I’m thinking about resilience this morning. There’s a part of me–a small part, that sees that term and mentally flips through all the actual psychological research on the topic, listing all the various factors that differentiate those who tend to be resilient from those who don’t. But that’s not really where I’m going with this. The bigger part is analyzing why I in particular tend to be resilient.
Because I am.
I get brought low by things, certainly. Everyone does. But I seldom ever stay there.
Part of it is that I have an incredibly low tolerance for whiners. That includes myself. Whining is annoying and unproductive. If I find myself grousing about something on more than one day in a row and I’m not doing something about it, I tend to get utterly disgusted with myself and go try to do something. I’m a big believer in the idea that you really don’t earn the right to complain about something if you aren’t trying to do something about it.
Part of it is my ability to view myself, my reactions, and my symptoms through a lens of distance and objectivity. Some of that is natural inclination, a lot more of it is my clinical training. I can look at myself, objectively note that I’m exhausted, anxious, want to do nothing but sleep, feel depressed and hopeless and recognize that these are all symptoms of impending depression. And instead of giving in to them, I go exercise. I get to bed at a reasonable hour. I get back to eating healthy. I do all the things I rationally know that I need to do. And usually I feel better. (Note: I am not in ANY way saying that all people suffering from depression should just pull up their bootstraps and suck it up–major depression is a big deal and usually requires help in the form of therapy and sometimes medication).
I’m an active person. Mentally and physically. I have no tolerance for just sitting around and waiting on other people to fix something if I can do something about it myself. Of course the flip side of this is that I am a control freak and often try to influence things that I actually have no control over, which does not lead to good outcomes stress-wise. But that’s a whole other ball of wax. The point is, I ACT. I DO. And that’s why I usually bounce back from whatever gets me down. For me, resilience is all about ACTION.
Back when I still practiced, when I had clients stuck in a mire of depression and worry, I used to give them this assignment: List everything in your life that you’re upset or worried about. Once you have the list, go through and mark everything that is actually, in any way, in your control. Then break those things off into separate lists and write out all the things you can do about them, no matter how small. Then I had them pick something off of THOSE lists to DO. Sometimes it was just one thing. Sometimes it was several. But almost invariably, the act of DOING SOMETHING POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE helped instill a sense of accomplishment that counteracted the hopelessness and helplessness.
It’s a policy I try to live my life by, and it’s served me in good stead.
Good for you! I also don’t stay down and out for long. SO counterproductive. I believe exercise can play a really big part in good mental health. What’s hard for most people, when they’re depressed, is to actually get up and do something. You are obviously very good at recognizing the signs and doing something about it. Like you said, there are many people who actually need medication and therapy. But I think mild depression can be handled exactly the way you’re doing it.
The longer I live the more convinced I am that “just showing up” is often the first bounce and then, curiosity takes over.
Good post, Kait.
I agree with this “just show up” philosophy, Karen. 🙂
Thank you, Kait. This is precisely what I needed to read today.