“Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.” – The Bug – Mary Chapin Carpenter
This song by Mary Chapin Carpenter came to mind lately. Recently, I could relate to that bug - the deaths of family members, a series of near-catastrophic mishaps in our home, two beloved pets dying unexpectedly, receiving word of a disappointing conclusion to a project, and the list goes on. That pile of challenges in a short period of time is not unique. In fact, my challenges are lightweight as I see people with a myriad of severe challenges.
We all face difficulty, grief, and disappointments. How we recover, move forward and adjust to our challenges is a measure of our resilience. So, what are some ways to face our challenges? What are ways we strengthen our resilience?
Determine That Difficult ≠ My Life
Through it all, difficulties do not define my life or your life. My behavior determines my life. Each of our lives is a gift even when we feel like that bug on the windshield. We all struggle with challenges, and it’s our choice to grow stronger from the challenges we encounter.
Ask - What Can I Learn? Where is the Gift?
One of the purposes of life is to learn. Learning is a gift. When I face disappointments, I ask myself, “where is the gift?” or “what will I learn from this?”. A self-destructive thought is not permitted as I think of the answers to these questions. When our two beloved dogs, passed away within four weeks of one another, my response included identifying the gifts of our adventures together, their lessons of enjoying the moment, memories of cuddles, and my gratitude for being our dogs’ person for our years together. I miss them, and I have so many gifts that I received from them.
The near catastrophic mishaps in our home had gifts in them. It was a gift that we discovered the problems before the house burned down or flooded. Inconvenience is do-able – it could have been much worse!
Some of the ways I process challenges are to move my body. I go for a walk, work in the garden, work-out, or deep clean the house. (you guessed it, my house is CLEAN right now!) Moving my body helps me mentally cope and determine to move forward. Sometimes, just taking a deep breath, sitting straight or walking with my head held high gives me the mental boost I need to go forward.
Numerous studies show that the mind and body have a synergistic link. The body can reinforce positive messages to the mind and vice versa. Harvard psychologist and TED star Amy Cuddy studied this tie between the body and brain. In her book, Presence and her TED talk, she presents her scientific findings on the body-mind effects of “power poses” or adopting expansive and open nonverbal postures increase our ability to face difficulty. Using our bodies positively will help our minds move forward with strength.
Bottling up pain, disappointment, frustration, and any emotions we feel as we experience challenges results in problems growing, increased anxiety, and can lead to deeper distress. Find a trusted person that will listen. A family member, friend or professional who wants to be your sounding board and will keep your confidences is essential. My husband is my listening ear and shoulder to lean on. There were also moments that I just talked to my plants in the garden. Allowing myself to express my emotions permitted me to release and then move forward. Feel it, express it, and let it go.