“Life is not for chickens” one of my friends said to me, shaking his head, as he listened to the litany of my recent 18 months: my husband walking out on me unexpectedly after ten years, a cancer scare and ensuing hellacious kidney surgery laying me up for 6 months, 3 burglaries involving a stalker, a serious car wreck, and 5 house moves all within 18 months time! On top of that I was also writing a health care book on a one year publishing house deadline, raising my teenage son and doing over 80 international speaking engagements simultaneously.
“You are the most resilient person I have ever known,” were his next words. I quietly nodded, for the first time paying attention to the fact that I was exhibiting enormous ‘bounce back’ from relentless crisis. These words gave me a moment to pause and reflect.
Was John correct? Am I truly resilient? Do I just deal with life’s blows and power on, or am I a crumbling tearful wreck behind closed doors yet put a brave on face to the world? In that moment I sensed myself inside, tuning into the real ‘knowing’ me and yes John was correct, I bounce back! I deal with the crisis in phases; go into shock, cry, disregard it, get angry, then finally accept the rotten card I got dealt, think logically and creatively, set a goal and work my ways forwards with intention. I envision myself 100% strong, healthy, glowing and energized. Then, I put it all behind me and look ahead to a better, brighter, more exciting role or place I want to be enjoying. Soon, my ambition and enthusiasm replace the sorrow and overwhelming upset, and sometimes I even get inspired to leap ahead and do something grand, that helps others or changes my life grid all together.
Am I a fluke? No. Epigenetic Medicine says survivors all visualize themselves down the line — even when in wars or chemotherapy trials or after being decimated by natural disasters — in a better place. They typically see themselves happy and united with loved ones in their future. They do NOT crumble to the immediacy of their rightfully fearful or sorrowful feelings, but move through them and beyond to a better tomorrow. The moment of turmoil or terror is not grasped to tightly but more or less stepped over in the moment (to be returned to often when life returns to normal and they can process it). Survivors ignite the powerful mind-body-spirit pathway we all bear, which turns on brain endorphin production, elevates adrenalin release and stimulates the immune system.
According to Dawson Church, author of “The Genie In Your Genes” and leader of the EFT (emotional freedom technique) therapy, we all bear a gene ‘set’ that can be turned on and help us become resilient and actually thrive in spite of disastrous life calamities. “Some families exhibit a natural tendency to pull themselves through near death and catastrophic crisis” says Church. “In these instances, whether by example of pure DNA genetic predispositions, we see a small percentage of people overcome the most extreme adversities and not crumble or get locked into bereavement, illness, phobias from trauma, and conversely many will. The fact is we can all turn on this resiliency gene set.”
My immigrant Greek grandfather left home at age 11 with his 13-year-old brother. They slept on warehouse tabletops in Romania for 5 years as they packed potatoes and sent their money back home to their widowed mother and younger siblings. As street urchins they lived rugged lives, emigrated to NYC, worked 12 hour shifts shoveling coal into the big burbling furnaces of the St Regis Hotel. And then went on to become food market owners and live into their late 90s.
My father was left for dead in the WW2 jungles of the Philippines, survived a hellacious car wreck, and then 20 years later shot 18 pulmonary embolisms post-op to be declared dead and yet make the decision to ‘come back’ to life.
My ten-year battle with misdiagnosed chronic Lyme disease, left me bedridden for 3 years. I lost all the American emblems of success; career & income, marriage & home, health & well-being. Emotionally, physically and spiritually broken, death knocked on my door too many frightening times. With my then 80-year-old veteran father coaching me, I chose to live. I embraced a thorough process of self visualizations, prayer, positive thinking, and the WILL to live long enough to see my then 8-year-old son be a man of 18. Today he is 19 years old and I am 100% recovered, have been for 6 years.
My resiliency quotient is not unique. You too can bounce back and live the life you desire. And, this requires inner mental work and some dedication to yourself and patterns. Psychologists have found certain attitudes and actions to be effective in encouraging greater emotional resiliency.
Here are some absolutely salient factors to mind.
- Accept responsibility for your life and actions. Some events are out of your control, but you can influence the emotional outcome.
- Think positively. If you are struggling with this, just saying the words over and over, “everything will work out fine” is a good place to start.
- Teach yourself to accept change. Rearrange your furniture or buy some clothing of different colors than your usual wardrobe. In accepting change during a low stress time, you can better adjust when an unexpected change does occur.
- Develop your self-confidence. Learning a new skill is the simplest avenue. Take sketching classes, learn yoga, train for a 10k race.
- Be true to yourself by practicing authenticity. Facades end up limiting you severely in the end.
Many people experience anxiety during this sort of self-discovery process. You may want to see a therapist or counselor for emotional support and confirmation of your self identity during this blossoming journey.
- Connect with your inner faith. Prayer, meditation, walks in the woods, and community service are all ways to tune in with your personal power and inner beliefs. Teach these things to your children. It will serve them well in life.
I believe in the power of the mind, of the calling of your heart and the will to make your life your own. Outside help in the form of health care practitioners, therapists, medications or nutritional changes maybe useful supports to a struggling body. But, the greatest potentials lie within your own grasp. The tools are born to you and must be honed. Practicing gratitude and honoring both your ancestors and those near and dear who offer you solace or vision of hope are beautiful allies. Believe in your tomorrow.