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.

Resilience after the Punch

My youngest was hurt by another student recently. She was holding the door open and he sucker punched her. Because she said No to him. He had overheard her talking with friends about snails. She said she liked them but never wanted to be one. Then, at the door, he called her a snail and she said she didn’t like that and he needed to stop. Then, boom, she got punched in the gut.

The mama bear in me is fierce right now. The trauma therapist knows how this may sit in her body – she was intentionally punched in the stomach for saying no to someone. What does that say to her now? The parent in me knows that 6 year olds are still learning how to regulate their emotions so I am working on empathy for the other student. The therapist worries about the boy and where he learned to do this. And the feminist in me knows that boys that hit girls make me mad as hell.

I was at work when i got the call. I left pretty soon after to tend to her, and see how she was coping. And you know what, she is the definition of resilience. She was able to share how it made her feel, she was able to find ways to play regardless of the event, and she was able to rest that night and cuddle with me. Gordon Neufeld talks about what children need in order to be resilient. It is a sound foundation of attachment and then access to Rest, Play and Feelings. This helps them bounce back after adversity.

((This photo captures her making friends with another child at the beach where we camped this summer – she makes friends as easy as she breathes))

My daughter is also fierceless – be it an incident like this or when she fell on the train tracks this summer. She was going over a tricky train track on her bike. We were able to discuss it that night and help her prepare to go over it again. We were able to access her upstairs brain (thanks Dan Siegel) and know that she could get over the tracks again.

It’s no surprise that her dad and i helped her access her feelings – we made it clear that she did nothing wrong, and that we were proud of her for going to the teacher. She followed her instinct to bring in the support of the staff at school, and felt seen by them. My daughter was able to recognize that maybe the boy’s bucket was empty whereas her’s is full – she has a community of friends and he is new to the class. My daughter was also about to reflect that a sucker punch is different than a fight with her brother. The fact that it came from nowhere hurt her more than the punch itself.

Each year, there is an event called Take Back the Night. It’s for women-identified people and children to reclaim the street and fight for the right to feel safe at night. I have been going for years and love the energy that the group commands. I have also taken my kids since they were babies and toddlers. It feels like the timing is perfect this year, as it is this coming Friday in Toronto. I think my daughter needs to march and know what her right is to her body and saying NO. Check out this link to read more about it – there are events like this all over the world.

Don’t get me wrong – we are still working on co-regulation of her emotions too and she has her own struggle still with impulse control and the infamous 6-year change. Just this morning, she was so mad that her brother (who’s older) got a smidge more of juice in his cup. She refused to bike to school with him.

I told her this was emptying my cup, literally. I tried to remind her of bucket filling and she told me that it was a juice cup, not a bucket so it didn’t count. Go figure.

How to Live a Balanced Life

It’s butterfly season right now, and this summer brings a happy supply of them where i live. As they are an anchor for me, I’ve been working on creating a tool with the butterfly as the inspiration. I love the quote from Rupi Kaur that reminds us that ‘growth is a process that takes time’ – indeed strength is necessary for a caterpillar to become a chrysalis and then to transform and push out of cocoon. The metamorphosis of the butterfly is the perfect display of the rite of passage we all go through.

I am my own wellness or resilience coach – I work hard to create my own version of a balanced life by making a point to bring joy in, taking care of myself, as well as keeping myself connected to others. With this in mind, i created this worksheet as a guide to help you.

I love the various Wheel of Life tools that highlight the various parts of us – this is similar and a bit unique as it breaks down the parts into the holistic trifecta of Mind, Body and Spirit.

Think of these butterfly parts as a way to create more balance in your own life. Each part is integral to living well. So, the Antenna symbolizes the Spirit; the Head is the mind and mental health realm, and of course the Body represents the physical self-care we need to stay well. The 4 wings around it are for family, friends, work, and community. Now, add what you do that nourishes this part, and what you wish to add in order to create more balance. See what comes up, what’s missing, and what you’d like to add moving forward. We are our own experts, so get to navigate the way we live our life – what do you chose? Use the butterflies you see in nature as a guide – take time to slow down and linger in one place.

what the caterpillar saw as the end, the rest of the world saw as the beginning. lao tzu

I’ve created a free 2-page PDF that you can print and work on yourself, Get a cup of tea, a nice pen and take some time to sit with this. Click here to get a copy.

