The Alchemy of Resilience

It is week 10 of Pandemic Living: As we are settling into a routine of sorts, it comes with resistance as this is not the life I want to be living. I want to see my friends in person and hug them, and i miss my everyday life of going to my office to work, getting groceries, and picking my kids up from school.

And yet, like all change, I was in denial at first, and am moving into a place of acceptance. It hasn’t been easy, and at times it has been mixed with grief, anger, fear, and such sadness. My Window of Tolerance is shorter than ever before and being stuck at home (a place i love typically and know i am very privileged to have) makes it hard to settle into this life.
But like a butterfly, we are going through these stages of Metamorphosis. At first, we were defiant and messy in adapting to this new life, then we worked on a new plan to accept the transition (called Liminal Stage). As we are starting to accept that this life during a pandemic is nowhere near as short-lived as we hoped, we need to start working on what comes next. Transition is the time to claim the life I want. It’s when I need to turn inward and practice Introspection. When we are asked to do this during a pandemic with no clear end in sight, this transition is more challenging.

Once we start accepting the reality, we have reached the Integration stage. This Initiation process means we are moving closer to our true Self and move to a version that is hopefully better than before. When we reach integration, that means we are more able to bounce back and seek out things we love to balance the shit and hard times of this so-called life.

A big part of how we adjust to change, both Rites of Passage like parenthood or unexpected change like a pandemic is Resilience. We all go through change but some of us adapt and bounce back better. I know this is a buzz word, and yet when we are living through a massive global change, resilience is a necessary tool to help us get to the other side of that rainbow we keep seeing everywhere.

Not only are we experiencing a pandemic, it is also a collective trauma, as I have mentioned before. Trauma is not just something that hurt us, but also something where we were not able to experience the good stuff that we were looking forward to. This is where grief comes in about things we have lost during this time. Children look to their adult caregivers to help support the healing after trauma. This helps them build resilience and immunity from future trauma. But how do we offer this to others when we are still struggling too?

There is hope.

Resilience is how we weather the storm. It happens when we tap into our own inner strength, believe it’s there, and use it when things are hard. This is our Sense of Self.

Some definitions of resilience include 1) the ability to restore balance and come back to your centre 2) the ability to overcome difficulty and move through trauma or adversity, 3) the capacity to recover quickly so that you can take in pleasure and have a healthy nervous system response and 4) resilience is acceptance of adversity. It is not just about how we recover from a challenge but also accepting when we cannot change something. That’s how we integrate and move on.

Alchemy is the magical way of combining ingredients to get to an even better new item. As a student of resilience, it is a big part of my work as a trauma therapist. Here, I’ve curated a recipe of sorts to help build your resilience.

6 Factors of Resilience
* REST – Find more peace and strengthen your relationship with your Self; learn to self-sooth, regulate and manage your thoughts; nurture yourself with good food, practice self-care and self-compassion; access those old resources that worked in the past; take news and social media breaks; get outside to be in nature; sleep as well as you can.
* Acknowledge your FEELINGS – Be mindful in moments to slow down the overwhelm; learn tools for worry brain or anxious mind; notice you sensations in your body and respond to them; be honest with yourself and your family about how you are feeling; allow time to feel your feelings and let others do the same, notice your fears specifically and help yourself get to the end of the fear by naming it – this helps lessen its effect on you.
* GRATITUDE – Kindness for self and others; intentionally notice the good in the day; notice how much of the news you can take in; share things you are grateful for in a journal or with a loved one; seek out the things that you appreciate now.
* Reach out for SUPPORT and Connection – Connect with others; hold space, empathy, listen without trying to fix; find new ways to connect by also respecting boundaries and safety; find the shared experience instead of the ways you are struggling more.
* PLAY – Be creative and find joy; do things you enjoy and have been meaning to do so that there are things you look forward to and are proud of; laugh and have pleasure in your body; being creative and curious helps us build resilience as it shows our brain that we are not stuck in flight or fight response; find ways to move your body (song, dance, throw a ball, get outside)
* Have a ROUTINE – You don’t need to over-schedule yourself, in fact the opposite is true. When you have a rhythm that your body recognizes, it experience that bounce back quality. Find things you can control to help balance the overwhelm and uncertainty in your body; cook or do thins in your home that you know you can do. This certainty helps deepen your adaptability and helps get to a place of radical ACCEPTANCE.

Mother told us to pause and retreat. So retreat with nourishment and reflect. Go inward. Danielle LePorte

Collective Resilience
We are all enduring this experience of the pandemic, albeit in different boats. Common threads coming up include a heightened sense of fear and anxiety, the social disconnection from being forced to distance can increase loneliness or at worst violence in the home, and the overarching thread of the unknown. ((Cue Into Unknown song in Frozen here))

This then impacts our health – our individual health, the interrelatedness to others in our personal life, as well as our collective larger community. When we seek out ways to practice enhancing our resilience, we are not only helping ourselves but our community. As humans, we are built to survive and also thrive. As i mentioned in a previous article, our brain has 3 systems, Defense, Social Engagement and Drive: This is where our Drive comes in, which is our uniquely human brain’s capacity to thrive.

This is the time for intentional pause so we can commit to a Sacred re-prioritization. We need to root in the earth instead of be unearthed by this massive change that was dumped on us. We need discomfort to grow. Danielle Laporte recently shared that this is not about going back to the way things were, but rather transforming from my heart-centred place. It’s about an ego death, hence the opportunity to re-prioritize your values from your true Self.

