Want to feel confident that no matter what life throws your way, you have everything you need to handle it?
It’s hard to imagine anything much crazier than what the world’s experienced these past few years. But despite all the chaos, unpredictability, restrictions, injustice, and unrest, many people are still thriving – feeling happy, confident and connected. They are resilient.
How is this possible? The world came to a screeching halt and life as we knew it has not returned to “normal”. But some people haven’t missed a beat or are doing better than they were pre-pandemic.
Is it just chance or good luck? Is it the right time or the right place sort of thing? Are these people taking some magic pill or something? I don’t think so…
I started asking this question in the early 90’s when I was doing my graduate thesis:
Why is it that some people succumb to socioeconomic and interpersonal struggles, as well as physical and mental illness, while others facing similar adverse circumstances seem to glide through even the toughest of times — recovering easily and living brilliantly?
What I found and continue to unveil in my work with clients, is that those who thrive against all odds have mastered one thing more than anything…
The inner game.
Their outer world might be as messed up as any, but they have a particular outlook and perspective, and they also possess a certain set of mental, emotional, and inter relational skills which allows them to roll with the punches.
I’m going to share with you what I’ve observed in my 25+ year career about the factors that foster resilience so you can apply these in your own life to overcome your painful past and not only make your mind a better place to live, but begin to create your own amazing life on the outside too (or at least one that’s several steps up from where you’re at now).
Life is full of unknowns and uncertainty, and change is a near constant. You didn’t get an owner’s manual on how to be the best human possible, nor a blueprint or roadmap of the best way to get from here (surviving) to there (thriving). Even experts in the field of human development can’t say for sure whether you’ll develop into a healthy, happy, socially adjusted, or highly functional being.
We DO know, however, that certain factors support wellbeing & serve as “protection”, while others place you at an increased risk. Still, nothing is for sure. We see people with seemingly “perfect childhoods” struggling as adults, and others with high ACE scores (Adverse Childhood Experiences), achieving great success. So, that’s how I know it’s got to be an inside job.
Promoting human resilience – our ability to rise above, move beyond and bounce back from the hard knocks of life, has been the focus of my work for the last three decades. I seek out the stories of people going against the odds, overcoming huge obstacles, and making it great. I’m especially interested in what promotes post traumatic growth because my work is dedicated to fostering resilience and helping my clients build the “mental muscle” to get through those unavoidable tough times.
I’m particularly fierce in my quest these days because the stats don’t look so good. Almost 20 percent of U.S. adults struggle with debilitating anxiety and depression. I’ve walked in those shoes, and I’ve helped thousands of clients restore emotional balance and reclaim their personal freedom, without years of therapy or medication. I’m going to give you a glimpse of what I’ve discovered so you too, can be on your way to health and happiness.
Bottom line, you aren’t at the mercy of your circumstances, nor your surroundings, nor your family history and genetics. What determines whether you merely survive or thrive, is an inside job.
Your thoughts, feelings, reactions, internal habits, and patterns are the determining force.
I’m not intending to minimize some of the horrific things you may have witnessed or experienced. What I am intending is to help you see that regardless of your past, emotional wellbeing is within your reach. Whatever “program” has been on replay, creating your painful memories and mental health symptoms, is completely rewritable.
The mind and body can be redirected, re-shaped and cultivated.
At one point we were told that once damaged, the brain was doomed. Remember the egg in the frying pan anti-drug campaign that first launched in the 80’s? Now we know the mind is malleable, thanks to neuroplasticity.
We understand that not only can we change our psychology, but we can impact the underlying physiology as well. This means the way your nervous system processes information, and how it fires can be altered. This, in turn, impacts how structures – actual brain mass -gets formed. Neurons that fire together, wire together. So, let’s get things properly firing and extinguish anything that’s counterproductive.
You can wire yourself for more happiness, confidence and connection.
I am a huge advocate for personal development work, and I absolutely respect that pharmacological interventions are sometimes necessary. But I also know that you can’t talk to the part of the brain that’s been traumatized and medication isn’t for everyone. What’s been most effective in creating lasting change for my clients is guiding them to take charge of “self-regulating” their moods and emotions. Teaching them the keys to getting the brain and body aligned while putting to rest old patterns, learned fears, and habits that keep them in the struggle and living small.
I teach my clients to fish. I help them build their inner resources, a toolbox so to speak, which allows them to master the inner game. This is key to keeping their heads above water during stormy times, and healing from their painful pasts. I offer my clients the knowledge and skills to reset the way their nervous systems habitually fires. This reset is crucial, as is creating a routine that keeps things in check so you can continue to gracefully navigate the twists, turns, and bumps that come with being human.
Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of handling your unique thoughts, emotions and physical reactions. I want to help you learn to adjust and adapt to unpredictable variables, life-changing events, and sometimes extremely stressful situations, by doing the “inner-cise”, as well as the exercises to build a healthy brain / mind and body. I want to help you build your resilience muscle.
What is the “Resilience Muscle”?
The “resilience muscle” refers to a combination of the right mindset, a specific skillset, and a way to effectively reset the brain and body to get things on track towards health & success (success = moderately healthy, happy, socially adjusted, and functional). These tools play an essential role in healing from adversity, releasing limiting patterns, lifting your mood and reducing the negative impact of stress on your brain and body.
Take These Steps to Build Resilience & Support Emotional Wellbeing
- Interrupt Emergency Mode and Engage Rest & Restore Mode.
Our brain’s top priority is survival and it’s constantly scanning for threats. This can become a bad habit when there is no actual threat, leading to hypervigilance, anxiety, panic, and worry. We have to identify the Fight or Flight habit and understand when it is an “automatic error message”. Then we interrupt the pattern, just like you would correct a puppy when biting or chewing on something it’s not supposed to. You distract, replace and/or redirect with something appropriate. Think, “Catch, Cancel, Correct”.
Reset Protocol: Recall what soothes & brings you peace? Maybe it’s a positive memory, a comfy place to rest, a sound, smell or texture. You could build a self-soothing kit that has something for all senses. I like aromatherapy (peppermint and citrus are great pattern interrupters). You could also move your body in a rhythmic soothing manner or do cross lateral movement, as if you were swaying or rocking to soothe a restless child. There are several strategies aimed at calming and stabilizing the nervous system. I teach these to my private clients and those attending my online workshops and virtual events. They are fast and effective.
- Intend Well – Focus Your Attention on What You Want.
Life happens through you, not to you. Being mindful of what gets airtime in your head, in your heart, and in your conversations with self and others is imperative to changing your life. For example, you could intend to stop complaining, to take things less personally, or to focus on the blessings in your life and cultivate gratitude.Again, “Catch, Cancel, Correct”, this time any limiting thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions or sensations. There are cells in your brain that will bring to life whatever you show it. They don’t know the difference between what you imagine and what is really happening. So, imagine in alignment with your desired outcomes, not according to what you fear.Reset Protocol: Set clear intentions each day and project out for the week, month, quarter and year. Stay present to how your thoughts, words and deeds either align with your intentions and desired outcomes or take you off course. When you get off track, recall your intention and do a centering / grounding exercise, such as Qi Gong, Sun Salutations or Pranayama Breathing to focus your attention on your intention.
- Improve Your Heart Connections.
We are social beings. Love and connection is a basic need that when unfulfilled, can leave an imprint that lends to mental health struggles. Understanding how you learned how to relate to your “Self” and the world is an important start to building solid connections and having healthy relationship dynamics. When you understand your attachment style and what drives your interpretation of events and situations, you can again interrupt the pattern and set course for healing relationship wounds. This translates not only into more self-trust, but also deeper connections with others.Reset Protocol: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness is at the root of healing the wounded heart and cultivating meaningful connections. These are two of my favorite meditation practices and can be done as a routine, or whenever you get your feelings hurt, feel resentment or anger, or find yourself ruminating and replaying a difficult past event.
- Stay Committed to Your Personal Development.
There are several other important pieces to the puzzle and increasing your resilience will take time and intentionality. Starting with a focus on the key components outlined here will already make an impact and begin to empower you to navigate life’s ups and downs with a bit more grace and ease. Continue to take action and put in the effort in order for you to make progress.Practice makes progress so create a routine and find the right support, such as a coach or mentor, to help you instill the right mindset, build and employ your skillset, and give you more reset protocols. The end result of your efforts will be less stress, more joy, a lighter experience with difficult situations, and an increased capacity for health and wellbeing.
Be fierce, dig deep, and be well!
Darla Meulemans, MA, CADC III, QMHP-C is owner of Mind Potential Northwest and Founder of Awakening Whole Brain Wisdom Online Programs, where she offers Personal Development Coaching, Neurofeedback Brain Training and Online Resilience Promoting Programs to assist clients in awakening to their full potential. All programs combine cutting edge neuroscience protocols with the timeless wisdom of natural healing remedies.