Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Stress Resilience in 2010

Thought I'd edit and augment a recent entry from my January e-newsletter on creating resilience. Interestingly, there was a post 2 days later at on resilience, so I added it here at the end to help deepen your connection to creating more buoyancy this year.

Proven Ways of Creating More Resilience

While hanging out with a friend on New Year's Day, we discussed our "word of the year" for 2010. She chose "rebirth" -- she has a crazy busy life with kids, and wants to create work that serves her better. Meanwhile I struggled to find a single word that captures all I am yearning for this year. Stability? Yes, but so not sexy. Hard to get traction with that word. Acceptance? Sounds defeated.

Resilience is my 2010 word. Yes, my adrenals are more saggy than my boobs. I'm perimenopausal at the same time as my eldest daughter hits puberty, which is a dangerous combo. Perimenopause is associated with your stress resilience getting cut in half. My thyroid works only halftime. But this is the year that all the previous work settles, integrates, synergizes and collectively my organism develops deep, fulfilling, rejuvenating resilience.

While on vacation, I find it. Last August - the recipe for resilience was intense flow yoga daily 90 min/day followed by eating amazing al fresco, local, organic meals with family and friends in Point Reyes. Buoyant. Last year - it was when my family joined me on a yoga retreat I taught in Mexico. Two weeks ago, it happened when I had a day off from work and got immersed in the flow of an intense, superbly-taught class at the Dailey Method - bliss combined with creative surge... a transcendent experience.

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from adversity, illness, mood swings or the like. Buoyancy. Deep knowing that change and adversity are to be expected, and being OK with that. Rolling with the punches of life.

What helps? Mindfulness, deep abdominal breathing, dancing, eating as if the Buddha (or your fave enlightened being) was coming to dinner, moving your body in a way that thrills you. Mind/Body Medicine as my early mentors at Harvard Medical School called it. Eliciting the relaxation response that Dr. Herb Benson, MD described when I was 7.

When my babysitter announces her car won't start and she's late to pick up my kids, and I have three more patients to see before I can help her, resilience is needed. Plan A is to get anxious, feel overwhelmed, get flooded by cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine. Plan B is to say, "This is what I can do...." And put my hands on my belly, take a 5-second inhale. Pause. Exhale for 10 seconds. Repeat. Notice my cortisol responding to my breath. Noticing my calming neurotransmitters (GABA, serotonin) rising.

Other approaches are proven to help, but they are less effective. Adaptogens such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, ginseng. B vitamins (see side bar). Amino acids such as 5-HTP. Sam-e but not if you're bipolar or even a little bit bipolar. But supplements don't work as developing your spiritual practice, and you have to be careful constructing the best cocktail for your age, hormonal balance, neurotransmitters, health history.

What practice best supports your resilience? Hiking in nature? Walking on the beach?  A long weekend at a spa? A yoga workshop? Wishing you abundant, nourishing resilience in 2010.

You will experience setbacks. If you've suffered one recently, you may still be reeling, feeling helpless and hopeless. But a crisis can also bring you face-to-face with what really matters. Crisis can clarify, illuminate and force you to take notice of what you might have otherwise missed. It can show you brilliant qualities of yourself that you may not have discovered otherwise. It is often an opportunity to feel discomfort and work it through into a place of greater comfort or understanding, to help you find your true strength.

1. Know that everything you are feeling is absolutely valid.

2. Give yourself the time to feel your feelings deeply. It helps to have someone sit with you and listen to your experience objectively. Ask her not to tell you that "It's going to be okay." Just ask her to sit with you and be curious about what you're feeling. Sharing your feelings will help to dissipate them.

3. When you are ready to feel something new, focus on the moments in your life that still create positive emotions in you. Talk about these moments. Feel these moments. Write these moments down. Hold on to them tightly. They are the platform from which you can move forward.

4. Make an effort to do one activity each week that will provide an opportunity to create and celebrate strong-moments.

5. Surround yourself with loving, compassionate companions who will support your decisions. Appreciate them.

6. Never let a crisis go to waste. Lock in valuable lessons and insights into your strengths. They will continue to serve you in life. Recall that growth follows your line of questioning, so ask yourself questions like:

"What can I learn from this?

"What is working about this?"

"Where am I feeling strong amid all of this?"

"Where can I use my strengths to help me to overcome this?"

Your questions are generative, meaning you get what you're asking about. So ask questions that create positive emotional outcomes for you.

Winston Churchill said: "When you're going through hell, just keep going." You're taking the right steps. Decide to look at a setback from a place of possibility rather than bleakness. You ARE on your way up—that's the attitude to hang on to. Focus on what's working and the steps that you're taking to reinforce the positive actions that you've already taken. Remember, attention amplifies, so focusing on self-perceived failures or mistakes will result in a spiraling effect. Focus on the emotional outcomes you want and let your attention amplify them.

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.