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Resilience: The Key to Surviving Anything

Resilience: The Key to Surviving Anything

    Have you ever seen bamboo shoots in a storm? I have. I remember huddling in a hut in Thailand watching a raging typhoon sweep through the mountains. The clump of bamboo outside the window was completely flattened by the raging winds. The wind was so strong that it lifted the roof right off the hut and I began to fear for my life. Then, suddenly, the winds dropped. I looked out and saw the bamboo shoots rise up again unharmed. That’s resilience. It’s the most important thing we can cultivate in these uncertain days.

    The global financial melt-down is creating hardship for many people. Maybe you too have some fears about how your life and that of your loved ones is going to be in the future? And it’s not only financial problems that we can suffer from. Health problems, or we can lose a loved one. Or we can suddenly be faced with unemployment.

    I myself lost a lot of money when a rogue builder decamped to a South Sea Island with the money that I had paid him to build a new house. In the end the half-built structure had to be sold at a great loss. This experience made me think about how we can overcome difficulties. What I learned was that my life started getting back on track the moment I started accepting that my life had changed for ever.

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    I learned that there are ways of responding to life that make it easier to regain control and find ongoing happiness. One of the ways that we can do that is to become more accepting and thus more resilient.

    Resilience helps us to overcome anything

    Resilience and acceptance are closely linked. It’s when we face our difficulties square on that we tap deep into resilience.

    The first response to disaster is usually denial – which is the opposite of acceptance. It took a long time for Linda D. to emerge from denial. She came to see me soon after she was released from hospital. Linda, a young mother, was in her mid-thirties and looked fit and beautiful. Glossy chestnut curls framed her face. But I noticed that her smile was strained as she told her story. Some months ago, she said, she had felt a persistent ache in her belly but had put it down to indigestion. A while later she went to the doctor. He ordered a scan, then exploratory surgery.

    “Imagine my shock, “she said, “when I woke after the operation and the surgeon told me that they had sewed me up again because there was nothing, absolutely nothing they could do for me. They found cancer all over my liver. My first thought was: ‘No! Ben’s only four. I can’t leave him on his own. I just can’t be dying!'”

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    It took Linda some months to accept that she was going to die. In that time of denial, her emotions were in turmoil.

    It was late spring when Linda came to see me one last time. She was frail and her skin was like
    parchment. I settled her into a chair on the veranda. The wisteria blooms were a sea of purple. We were silent for a while. She told me that she was dying.

    “How do you feel about dying?” I asked

    “I feel at peace now,” she said. Then she raised her face to the sun and shut her eyes. “Everything is so precious. Now I know how precious each moment is!”

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    She died some weeks later. Because she was ready, she was able to let go of life gracefully. Her healing journey had led her from denial, rage and dread to a place of acceptance and peace.

    The path to acceptance

    A new beginning can only happen when the old form disintegrates. Look at what happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly: When the time for transformation has come, a larva wraps itself in a cocoon and becomes a chrysalis. Just imagine how that might feel! Suddenly the larva is constricted, can’t move anymore and darkness closes in. Then disintegration begins. Some cells die, others revert to an undifferentiated state, some cluster together as discs that carry a genetic blueprint for new structures. If you compare a caterpillar to a butterfly, they seem worlds apart and yet one transforms into the other. In some sense, you could say that the caterpillar dies. From this death, a new, beautiful form arises.

    Before something radically new can appear, the old form has to die.

    Acceptance is the first step of healing. It grows slowly over time. There are some simple exercises that help the process of acceptance. One of the most powerful techniques is Expressive Writing therapy as the story of
    Marion P. shows.

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    Marian’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack in the first year of their marriage. It happened just weeks before she gave birth to her son, Josh. Years later, she said:

    “I just couldn’t accept that I was now a widow with a baby. I so wanted to be part of a little family! I spent four years railing against my fate. Then I realised that I had to look to the future. After a while, I began to realise that Josh and I were now the ‘little family’. Acceptance marked the beginning of my healing process.”

    This is like the bamboo shoots righting themselves after the storm has passed.

    How can we practice acceptance and build resilience?

    I think the most important thing is to be honest with ourselves. Sometimes it takes courage to look reality in the eye. But when we do, we can learn to overcome anything.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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    2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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    So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

    9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

    It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

    It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

    10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

    There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

    But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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    Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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