5 Ways To Cultivate Resilience In Your Body
Updated: Jan 31
Resilience.. It seems to be a buzz word lately. I like to think that one of my favorite people, Brene Brown, and her success is a primary factor. Through her research, she was able to put a name to the thing that so many of us are searching for in our lives, but can't really put our finger on.
We say we want to be healthier. We say we want to be more effective in our work- in the office and/or in our homes. We say we want to be less grouchy with our kids and actually follow the advice we get ALL the flippin' time from, well, EVERYONE to appreciate the time we have with them.
We want to balance a million things on our plates like (we think) other moms are doing. We've settled into the belief that we can't be good at them all, so we negotiate for pulling off 80%.. Er.. 70%.. OK HALF! of them without showing the frazzled states our brains are in to our colleagues, bosses, and fellow PTO/daycare parents.
We hold it together most of the time in public, perhaps blowing off a little steam by honking at the person who doesn't move fast enough when the light turns green. Then we get home and show some of the worst versions of ourselves to the people we love the most.
When really, we're trying to say we want to be able to handle all that life throws at us with a bit more grace and kindness AND without feeling like we've been run over my a ginormous truck by the end of the day.
We'd like to fall asleep easily and wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to go.
We'd like to not have 3 different wardrobes in our closets because our weight never seems to stabilize.
We'd love to bounce back from pregnancy and childbirth without our backs and hips hurting and peeing ourselves a little bit if we laugh too hard.
So.. How DO we do it? How DO we cultivate resilience?
1. Let's talk mindset towards self-care first. It is the MOST important. If we don't believe we deserve to take care of ourselves or we feel guilty for any time that we spend away from our families, then the other stuff I offer won't help nearly as much.
In her books, Brene writes a lot on the topic of resilience. She has found through her research that the most resilient people deal with their shame and guilt by vocalizing their feelings.
We will best recover by telling someone we trust how we said something completely stupid in a work meeting, and the only thing we are confident of is that everyone thinks we're a control-seeking, stupid, silly fraud.
Giving voice to these feelings helps our minds, and subsequently our bodies, get over it.
This leads to #2…
2. Tend and Befriend.. Wha?
Think of it like the female-specific anecdote to our Fight-or-Flight response that kicks in every time we're presented with a stressful trigger in our lives.
Research shows that women thrive in a community. Connecting with someone else, particularly women, helps to drive down our cortisol levels which your waistline, sleep, and anxious brain will thank you for! So even if you don't verbalize the guilt you feel by leaving your kids to hit the gym, just hanging out with other women and feeling accepted will do the trick.
3. Identify the specific stressors that make you feel like poop.
Here's a couple ideas for recognizing these triggers:
Journal about your feelings or symptoms after various activities like: exercising, eating, work responsibilities, home/family routines, etc. Remember stress can come in a lot of different forms!
Turn off the radio on your daily commute to think. Eliminating extra distractions may allow you to better reflect on your feelings allowing you to see stressful patterns in your life.
Chatting to your pals about your crazy life or even directly asking your partner for input about your struggles may help highlight these triggers.
Using that knowledge, brainstorm 1-2 action steps that will allow you to buffer the response or completely avoid the trigger all together.
Here's an example:
Perhaps you are someone who does a marvelous job of carving out the time for a workout, yet struggle with fatigue, weight loss or other more ambiguous health concerns. You get to your favorite HIIT class 3 times a week and make up the other days with running. For many women, this can be TOO much intense movement. Physical stress can be just as impactful as mental stress. Instead, try subbing out a restorative yoga class or a gentle walk listening to your favorite podcast a couple times a week and see how your body feels.
Maybe it's getting out the door on time each morning with your makeup in place, matching shoes on your feet, lunch and kids in hand, and breakfast in your belly. Would spending a few minutes in the evening to lay out your clothes, pack lunches, and/or prep breakfast would make the mornings smooth sailing? Perhaps ask your partner or kids to help out? Or maybe getting up 10 minutes earlier feels like a better solution. It doesn't matter what it is.. As long as it works for you! And if it doesn't? It's OKAY! You tried it. Pat yourself on the back, and on to the next strategy.
Sometimes it takes a few attempts to figure out what stressors make the most impact on how your body feels, and sometimes it take a few attempts to find a solution that works for you.
4. The body's ability to bounce back from ANY type of stress is supported by how we fuel our body. No big news there. HOWEVER, how is your gut ABSORBING what you're eating?
Stress can do a number on the digestive tract. Just think about how your stomach might feel before a big, important speech or job interview. Some people just get butterflies while others are running for the bathroom hoping their stomachs won't betray them during the main event.
Some signs that perhaps you aren't absorbing nutrients too well can be hair loss, acne, weak/brittle nails, muscle spasms, and fatigue.
What to do? (You always want to check with your doctor first, of course). Adding a high quality probiotic to your daily regimen could help. Try cutting down on prepackaged, processed foods and boost your meals with more vegetables and fruit.
Chew each bit 40 times. Eat your meals in a more peaceful, present way. Whether that means turning off the TV, actually sitting down at a table to eat, or not letting yourself eat lunch while you're filtering through stressful emails, forcing yourself to slllooooowwww down and minimize the multitasking may actually save you time throughout your day as you'll be more efficient and accurate completing your tasks.
If you're absorbing more nutrients from your meals, you may gain some energy that helps you wake up without hitting the snooze 3 times (or 10).
5. Consider that you may be sensitive to certain foods.
Sometimes we have full-blown allergies mediated by the immune system in a way that most consider a "traditional" allergy. Food can also impact our immune response by activating an autoimmune response such as with celiac disease or indirectly due to increased intestinal permeability.
Other times, our body struggles to break down the food, like with lactose intolerance which is when the enzyme needed to properly digest the food isn't produced sufficiently. And still other times, our bodies respond to food with inflammation. Sugar, refined flours, and alcohol are known to cause inflammation.
However, every body responds to varying degrees, and some fortunate folks tolerate the increased inflammatory load better than others.
If you think food could be a trigger for you, elimination diets are often advised. When completed properly, they are the gold standard to determine what foods contribute to specific symptoms since various lab testing can often produce false negatives/positives for many reasons. Additionally, elimination diets don't cost money and don't require an order written by your doctor (although certainly open communication with your physician is always encouraged!). Don't get me wrong, they require commitment and planning, but they can be life changing!