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  • Writer's pictureRonald S. Newman, Ph.D.

Seeking balance to build resilience

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An imbalanced life is a “set-up” for burnout. To “not grow weary in well-doing” requires we find balance in various aspects of our lives. When we give and give and give to the point of exhaustion, it reminds me of a marathon runner who forgets to rehydrate along the journey and their metabolism shuts down before they can finish the race. We all need to receive and refuel in order to give and continue the race set before us in life.

Another way to see it is the balance of caring for ourselves and caring for others. If you don’t put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you will pass out as you are trying to get oxygen to your fellow passengers on the plane. This does not mean we are to be selfish about meeting our needs and let others starve, but it does mean we need to be fueled up in order to find strength to face the day and help others.

Here are some other tips to consider as you build resilience in your life.

Build a resilient body. Physical health is necessary for longevity, so we can learn from people across the globe who live long lives. Research into these groups demonstrates a healthier diet and exercise to be key factors, as well as a community of social support.

Avoid unhealthy habits. Drugs, excessive alcohol, smoking of any kind and other habits which negatively impact one’s physical health will also diminish your capacity to be resilient.

Very few Olympians indulge in behaviors which rob them of their ability to perform in their sport.

Grow in acceptance. A balanced mental attitude of acceptance toward things that are beyond your control is essential. Often people expend a great deal of energy by getting angry and complaining about everything from relationships to politics and religion, allowing their frustrations to grow into bitterness and emotional burnout. Even acceptance of our past mistakes and regrets is essential to avoid letting our guilt and shame overwhelm us.

Cope actively with challenges. This may involve problem-solving and brainstorming options for solving difficulties we face. Taking positive action is important. Avoidance behaviors (like unhealthy habits) are more likely to burn us out quickly. Facing our challenges directly helps build our confidence that we can do all that we really need to do.

Let go of perfectionism. None of us are perfect. The only exception was crucified 2,000 years ago. The rest of us need to learn to be gracious toward ourselves and others.

Embrace responsibility. Defensiveness and deception to escape accountability for our actions only leads to a decline in our productivity and even happiness in life. Honesty really is the best policy. Apology, when called for, will build healthier relationships.

Avoid too many responsibilities. If you are prone to accepting every obligation that others ask of you, learn to say “no.” Consider each request and weigh it against the goals you believe are right for your life.

Build a flexible mindset. Being able to adapt to different situations, particularly when things are not going the way we want, is important for resilience. “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”—Robert Jordan

Discover humor. Humor is a tension reliever which can build a resilient attitude. It is often the best medicine. Learn to laugh at yourself. However, refrain from sarcastic humor, as it is likely to have negative consequences by harming someone else or even yourself through enhancing a negative attitude.

Build resilient relationships. Healthy social relationships are a key factor in avoiding depression and burnout, but relationships require a number of skills we need to learn. Being able to assert ourselves when it comes to what we want, including necessary boundaries and learning to forgive and even overlook minor offenses are two examples.

Learn conflict management skills. When experiencing conflict, negotiating to find win-win solutions will build resilience. Persistent conflict is a drain even for those who are strong at heart. Avoidance of people who distress us can be a real problem, as is the opposite problem of bulldozing others to get our way. Speaking our requests clearly and directly, with respect, is essential. Listening skills and the ability to forgive are keys to moving on as well.

Believe you have great value. Life is meaningful and you have a purpose. It will involve others in some way as you understand a higher purpose unites us all. Contemplate how the disciplines of lent and meaning of the passion week reveal something more profound about your own life.

Consistent quiet times. Many people have quiet times in the morning. This can serve as a time to find strength and guidance for planning how to tackle the challenges of the day. It can be a key spiritual exercise as well, evident in resilient people around the world.

Seek meaning in suffering. Resilience is needed to withstand the pressures of life. A few famous quotes will serve to put things into perspective and help us finish our own race. “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: 1. by doing a deed; 2. by experiencing a value; and 3. by suffering.” “In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Meaning is strength. Our survival may depend on our seeking and finding it.”—Viktor Frankl

“My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.”—James 1:2-4

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”—Apostle Paul

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in South Jersey who exclusively practices via telehealth. He can be reached at (609) 567-9022.


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