When life takes a nosedive, resilience needs to be your middle name. Last week, Hurricane Sandy struck with a vengeance. Some people died, some lost their homes, some were dazed by the destruction, some were stunned by the loss of so much that we take for granted.
Such turbulent times affect each of us in different ways. Obviously the degree of intensity and loss will affect how long it takes you to recover. So will life situations that preceded the storm, like a recent death, a serious health issue or a nasty divorce. One trauma piled on top of another weakens our defenses, leaving us feeling helpless and powerless.
When trauma plops down on your doorstep, you may feel that nothing is in your control. Not true. Here are ten ways you can become more resilient.
- Give yourself time to heal. Mourn what you lost. That’s no easy task. So be patient with yourself as you struggle to maintain the belief that your future will be better.
- Speak about your experiences with caring family, friends and neighbors. Many are in the same boat as you. Bonding together will not only make you feel less alone, it might also provide you with valuable resources (e.g., names of trusted contractors, gas stations that have gas.).
- Ask for support from people who care about you and from local and national organizations who can assist you. This is especially important for those who pride themselves on being independent souls. We all need help sometimes.
- Turn adversity into opportunity. A flooded basement might mean an opportunity to discard the clutter you’ve been meaning to take care of. A destroyed house might mean the opportunity to rebuild or move.
- Take a news break. Watching or listening to endless replays of footage from the disaster can increase your sense of hopelessness.
- Write an essay, a poem, a letter. Express your sorrow, your frustrations, your fears. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing. Simply convey what you’re feeling. Not sure how to do this? Follow the lead of a 4-year-old who has yet to learn that she shouldn’t do what’s creative because she’s not “good enough.”
- Return to the routines of daily life as soon as possible. Even if you’ve got a boatload of tasks to tackle, doing some “normal” activities (such as preparing a meal or socializing with friends) will be good for you.
- Be optimistic. This doesn’t mean you’re in denial. It means you focus on implementing solutions, moving forward and noticing the progress that’s been made..
- Tolerate ambiguity. Yes, you’d love to know when you can count on taking a hot shower, climbing into a warm bed, cooking a meal and having enough gas in your auto to go anywhere you want. But insisting on certainty in times of uncertainty only creates greater frustration.
- Develop a sense of gratitude. What??? Gratitude, are you kidding? This is the worst thing that’s happened to me in decades. Well, be grateful for that. Gratitude provides you with perspective. And that’s a good thing.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, trauma can be a gift. How is this possible? It’s possible because we build strength in hard times, not easy times.
Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t have discouraging days, days when you feel like it’s all too much. But it does mean that despite those emotions, you stay resolute in your goal to do what you can do to move forward. You are a marathon runner, keeping up the pace even when you’re tired. Why? Because you believe in yourself, your community and your purpose. You simply will not give up.
Though you may have been victimized by the storm, you won’t allow yourself to be a victim. You remain determined and disciplined. When you hit a brick wall, you improvise. You shift your mindset. You tap your creativity. You cope. You adapt. Eventually you notice that you’ve turned the corner. An overwhelming situation has become a manageable one.
As you continue to meet the challenge, you may find it to be a “transformative” experience, one that builds a stronger you.