Rainbow Jar for Feelings


Recently, my kids and I were having a tough time and i was reminded me of co-regulation tol, the rainbow jar. I made it when my son was little many moons ago . It’s the tool to help with feelings as a way to process them and hold space for them. When we opened up the jar recently we noticed we needed to update it. There’s nothing like jumping on the bed to make us feel better

My son wears his heart on his sleeve. Since his sense of justice systems, sometimes it can harbour some conflict with his peers. He holds on to this anger and it’s hard for him to come back to neutral. While i can appreciate his sense of fairness, it can get in the way of accepting the reality of a moment. He goes into fight mode pretty quick and is hard to get back into his calm window.

My daughter hates to be wrong, or in the wrong. If i am every angry at her (and of course, i am allowed to be as her mom), she holds on to this and then creates a grudge herself. She also really struggles when things are less than perfect.

Both of these examples are great ones because when we can learn emotion regulation and staying with a feeling, then we are able to also foster some self-reflection and a more healthy mindset of acceptance. In our family, we are working to allow space for all the feelings, not just the easy and positive ones. That is hard to do sometimes.

Gordon Neufeld’s latest work on resilience in children (and adults truly) focuses on the importance of Play, Rest, and Feeling. Having access to all three is an integral part to establishing resilience and bouncing back after a challenge of adversity. I love the intention of noticing a full range of feelings in this process. If you want to learn more about how to take care of your kid’s feelings, Sarah Rosensweet also has a great article on how to help children with their emotional backpacks.

With this in mind, i created this tool to help my kids notice and honour their feelings. And of course, i use it as well – both as a model and knowing i can benefit from it as well. We keep it right in the dining room where any of us can access it easily. The agreement is if one of us needs help with their feelings, and asks for company, we join them. I want my kids to know i am there for any of the feelings, so we carve out space. I help them set it up, and if i am prepping dinner or something like that, we negotiate the timing to honour everyone’s needs.

Here are some of our activities:

– Jump on the bed
– Eat some chocolate
– Read a book
– Rip up some paper
– Cuddle together and get some tears out
– Dance party!
– Listen to a favourite song
– Colour
– Play outside
– Talk to someone about it
– Find a pet rock
– Build a lego fort for my feelings
– Have a cup of tea
– Play by myself
– I spy with colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet
– 5 Senses game: 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things to touch, 2 things to smell (get out some calming essential oils, 1 thing to taste)

That pouch you see in the photo has some Worry Dolls from a trip to Guatemala from years ago. I love this sweet tool to help hold space for feelings with kids. Both my kids have one that they keep close, as a reminder. What are some fun and effective ways you help co-regulate those hard feelings?

The Resilient Butterfly

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful”

I’m not sure who the source to that quote is but i love it. And, i love butterflies. Not just because part of my name stems from the word butterfly, nor because they are pretty and whimsical – though both are true. But, rather, they are a perfect symbol of resiliency, vulnerability and exquisite risk.

I recently updated my logo to connect to this path that women take when finding themselves, re-finding themselves, and taking time to take care of themselves. The butterfly is you, and it’s perched on my name, as i feel like i am here to hold space for you while you are on this journey to heal. I act as a tool to help ground you, but really believe that you are doing the work yourself to heal, connect, move forward, and take risks. I am so honoured to be a part of this journey with you.

I like that the butterfly is perched and yet still in flight. Like she is ready to take off when needed, and to hold the power of her own safety and path. Very symbolic as it connects to our journeys in healing and being in therapy. It’s not by chance that i landed on this butterfly image. I had lovely and long chats with my pal who is a creative designer to get to this place that feels like it speaks to the work i do.

A few years ago, i attended a training on post-traumatic growth and resiliency. The presenter is a social worker from the States who shared more about the steps we take in order to heal and hopefully reach resiliency. She spoke of the butterfly’s journey from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. To think of how such a fragile and yet strong creature can show such strength and resiliency!

Recently, Tara Brach posted a great podcast where she spoke about the exquisite risk people take when actively engaging in their vulnerability. I loved how she too connected the narrative of a butterfly and the path they take. She goes further to say it’s actually arrested development when we don’t take these risks in being vulnerable. Take a listen when you have a moment.

I’m starting to see the Spring moths and butterflies dance by me as i’m outdoors. I love to take a pause in what i’m doing to say hello and thank them for their trust in the world. I know that may sound cheesy, but their greeting is also a chance for me to slow down, take stock in my day, and to honour my own journey too.

Next time you see a butterfly, say hello!

(image above by From a drawing by W. I. Beecroft: THE SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER)