Building Resilience To Navigate Life Difficulties With Peace
The one quality possessed by all survivors is resilience. Life can take some very unexpected turns but those who can flow with these changes are the ones who will not only survive but thrive. In this post I will share resilience building questions, tips and our family's story.
“We can’t control the wind but we can adjust the sails.”
I had taught about expanding comfort zones and resilience for over a decade but once again it became very real for me and my husband Evan, when we suddenly found ourselves custodial grandparents to a special needs baby, our granddaughter, Raegan.
We were told that Raegan could be placed in our home or a foster home. DCF* told us no other options had been identified. So of course, yes! We will care for our granddaughter.
“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
~ Philippians 4:13
Evan and I have three grown kids between us and we never imagined that we would be caring 24-7 for an infant, who often times cries and trembles inconsolably. Talk about turning your life upside down!
Tiny Reagan is the reason you have not heard from me much in the last 6 weeks. It has taken us both to care for her around the clock since she was released to us from NICU.
Then Sunday, our dear friend flew in from Washington State to Florida to support us for the next 12 days. She texted me, “wheels down” when her plane landed at RSW Airport. In seconds I was in tears of joy, relief and gratitude.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
~ Galatians 6:2
I’m telling you all this to show you from ground level, that things can change suddenly. Life can get messy but angels are sent.
When life’s difficulties happen, there is a surge in stress levels, sleep is affected, your mental capacities are stretched and there can be an underlying current of grief about the situation.
Suddenly our lives as empty-nesters, which we had grown accustomed to were over, maybe forever. We were left with the heartache of dealing with circumstances that led to us receiving custody of Raegan. They are far from over as we have only begun the journey. We now also have pediatrician and PT/OT therapist appointments to manage, visitation schedules to maintain and little support from DCF as they are over-worked with far too many cases, some much worse than our Raegan.
I don’t know about your community, but each person we speak with here in Southwest Florida, tells us they have family members dealing with the fallout from the opioid crisis. More and more grandparents are becoming parents again as we have.
In all this, the best skill we can acquire is resilience. And that means we must learn to think about things differently than before. And I suggest we not wait until there’s a crisis, to work on our resilience. The best time is before you need it.
Seeing what was happening in our lives, I prayed intensely and constantly and God gave me these words, before I even knew what would confront me, “Fear not.” I can’t even tell you how we have clung to those two words in recent days.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
~ John 14:27 KJV
We need to look for the joy and beauty in the midst of the struggle. We need to pray for peace, wisdom and resources and be willing to receive help when it arrives. And, we must remain strong and proactive so that the babies, the very least and tiniest among us, have a voice and are protected.
Each day if systems fail us we learn new strategies, remain persistent advocates for Raegan's welfare and our resolve is strengthened to never, never quit.
As we care for her and comfort her in her distress, often with teary eyes, we will not quit. And no matter what we must do to ensure her safety and well-being in days to come, we are in it as long as needed.
" And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." ~ Galatians 6:9-10 KJV
No matter what you need to face, my friend, don't you quit either. A wise old friend told me it's ok to despair, but work on in despair. Don't quit.
How to Help
If you are a coach or counselor helping someone who is going through a valley experience, you need to understand how to support their ability to remain resilient.
When helping another develop resilience skills, it’s important to focus on what they’ve done right in their past, as well as things that did not go well, that can be improved on.
Maintain balance: Have the coachee or counselee tell you both the positive and negative issues they are dealing with. Encourage them to tell you their stories, both positive and negative aspects … as well as their thoughts about their experiences.
Reinforce the positive and have compassion for the negative. Help them explore better alternatives. Give positive, encouraging feedback. Keep your responses active and responsive. The goal is to build trust.
You want to praise and encourage the person for staying engaged, persevering and developing strategies in their approach to a tough matter. When you demonstrate support, it will build their confidence to stay engaged. The greater their confidence, the less stress and fear they are likely to feel.
In these cases persistence and strategies are more important than one’s innate abilities. Much of what is needed, can be learned.
Questions to Build Resilience
Here I have listed some questions to build resilience that you can ask your client, to help them think in more empowering ways.
1 - What do you need to do, to adapt to this new situation?
2 - How can you change things to become more flexible with others and more patient with yourself?
3 - How can you modify your expectations, to help you better cope with the situation?
4 - How can you begin to accept a situation you can’t change? (Accept does not mean approval, rather understanding from a neutral place that certain things exist.)
5 - What good can ultimately come of this situation?
6 - What have you learned from this situation that can help you or others in the future?
7 - What humor can you find in this situation?
8 - What thoughts do you need to eliminate to accept the new situation?
9 - What fears do you have, that you need to let go?
10 - What type of support do you need?
And finally, I want to share some tips that will help anyone navigate life’s difficulties with greater strength and peace.
Tips To Build Resilience
1 - Accept your own imperfections.
2 - Get some physical exercise daily, to work off the toxic stress.
3 - Adjust your schedule for more sleep. This will reinforce your immune system.
4 - Find opportunities to laugh. It’s good medicine.
5 - Remind yourself that this too will pass. Tomorrow is an opportunity for a better day.
6 - Focus on the beauty and joy in every moment. And, if you really look, there is so much of it.
Our lifestyle may have changed but that is nothing in comparison to the critical importance of saving tiny Raegan. She is a treasure. We love her and despite her current, special needs, one day she will be fine. And one day, your situation or your client’s will resolve in its own way. Until then, we trust God, pray and "fear not".
And how does this look in a practical sense? Your challenge and mine is to navigate the peaks and valleys of life with empathy, compassion and resilience, bearing one another's burdens to the best of our ability.
I thank you in advance for your prayers to help Raegan heal and to help her mother overcome her challenges to become healthy once again. I also ask for prayers for me and my husband, Evan for peace, wisdom and resources as we navigate through these circumstances.
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*Department of Children and Families, a State of Florida agency
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:15