Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Many Faces of Resilience

The topic of resilience has been on my mind for the past week, urging me to write about it. My thoughts are often inspired by other thoughts and today I received the new issue of Pain-Free Living, formerly, Arthritis Self-Management magazine. (The editors decided to change their name after receiving the results of a survey.)

One of the articles is on Being Mindful about Pain, by Nicola Davies, which includes five different ways of accomplishing this. Nicola "began to see pain as something that visited her body, not something that defined who she was." I included a quote in my book Love, Life, & God: Getting Past the Pain, page 46, "Fibromyalgia is what I have, it's not who I am," so I was seeing the message again.

I've been feeling an increased amount of tension in my neck and shoulders, trying to figure out where in my life I am feeling tense or apprehensive. Perhaps I am trying to do too much, a very old habit I don’t know if I will ever relinquish. However, I know from past experience where this can lead. I was so proud of myself when I didn’t need to wear my TENS unit every day anymore and hadn't needed to use it for almost six months. I’ll be right back while I go put it on.

O.K., I'm back. There are so many more stories and books I have started to write and want to finish. I just finished another little one titled: Miracles Sandwiched Between The Challenges: Making It Through The Roller Coasters Of My Life (With The Help Of My Guardian Angels). You can find it HERE.

It is so easy for me to lose hours in reading every interesting thing I find on Facebook or when I Google specific topics (like resilience), so I am either immersed in writing or immersed in reading. I wrote many things about setting a timer to remind me to take breaks, and I am guilty of ignoring my own advice. Someday, I hope to get a portable biofeedback device to attach to my shoulders that will alert me to when I begin tensing before it gets to a point of shutting me down. I've been reminding myself that I don't HAVE to do any of this, I am CHOOSING to. I need to stop tensing up every time I realize another hour has gone by.

While I was searching for content on resilience, I discovered I had already posted a number of links on this topic on my Articles and Websites & Blogs pages, but I hadn't actually written a blog post about it. My memory can be somewhat foggy, a 'symptom' of being a creative writer. At least that is all it is now. When I was in my 20’s I dealt with episodes of severe ‘fibro fog'. (One day I kept driving by my home but kept zoning out and missing it. I had to call my mother and ask her to come get me.) I am so very grateful I recovered from years of chronic fatigue syndrome. I am grateful the residual fibromyalgia is all I deal with now.

Resilience. The definition of resilience in Webster's dictionary is: "the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress." I'd like to add to this "a strained mind." Over the course of six months, I've managed to get into 'shape' exercising at Curves. The mind can take a lot longer to recover after a stressful situation as it is impossible to be 'Mindful' of every thought that finds its way into the vast infinity of 'Mind Space.'

One of the things I've learned over the years is fibromyalgia is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms that manifests, usually as a result of stress vs. an actual disease. Stress can be physical, emotional, or mental. The more stress you deal with, the more out of ease your body will become, thus dis-eased. Right now as I write this, I am listening to one of many healing sound meditations I've found on YouTube:

There are many aspects to address such as the amount of stress you have endured, how you have coped with this stress, how resilient you are, what you tell yourself about what is going on in your life, how stress can manifest into physical symptoms, the stress due to malnutrition or dehydration, or a gut that has lost its ability to assimilate food. Then there are the ill effects of excessive sugar, fat, smoking, drinking, etc. There is no simple solution. I am certain that any day now, we will be able to put electrodes on our bodies and generate a full report on our home computers (or smartphones) on the status of all our bodily functions as well as what our mental/emotional state is. Any day now...

On I found, "One of the precursors to fibromyalgia is stress. Although we say that stress can be a good thing, the fact for fibromyalgia sufferers is that stress is a trigger for the disorder. Muscle pain can be triggered by stress, as can headaches, nausea, and depression. The hormones that are released with stress interfere with pain receptors and end up causing serious grief." Our challenge is to find balance, so stress hormones don't rule our lives.

On Psychology Today, I found: "Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on."

I believe many of us are providing Psychologists with a lucrative living, second only to medical doctors, although I did many years of SELF-analysis because I didn't have access to the real thing.

In Becoming Resilient: What You Can Do, Lisa Lorden Myers wrote: "Those who deal best with difficulty and adversity in life have a quality that neuroscientists, psychologists, and business experts alike call “resilience.” It is a particularly important concept for those who live with CFS/FM—or the life-changing challenges of any chronic illness—on a daily basis. Frederic Flach, M.D., author of Resilience: Discovering a New Strength at Times of Stress, points out that since a person’s level of resilience is not a static ingredient in personality, it can fluctuate over time. Understanding our natural strengths and limitations can help us focus on factors that can enhance our resilience."

The Road to Resilience on the 'American Psychology Association' website includes:

"Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences. Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn't experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone."

I'm sure that anyone includes me, which is why I am researching the subject. There are also 10 ways to build resilience on this site.

Last but not least, on the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association Website, I found a beautiful letter written by a woman to her younger self. I have also been thinking of writing advice to my younger self as well. I wish her name was posted on the article, but it isn't. I'd friend her on Facebook. Her letter begins with:

"Dear Friend,

In the coming months, you will be walking a unique and unfamiliar path. Nothing in life so far has prepared you for the changes your body and spirit will endure.

Take heart, because others will reach out and encourage you to trust your intuition. Be still and listen carefully despite the searing, stabbing, and throbbing pains. Quiet your mind when the world spins madly around you with a confusion of sound and light. And when you feel your life force slipping away, gently evaluate why. Have a touchstone to stay grounded when nothing makes sense and mixed-up words roll off your lips. You’ll be okay.

After enduring the brain-seizing pains and life-altering symptoms, you still have two big, hard things to do. Eliminating both toxic relationships and grieving over “what could have been” will improve your health. Connect your mind and body and spirit. Learn to love yourself."

Self-love and acceptance is indeed the key. The rest of the letter can be found here:

Now that you’ve read about resilience, do you know anyone who displays examples of this trait? Someone you admire and look up to? Are you one of the not so resilient people? Did you know this is a trait you can learn? Please leave a comment below to start a conversation!