the rare major catastrophe.

When you are emotionally resilient:

  • You understand what you’re feeling and why
  • You understand how to manage your mind instead of your mind managing you
  • You allow other people to have their feelings because you understand where they are coming from
  • You are more solution-oriented, bringing a greater sense of awareness, creativity and control in most situations
  • You don’t see yourself as a victim of circumstances, but rather as a strong, capable woman, allowing more options to become possible
  • You surround yourself with supportive people, knowing that it takes a village to do what you do
  • You have the ability to find the humor and laugh at some of life’s challenges, as opposed to always looking for the worst
  • You have the ability to learn from your mistakes, see obstacles as challenges and allow adversity to make you stronger
  • You have confidence in yourself and your ability to deal with life’s stressors
  • You know that self-care is important and you replenish yourself regularly
  • You share how you are feeling and allow others to share their feelings, knowing that part of managing your mind is talking to a trusted friend, a life coach or anyone else that can support you.

No matter where you land on the spectrum of being reactive or resilient, you can always swing the pendulum to building more resilience.

How to build resilience

As a life coach, I’m biased towards having a coach to help you build resilience, especially with the current emotional and economic issues happening with the Coronavirus.  However, if that’s not possible for you, then building resilience can still be done on your own.

In order to build resilience you have to become aware of how emotional reactivity shows up for you.  You have to become familiar with how you feel before you react.

To do this, it’s important to be a non-judgmental watcher of how you are feeling.  Since reactivity seems to happen in the blink of an eye, deciding to pay attention to your feelings is the key.

In the beginning this will happen “after the fact”, where you will take a look at a recent time where you were emotionally reactive and question what you were feeling before your reaction.  Start to pay attention and become familiar with the feelings that lead to your reactions.

For example, you might overreact by yelling at your kids and not even realize you reacted that way until afterwards.  When you do realize it, after the fact, it’s time to be curious and non-judgmental – what were you feeling before you yelled?  Was it overwhelmed, frustrated, annoyed?

Allow yourself to go back to the moment right before you yelled.  There was a feeling that led to you taking that action, therefore, it’s important to be curious about what that feeling was.

The next step is uncover the thought that created the feeling.  Emotional reactivity doesn’t just happen TO you, it happens FROM you, by thoughts you usually aren’t aware of.

At first, it may seem like an overwhelming task to pay attention to the thoughts that are creating your emotional reactivity, but it does become easier with practice.  Since your brain likes what’s familiar, you can create a new habit of paying attention to your thoughts, making that new habit easier.

When you are first learning to build resilience, you will also become aware of your thoughts after the fact.  You will look at a moment where you were emotionally reactive, get clear about how you were feeling just before you acted, and question what thought created that feeling.

For example, you may have realized that the reason you yelled at your kids is because you were feeling overwhelmed and that the feeling of overwhelm was caused by the thought “This is too much for me”.  By understanding the thought, you can decide on purpose, whether that thought is useful or not.   

Even though your brain will naturally resist change and believe that the way you’ve always reacted is your only option, but that’s not true.  When you decide that you want to be a resilient person, you are putting your brain on notice. 

When you learn how to manage your mind, you develop the ability to choose how you want to respond on purpose, and that is how you build resilience.  You begin to create a space between the automatic “feeling → reaction” pattern in your mind.

For example, once you realize that you don’t want to be habitually yelling at your kids, you may decide that the action you’d rather take is talking or discussing things.  To create this new way of handling situations with your kids, you may decide that the feeling of compassion will fuel the calmer action like talking instead of yelling.

By choosing to think a thought like “We all feel overwhelmed right now” or “Everyone is challenged by this situation”, you can create that feeling of compassion on purpose.  The key to building resilience is knowing that when you think better, you actually feel better, and then you do better.

Building resilience, especially during difficult times, is how you come through stronger and more capable for yourself and for your children.  When you learn to build resilience and learn a better way to handle this challenging time, you can be an example to those around you about how to choose resiliency over reactivity.

When you take life’s challenges as an opportunity to build resilience, you will truly be making lemonade out of lemons and, once the dust settles, you will have a skill for life.

Summary  

  • No matter what challenges you’re facing, resiliency has the answer for coming out the other side with your mental, emotional and physical health intact.
  • You will always face challenges both professionally and personally, but how you handle those challenges will make all the difference for your future and your family’s future.
  • No matter what you are facing, you can create a turning point where you shift the old, unhelpful way of handling things, to a newer, more powerful way of thriving instead of just surviving. 
  • When you can acknowledge that emotional reactivity isn’t working for you, that acknowledgment can become your reason for building resilience.
  • Research shows that those who deal with minor stresses more easily, also can manage major crises with greater ease. 
  • When you learn how to manage your mind, you develop the ability to choose how you want to respond on purpose, and that is how you build resilience.