I had not yet breathed a sigh of relief, but I was getting closer to it. It was apparent to me that the COVID-19 transmission rate had dropped significantly. Every day, the university, where I teach, sends an email reporting the number of new COVID-19 cases amongst its employees. One day, at the height of the Omicron surge, that email told of 14 new cases in a single day! However, it has been consistently low for at least the past month, never exceeding more than one new case day and usually staying at zero. So, I was starting to feel cautiously optimistic that there was good news up ahead in the not too distant future. I was looking forward to a spring and summer in which some of the restrictions could be responsibly lifted and the risk of transmission would remain low. I was looking forward to us all feeling just a little bit less afraid of the state of the world. Then on February 24, 2022. Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, a conflict which continues to date and has the world in a heightened state of fear and concern. Once again my optimism has waned. Like so many people, I do not know what the future holds and fear for our safety in the world. I think it would be no exaggeration to say that this is traumatizing for us all.
Perhaps, pre-COVID and all that followed it on the global stage, my sense of security was a false one. There have always been infectious diseases and the risk of becoming ill. There has always been racism and police misconduct. Heck, there has always been HUMAN misconduct, in every nook and cranny of life, and in every occupation. There have always been wars and conflicts. But, for some reason, things feel heavier now, and the troubles seem closer in proximity. Because of the stress and worry, I have really struggled to think of what topic to write about for this month’s Love Letter. For the past two years, I have really had to dig very deeply to find things to write that wouldn’t add to the already existing sense of overwhelm that is being felt by so many people. Add to that, the internal battle that one must fight when one attempts to share lighter fare, at a time when there are so many important things to be discussed and managed. Doing so can make it seem like I am minimizing or ignoring the importance of all else that is happening, that I am either tone deaf or clueless. I often think that our propensity to stick our heads in the sand when things get rough is a sign of widespread immaturity or an inability to cope with life’s challenges.
With that said, however, the exhaustion that I feel from the multiple traumas that all of us have been experiencing on a global scale and on a daily basis is, well, exhausting. We are weary. Even the strongest of us are tired. Resilience doesn’t come from a constant onslaught of hardship and struggle. Resilience refers to the ability to recover quickly from hardships. It is our ability to bounce back. Resilience does not mean that we can withstand or endure difficulties indefinitely. Being resilient can be challenging when there are just so many things burdening our collective minds and hearts. It becomes difficult to remain hopeful with each additional challenge being added to our plate. And yet, it is important, imperative even, that we remain resilient. We have work to do to make this world a better place for future generations.
These are simply reminders on how to nurture resilience because I didn’t invent resilience and what helps us cultivate it has been the same for as long as I can remember.
THREE WAYS TO IMPROVE AND ENHANCE RESILIENCE
- BE MINDFUL - Engaging in mindfulness practices, such as going for walks in nature, reflective writing, meditation, yoga, and exercise can help us to relax, stay present, and activate the healthy hormones that our bodies need to fend off despair.
Taking my dog on several walks a day gets me outside. Writing regularly definitely helps. And working out six times a week definitely helps me maintain a sense of balance and happiness in my life.
- CARE FOR YOURSELF - It’s also important to practice self-care, so that you can remain physically and mentally healthy. It’s important to get adequate rest, exercise, eat healthily and engage in relaxing activities.
I am generally early to bed and early to rise. We are healthy eaters and exercise regularly.
- SIMPLE JOY - Finding simple things that spark moments of joy helps us to remain hopeful. Music, hobbies, laughter, games, and childlike play are just some of the ways in which we can find simple joys throughout the day.
I love creating music playlists to play when I read, write, or even clean the house. Music transports us by getting the body into a rhythmic flow and soothing the soul. I’ve also started reading more than I have been in recent years, when I declared I didn’t have enough time to read. I have been making it a priority and carving out the time. We find reasons to laugh every single day. We have cultivated a happy, cheerful, warm relationship, and by extension home. Wherever we are and however we are connecting, we find ways to love each other and laugh with one another. My sons and I are also enjoying playing several word games right now - Wordle, Quordle, and Semantle. These are individual games that we all play at our leisure each day and then post our respective scores to the family group chat. It’s just wholesome, consistent fun.
How can you be more mindful, care for yourself, and find simple joys these days? Take the time to brainstorm lists for each one of these resilience enhancing ideas. Once you have your list, be intentional about putting them into practice on a regular basis. Check in with yourself regularly. Are you feeling stronger and more resilient? If so, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, work on changing the activities or increasing them until you find your sweet spot.
If you find that nothing is working or that you are struggling with symptoms of despair and depression that you cannot shake, then it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional for care.