Here are some journal prompts that may help you unpack this further:

Journal Prompts
1) How can I live my life according to my values? If not all day but some time with each day, how can i practice this?
2) What is my Passion Project – these fuel the fire within. It allows your mind to still, to become clear and helps you focus on something to look forward to. Spend some time imagining this and putting it on paper, even in draft form it helps get the wheels turning.
3) Shapeshifter Visualization – who do i want to be after this? How can i evolve into a different version of myself. How can i accept that nature has its course to take as well.
4) Create a manifesting collage (or “Wombifesting” thanks to Latham Thomas’ reclaiming of the word to allow things to happen versus mange them happen). Get your old magazines and glue sticks out and create a vision board of who you want to be 6 months from now. Two years from now.
5) What’s the thing you’ve been wanting and what’s the fear you’ve had that has come up now again? What’s standing in the way? What armour do you need do build up your strength to challenge your fear?
6) For those of us working a lot and now working at home – notice how you can work from home and order things online. How is this helping or harming your life plan? Ask yourself: Am I living the life i love? What can I change to be more aligned with it?
7) Looking at the above list of ingredients for resilience, What can you add or change to your practice to ensure more opportunity for resilience?

When we experience something traumatic, we are not doomed for it to take over us indefinitely. There is always potential for growth and recovery. So, as not a lot is in our control now due to the pandemic, we can still review our Locus of Control, and identify what is within our realm of control. This is where we can make choices for wellbeing. A new identity is forming now so it’s a good time to ask yourself why am i here? What do i want in my life now? This is about taking the opportunity for EVOLUTION, that than bouncing back to what was.

We are not on the other side of the rainbow just yet. As we are learning more about ourselves and what works for us, when we make intentional choices to do things that comfort us and balance the harder feelings, that is resilience. We are not on the post-traumatic side of this new reality, and yet post-traumatic growth is itself a journey of resilience. What you do now will help you recover in the new world post-pandemic.

New Moon Self-Care Series – Inner Child Letter

This month brings darkness mixed with celebration. It then doesn’t come as a surprise that this feelings get internalized in us. It’s a perfect time to turn inward intentionally and take care of the shadows and darkness that lingers in you.

As this is the final Fall New Moon Self-Care Series month, i wanted to give you a gift to yourself that is all about connecting to this new moon and planting a seed of future wisdom and self-compassion. This is a time to set an intention of a new path and time to get closure from last month.

This New Moon falls in a busy week – December 6 is the Montreal Massacre, December 7 is National Letter Writing Day and the New Moon in December. In a few weeks, we celebrate the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. With this in mind, I’m hoping you can spend a few minutes this week in a letter you write to yourself.

As this month seems to be catered to the young and young at heart, it brings up hard feelings for us as adults, especially for those of us that have childhood traumas or more recent traumatic experiences in our life. The holiday season definitely comes with some hard/mixed feelings for a lot of us. Mothers especially need to balance their own needs while nurturing all the wishes and hopes of their wee ones.

So, this month, I’m encouraging you to write a letter to that Inner Child – that version of you that you want to recall or create. Whether they exist only in a memory or a hope, write a letter to that young version of yourself and what you hope for them to receive this month. Think about ideas that allow space for joy, happiness, surprise, eager excitement. You may not have these memories stored as real ones, and that’S okay. This is a time to recreate the memory you wished you had as well.

Steps to Intentional Journal Writing

1) Get into a cozy spot that allows you to writing uninterrupted for a about 10-20 minutes. Light a candle or incense for some mindful soothing smells. It’s now time to slow down a bit. Sit comfortably and chose a writing medium that shakes to you – it can be a journal or piece of paper and good writing pen.

One thing that may help you get in the best writing zone is to listen to a guided meditation on Inner Child work. I like this one a lot – thought it is longer and not just on Inner Child, she calls upon our inner council.

2) Take some deep cleansing breaths and then visualize yourself at a door. The door has some festive greenery and smells like a Pine forest. Knock on the door and see a young child answer. This is the young you. She is excited to see you and grabs your hand, pulling you inside. Once on the other side, you notice the room is covered in silks, trees and the space feels more like an enchanted forest than a room. Everything about it feels right and that it is where you belong.

Your Inner Child gives you a tour and asks you to sit and join her. She is ready for play and to celebrate this time of year with you. What is it that you are doing? What is it that she is excited to show you? Listen without judgement, vulnerability and shyness. You are eager to participate. Finish the visualization by thanking your Inner Child when it is time to leave. Give her a hug and walk back through the threshold.

3) Immediately after this, write a letter to this version of you. Thank her for the visit and time together. Think of words that are an extension of what you just did with her. Recount what she told you, and how you felt as you played with her. What is it that brought you joy, happiness and a youthful spirit? Do not stop to question it rationally or with a logical brain. Stay in the flow of emotional free writing. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. Feel free to sketch or draw what you saw. It may be a fun further challenge to write this letter with your non-dominant hand. There is something cathartic about doing the exercise this way.

4) Finish the letter by signing it, and enclosing it in an envelope. Place it somewhere it can be seen by you so that you can give yourself the first gift of Winter – a moment to play and be joyfully present.

I believe that journaling can be a very therapeutic tool and a lot of struggle with it. This exercise is just a suggestion – if you don’t feel safe or ready to meet your Inner Child, feel free to journal about what you hope to do this winter. It is a great tool to plant seeds like this on a New Moon – especially as Winter begins later this month.