It’s a fickle thing, really. Over the past several years, thanks to Brene Brown, we have seen a peaked interest in the idea of being emotionally resilient. This general idea of focused perseverance, rooted in an emotional strength and discipline of sorts. It’s something that we as humans have inherently, and it’s something that continuously is mistaken with will-power, or strength of character.
It’s only natural, that the idea would move from personal development into the world of recovery. There is something about addiction that feels discipline based. Something that feels, as if it could be based on will.
My favorite imagery to use to describe resiliency is to compare it to a tree. We as humans, are more alike to our arborous neighbors than we think. As trees move, bend and snap in the face of bold weather and adversity, they always stay rooted. They always come back to center, they adapt to their new conditions and continue to grow. Be like a tree.
The idea of willpower alone, is something that is a common “hot-topic” when we discuss substance use. It is the deception of the brain that will have you convinced that you can “will” yourself out of addiction, or “just quit already.” As we come into a less stigmatized world-view of addiction, we know that will-power alone will never be enough on its own. It’s not possible, you don’t “will” yourself out of dis-ease.
So then, what is resilience? We know what it is not-
Resilience is not:
Here is my definition of resilience:
To be able to spring back from challenges, into the present moment with an increased awareness.
And for everyone curious about Webster:
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Inherent in both definitions, is the idea that there will be difficulties. That is unavoidable, and the same is true of recovery. It will always, be challenging. Obstacles are inevitable. It’s not our ability to have the control, it’s our ability to come back with vulnerability to the present moment.
It’s the ability to supersede the moment in order to achieve some sort of insight, otherwise unavailable to you. To learn from mistakes, challenges and difficulties to come back as the best version of ourselves. And that ability is what makes people in recovery superheroes.
It takes a lot to come back to the moment after you’ve been using. Each relapse and mistake in recovery, can feel like a thousand steps backwards. That slippery slope only makes it easier for us to yield to our preferred escapism and coping mechanisms. A cycle, that I argue can be broken by cultivating more resiliency.
How do you cultivate resilience?
I would argue that resilience is cultivated. It’s grown, built upon over time layer by layer and through time and experiences. It’s a seasoned conditioning, that happens every time we come back to the moment.
Researchers argue that humans are more resilient than we think, and that there is a strong benefit to adversity. Becoming more resilient develops a better stress response, and helps us to feel better suited to cope with things that come up. The more resilient, it’s argued, are the least stressed among people.
5 things you can do daily to cultivate resilience:
Resilience begins with the ability to come back to the moment. These daily tools can help you recover from difficult times, and help keep you centered and prepared for future difficulties.
- Intentional Breathing- The very of act of engaging with the breath will send you quickly back into the moment. Try it now. No really, just take a few deep, clearing, intentional breaths. Feel better right? Do this as often as you remember. Practice. Meditate. It will help you react a little less, stress a little less and come back to the moment a little more.
- Journal- I’m a bit of a journal hound and I realize it’s not for everyone. If you belong to the category of interested in writing about my feelings club, hear me out. The process of sorting out our thoughts and feelings on paper regularly, really provides you some insight into where you are getting caught up. Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to even make a list of things you felt, can be really healing.
- Basic Self-Care- I know. This is almost implied, and has become a bit of a pretentious fad in 2018. But let me make a distinction, and argument of support for self-care. No matter who you are, you cannot heal your mind and spirit if your body isn’t taken care of. You need sleep. You need nutritious food. You need movement. You have to take care of your basic needs. The candle-lit bubble baths are great, but come secondary to you being well-fed and well-rested.
- Positive Turnarounds- When you are faced with adversity what is your reaction? I invite you to practice changing your thinking. Instead of participating in victim thinking, turn it around into “What is this trying to teach me?” “How is this contributing to my growth?” “What benefit is this going to bring me later on?”
- Support- Possibly the most important. You have to have support, connection. You have to have somewhere to come back to, when you do come back. Who is that going to be? Getting connected is crucial.