Building Resilience in the Information Age

How is your relationship with the news of your community, state and world?  Are you anxious attached, avoidant attached, disorganized attached?  What is a healthy attachment to information, social media and news?

Resiliency is more important than ever.   We live in a world where hearing about natural disasters is becoming common place, being displaced, losing a loved one or loved possessions, losing an election, a job, a marriage, a child, random acts of violence, threats of war, threats of riots and civil unrest are what we hear about when we turn on the radio, TV, open up FaceBook, drive down the street, talk to parents at drop off and you will hear the stories, it is unavoidable.  Some choose to live in a bubble, limit exposure to media, or over expose to media. The reality that the only constant is change, is shoved in our faces daily.  You may be living in a beautiful house, with a beautiful car, healthy family, solid career and encountering a headline about Hurricane Harvey and the devastation can knock your mood from content to terrified and the next thing you know you are jumping into the car to rush to a gas station to stand in line for an hour while the sun is shining, and all is well.  

If you are one of the 18% of Americans who deals with Anxiety or PTSD, then you are impacted by these stories.  You either tune in to obsession or tune out to denial or disassociation.  Those gears of over-tuning or tuning out are both hazardous to your health and wellbeing in the world.  Over tuning causes obsessive distraction and poor concentration.  Tuning out may generalize over to how you are taking care of your responsibilities like parenting or friendships.  They just don't work and for the most part whether you tune in or tune out you are anxious and irrational when exposed to things you cannot control. If you are a recovering codependent like me, you understand exactly what I am talking about.  Your relationship with information and media can become addictive and compulsive just like any bad relationship.  

Creating behavioral patters for resiliency, daily habits that create a bounce back effect are key to the self care necessary to have any healthy relationship.  Resiliency involves being active in self care, mindful of your emotional state, cultivating curiousity and an experimental mindset toward problem solving, non-judgment and acceptance of what is, and most importantly the ability to connect with people who are encouraging and supportive of who you are and who you are becoming. 

Are you active in self care?  Do you feel guilty if you take a few hours to treat yourself to some relaxation or consiously remove yourself from a situation that is stressfull at home or work to take a breather?  Self care is more than just getting massages 1 time per month or even regular exercise.  Self care involves an active intention.  It means setting aside 1 or more hours per day incrementally throughout the day to tend to your needs physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.   It means balancing the demands on you with time for renewal.  So if you are raising a family and pusuing a career, while finding time be socially conscious and volunteer at a Hurricane shelter you need at least 2 hours of self care per day.  Ideally you are incorporating all of your needs:  exercise,  nourishing your body with good food, journaling, meditation, time sitting in nature, reading inspiring literature, and taking mini breaks to write down what you are grateful for.  Daily practice is essential.  

Cultivating curiosity and an experimental mindset toward problems that you are facing.  Do you ever find yourself stuck and rigidly going back and forth with one or two answers that just don't seem to work for the problem you are facing.  When we are in fight or flight, we cannot think outside of the box.  We become rigid and limit our options.  One way to cultivate curiosity is to spend time playing with children and if you don't have children, go to a park and get on the swingset, dig your feet into the sand box, jump up and down and act silly, have a dance party or roll down the windows and sing to your favorite music.  Get playful and begin again.  When you get stuck it means it's time to step back and shake it off.   You'll notice a feeling of expansiveness and possibility grows from playful curiosity.  We can take ourselves back to the days where everything was a wonder and a grand experiment.   Use your imagination!  Truly life is a grand experiment and when we can disengage from our codependency traps that make us want to control and manipulate and accept that we are limited beings, then being playful and cultivating curiosity is a piece of cake.  When we get curious and silly and playful it is nearly impossible to be judgemental and critical.

Self acceptance and acceptance of what is, is key to resiliency.  When we are judgemental we are not accepting of what is.  The inner critic comes out and shames and blames and creates limited and distorted thoughts that can lead you down the rabbit whole to anxiety, despair and hopelessness.   Judgement and criticism breed negative, non-reslience and can lead to depression and anxiety where control and manipulation is the mechanism for survival.  The inner critic is convinced that it is in control.   Your survival is not dependent on being in control of someone or something outside of yourself.  The critic is caniving and shrewd.  Be mindful and you get to choose to allow, choose to accept what is and decided what you can and cannot do about the problem.  Most social media and news headlines and the messages they convey are outside of your control.  Practice letting go, accept that you are one human being, and be patient with the process of evolving.  Today you may not be able to volunteer or donate and that is ok.  In a week or month or at some time in your life, you will fulfill your desire to help others if that is the desire.  Put it on your list and be patient and accepting of where you are today.  Let it go and celebrate what you are doing and able to do today.  

Connect with people and groups who support who you are and who you are becoming.  Do not allow yourself to sit in front of your computer or on your phone looking through facebook or twitter, or reading about other people's lives, or watching TV about other people's lives. Get out in the world and find people and create a circle of support.  You can use social media to find connections to meet ups and groups that are interested in what you are interested in.  Seek it out.  Join a church, join a group that exercises together, join a knitting group, meet up with friends at least once a week to share stories and support eachother.  Host a dinner party, plan a camping trip, organize a block party in your neighborhood, make cookies for a neighbor you have been wanting to meet, call an old friend, write a letter to a friend who has relocated, pick up the phone, network, get out in your community.  Let go of your fear of rejection and take a risk!  Tell someone you are needing more connection and friendship in our life and 9 times out of 10 they will invite you to the next gathering they attend.  People need people to be resilient.  Find your support and don't stop ever.  This is a continual process and unfolding that you will endeavor on for the rest of your life.  No one ever reaches a maximum number of friendships.  

We are evolving, each one of us.  Go forth and be resilient!  I am off to connect with nature and dip my feet in Bull Creek while I watch my dog Marley play in the water.  It is a beautiful day!