Reversing those downward spirals for better health and relationships
Does anyone doubt the importance of being resilient and adaptable in today's quickly changing world? Or, of being able to deal effectively with the many personal challenges that face us almost every day?
Resilience and adaptability mean feeling capable of navigating change gracefully. They mean being skillful at rebounding from frustration, disappointment and defeats, without indulging the familiar cycles of negative self-talk and downward spiraling moods. They also mean being able to hold the tension of opposites without getting polarized into one side or the other, the 'us versus them' phenomenon.
What is so important about these qualities? What does it mean for your health, your relationships, or sense of peace and well-being? When you react out of old habituated responses, when you resist change or go into fear, when you get stuck in a blue mood, or lock rigidly into a polarized position, you are contracting— and not just mentally. You are contracting every cell, tissue, organ and system in your body. It is a psychobiological event. This response of tissue contraction reduces your resilience and your ability to adapt. You diminish the very flow within; the flow that supports your health, your well-being, even your capacity for good relationships.
If your bounce back muscles are weak, strengthening them is not easy. Just as getting into physical condition requires implementing a plan of action, like going to the tennis courts or walking regularly, building resilience and adaptability require a commitment, as well as the understanding that your body, mind, emotions and relationships are all part of an interdependent system. Affecting one will affect them all.
When, for example, a disappointment occurs, and your mood sinks as your self-talk turns against you, what you may not realize is that your tissue is contracting as well. If this occurs frequently and if the negative mood and thoughts linger, the tissue contractions become harder to release and resilience and adaptability diminish.
Here are some gentle and effective self-regulation tools to practice each and every day.
1. Commit, each day, to build these muscles; be willing to engage in a more conscious and consistent way.
2. The moment you notice yourself going negative or rigidifying into a position; slow down, pay attention, and interrupt the self-talk. Remind yourself, firmly, you don't have to take that downward spiraling road!
3. Breathe, especially stay with your exhalation. Notice the sensations in your body. Did you just tighten somewhere? Is there fear, sadness, hurt, anxiousness? Keep breathing and noticing.
4. What do you actually need in this moment? To talk to a friend? To take five minutes and leave your desk? To receive a hug? To gather more information? Maybe there is something you need to express. Determine what you genuinely need.
5. Plan what you need to do to meet your need and return to equilibrium. Recommit to this intention.
One of the secrets here is the process of interrupting the negative response cycle. Begin to offer to your system the space it needs to acquire new response habits that can lead to more resilience and adaptability.
It is our work to move in a positive direction; to see what we can do day to day to help ourselves, to shift that spiral always in an upward direction.