Mindfulness as the seasons change
We have just 2 more months of this “crazy” year. Another crazy year after the first stunning year of living in pandemic. I remember, early on, trying to think of new ways to describe the turmoil of life with COVID-19. Over the past 20 months, I have used words and phrases such as “maximum uncertainty”, “trying times”, “a very weird year”, and “new abnormal”. At this point I believe we are all running out of new ways to describe this novel virus.
Recipe for Burnout
That’s not all we are running out of. By now, you might be depleted by everything going on around and within you. Maybe you are exhausted, or even numb from hearing about upheavals happening all around us—the effects of the pandemic continuing to affect the workplace, our schools, and our homes. You may feel frustrated by a lack of focus and cooperation by our elected officials. Maybe supply chain challenges are changing timelines for projects you want to do. Perhaps you were set to return to the office, and now you can’t. Or you just got your work-from-home mojo and now you have to go back into the office some days. Add to that whatever is going on in your own little world and, with no end in sight, we have a recipe for burnout.
It’s not easy to keep going, but we know we must. To continue, we are quietly cultivating our resilience: our ability to bounce back from bad news, setbacks, and disappointments. Resilience is the process of adapting well, in the face of adversity, hardships, trauma and other significant sources of stress. Change is, and has always been, a leading cause of stress. And every aspect of our lives has seen change over the past 20 months. However, as we develop our resilience, we can face change, be present with our fears and feelings about it, and learn to accept it and even learn from it. And then, in the spirit of November and Thanksgiving, we can even be grateful for it.
The good news is that mindfulness builds natural resilience. Mindfulness helps you to pay attention to what is happening, without losing yourself (and your sh*t) with it.
- Mindful people cope with difficult thoughts and emotions by accepting them
- They don’t become overwhelmed
- They don’t shut down
- They don’t over-identify with the situation
- Mindful people learn to pause and observe, and feel and accept, versus wallowing in despair and stress
- Mindful people can therefore move through the stress and get some relief before the next stressful situation comes along
A Resilience Gap
Sometimes things get really intense, and you don’t behave like a “mindful person” and that’s okay. Sometimes you experience a resilience gap, where temporarily you don’t feel like you have the tools you need, and all the mindfulness training in the world doesn’t seem like enough. That’s okay, you will get through that too, and live to find your resilience once again. When you do feel a gap coming on, here’s what you can do:
- Give yourself credit for what you have done
- Ask: “What did I learn from overcoming the adversity?”
- Talk to others about it and listen and help others, nurture relationships
- Change up your habits, even good ones. You may have a great walking route, and you’ve been logging miles on it for over a year—time to change the scenery and cultivate another path
- Reset expectations—this one is hard, because letting go is hard. Looking at the situation differently can help you come back to feeling like you can handle it.
There is one more, and I will emphasize it because it can support every other thing on the list. This is: Cultivate Your Inner Resource. Your inner resource is a sense of well-being that is always with you. If we don’t pay attention to it, we can’t tune into it when we need to find our resilience.
Paying attention, either in a seated meditation or simply with pauses during the day, you can tune into the physical sensations that are present when you experience a sense of well-being and wholeness. When you spend enough time feeling that you can access those sensations that will give you a sense of “okay-ness” even during a challenge and that will help you regain perspective and feel your resilience.
The changes are not going to stop coming. The uncertainty is here to stay. Fear and anxiety will come (and go). As Rumi says in The Guesthouse, “Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in”. And when you meet them, you can access calm, connection, and courage.
And, when you tune back into those qualities, you will feel you Competence, and know that you have everything you need within you to flow on the waves of change without getting pulled out by the tide.
As we begin the holiday season, cultivate resilience, trust your inner resource, and be grateful for whatever comes your way.
Be Well. ~Lisa