My beautiful friend Olivia (check out her blog here) wrote a post about the lessons she learned in 2019. I thought I’d continue this momentum and discuss the lessons 2019 taught me about resilience.
Not going to lie, 2019 was a bad year. Like really bad…
At the beginning of 2019, I ironically chose the word “resilience” as my word for the year because resilience was something I was hoping to learn more about and incorporate into my everyday life.
Resilience (noun) re-sil-ience
“The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress… it means bouncing back from difficult experiences”
A year later, I didn’t realize just how much 2019 was going to teach me about being resilient… From experiencing housing issues to losing a family member, I really feel like I experienced it all 2019. Despite all of my personal challenges, I learned a lot as a result of my setbacks this year. Before I get into my blog post, I want to preface it by saying, if you are struggling with any mental health issues, it’s important to seek help and work through your struggles with a qualified professional. Given my personal experience with hardship this year, I will share the top 3 lessons 2019 taught me about resilience:
Resilience Lesson 1: It’s okay to not be okay
After feeling “not okay” at times throughout this year, I feel like I have a better understanding of why it’s okay to not be okay.
For years I looked at this quote and never really understood it. In all honesty, I kind of thought it was a stupid quote because none of us want to feel “not okay”. Thinking of social media, we tend to post our best experiences and highlights of our lives, while down-playing the hardships we endure in silence. In feeling “not okay”, it’s easy to feel alone because nobody wants to talk about our hardships, and we fear sharing our negative experiences is almost like “airing our our dirty laundry”.
In reality, it is 100% completely normal to experience difficult times and we all go through periods where we are not okay. In fact, it’s part of the human experience. Life is full of ups and downs. Life is difficult sometimes too. Life is beautiful, yet it can be full of adversity. In feeling “not okay” it’s easy to feel like something is wrong with us, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It’s okay to feel pain, it’s okay to feel discomfort, it’s okay to feel lonely, it’s okay to feel grief.
Rather than focus on ignoring these feelings and putting on a smile, sit with these feelings and work through them. Find an open ear to talk about your feelings, whether it be a counsellor or a friend. Ask for help when you need it. At the end of the day it’s about riding with the waves, showing up for yourself, feeling the pain, and loving yourself through the good and bad times. It’s about working through the difficult moments, one step at a time and learning about yourself in the process.
Resilience Lesson 2: “There is always good things in the storm”
This year, I counted my blessings and learned the importance of GRATITUDE! To explain this concept, I’ll start with an analogy. In March of this year, I helped clean up my university campus through participating in a garbage pick-up day. This pick-up day occurred after some campus clubs had gone around and picked up trash, so the campus did not look bad at first sight. With a trash bag in hand, I scoured the campus with some fun people and picked up any garbage in sight. As I started looking for garbage, I started to notice small pieces of wrappers lingering in the bushes, cigarette butts hiding in the cracks on the sidewalks, and beer bottles hiding in the snowbanks. For weeks after picking up garbage, I couldn’t help but notice the garbage that was all around me. Any time I went outside, I noticed small pieces of garbage everywhere. It was as if I had changed my focus and now started to recognize all of the garbage that was around me.
What’s interesting about our perceptions is we have the ability to change them. As the spring brought forward lots of plants, flowers and leaves, I started to shift my attention to notice that even with all the garbage around me, there were still beautiful things. As I shifted my focus to notice all of the flowers around me, I began to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Gratitude is a way of noticing the goodness in the world, without being blind of the difficult things that we all experience at times.
Gratitude allows us to continue to see the good, even throughout bad times. Gratitude is like seeing the flowers throughout all the garbage around us.
Connecting this to my own personal life, the quote “every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day” comes to mind. Despite this horrible year, I was still able to have some pretty awesome accomplishments and good moments scattered throughout the storm. I found my community at a local spin studio and achieved my dream of becoming a spin instructor. I finally finished writing my Master’s Thesis (and will be defending it later this month and graduating in June!), I moved out of my childhood home and took “adulting” to a new level when I got offered my dream job. Even with the sad times that were highly prevalent in 2019, I still had many positive moments throughout the storm.
Resilience Lesson 3: Focus on Self-Care
To help myself get through the year, I tuned my focus inwards and prioritized my own self-care.
“Any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”
Self-care is about identifying your needs and taking care of your own health. It’s about finding strategies (you enjoy) that help you take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. These strategies should help to refuel your mind and body. Everyone is different and you don’t necessarily have to do it all, but finding the coping strategies that work for you are key.
Some of the self-care practices which helped me be more resilient in 2019 included:
This year, I was fortunate to connect with a few different communities and I focused on participating in group exercise. I tried yoga classes, spin classes, boxing classes which helped me connect with others and get myself out the house. I was able to meet some amazing people in my community through group exercise, which helped me feel more connected and less alone.
2. PHYSICAL HEALTH
As mentioned above, participating in group exercise classes helped me focus on obtaining adequate physical activity this year. Although this strategy does not work for everyone – being physically active is how I enjoy taking care of my body. For me personally, I like to think of exercise as a “mindfulness” practice because it forces me to focus on the present moment and enjoy my workout. Trying group exercise classes, becoming a spin instructor, and going to the gym were my favourite ways to care for my physical health. In addition to fitness, I focused on sleep. I ensured I was getting enough sleep each night by waking up at the same time each morning, which helped me feel more energized and ready to tackle my day.
I’ve been pretty open about my dietary struggles with allergies and stomach issues. This year I got serious about eating foods that made me feel my best (and did not trigger reactions). Speaking with a dietitian helped me figure out the foods that worked best with my body, and I focused on incorporating foods that were rich in protein, healthy fats, and whole grain carbohydrates. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re not bloated or feeling sick from the foods you are eating.
4. MENTAL HEALTH
I focused on my mental health this year through attending regular counselling sessions, journaling, and “saying no” to commitments or things that did not bring me joy. I focused on treating myself like a friend, and I tried to be non-judgemental towards myself as I worked through things. Even though I still have a lot of work to do in this aspect of well-being, I definitely made some strides forward with self-love and self confidence.
Moving forward and looking at 2020, I am looking forward to a new start. My word for this year is “fierce” because I would like to live my life with transparency and I want to live unapologetically. Even though there’s plenty of things I still need to work on, I am grateful for all the lessons 2019 has taught me, and I am excited to move into 2020 with a “fierce” attitude. I am ready to tackle my goals, get things done, and do more of what I love.
Cheers to 2020!