How to Be More Resilient

When Hurricane Matthew didn’t make the predicted hard right turn as it passed over South Carolina back on October 8th, and instead dumped 16 inches of water on our Eastern North Carolina lake-front home, I didn’t think that this experience was going to be a test in resilience. My husband, dog and I have been living at Camp Matthew for over three months now. It’s been uncomfortable. It’s been cramped. It’s tested all of our relationships. But it has made us all more resilient.


I have the honor of coaching some fantastic clients, two of whom had huge shifts if their lives this week. Those shifts happened because of their remarkable resilience. Just when you think you are at the end of your rope, there is a magical shift. Everything does a 180. If they hadn’t been able to dip into their bucket of resilience, I don’t think they ever would have arrived at their magic turning point.

Here are my thoughts on how to be more resilient:

  • Label the emotion.  I’ve been using the Whil app for about a year now. Whil has a whole host of teachers who have provided guided meditations and thought-provoking lectures. I listen for about 10 minutes every day. Several of the teachers talk about labeling your feelings. Say if you resent your boss for not returning your call, instead of ruminating, trying to escape, or stifling the feeling, call it out in your own head. Indeed, this is what resentment feels like. Then feel it. Do you find it in your stomach, your shoulders, a tightness in your throat, a heat at your temples? I’ve been feeling “helpless” because some days, there is a beehive of repair on our house followed by days of silence. When I label it and actually “feel” it in my body, instead of trying to escape it, it fades away. It’s difficult to be resilient if you can’t label and feel your emotions.


  • Acceptance.  In today’s day and age, nothing is simple. Whether you are in a legal battle, trying to sell your home, being audited or trying to get money to reconstruct your house after a flood. It’s not going to be easy. My clients and I have accepted that most things don’t happen overnight. Whether I need to call some federal agency, the mortgage company, flooring representative or an insurance company, I have come to accept that we are going to have to jump through a few hoops. If you let every one of those hoops devastate you, it will be difficult to have forward progress. Having an attitude of acceptance makes you more resilient.


  • Reflect on the progress.  One of the best reasons to have a coach is to reflect on your progress. My coach is the phenomenal Tammi Wheeler. She helps me reflect on the progress I’ve made, rather than dwelling on everything that has gone wrong. Taking stock is huge when you’re living in the land of limbo. So we may be living on top of each other at Camp Matthew, but we finally got a disbursement from the mortgage company. The sheet-rock is finally going up. The toilet is not on our front porch anymore. The attorney finally responded. I’ve turned in all the paperwork for the new mortgage.  Reflect and acknowledge what you have accomplished to bolster your resilience.


  • Be a quitter.  Say what, Cathy? What the heck does that have to do with resilience? As Eric Barker wrote for Time, “You can do anything — when you stop trying to do everything.” I can’t be everything to everybody. I used to cook every day at home with a new recipe every night. My husband and I rarely ate out. Now? I buy pre-marinated chicken, open a can of chili or meet my husband for dinner out. Maybe when I get home, I’ll be a gourmet cook again; maybe not. But I’m not going to feel guilty about taking some short cuts. Quitting some things helps you be more resilient with the things that matter now.


  • Routine.  I haven’t quit everything, but I have reconfigured my routine. In the days following the flood, I fell out of sync with my routine. I was a stressed out mess. As we regained power and landed in Camp Matthew (our wonderful, generous friends’ in-law unit), I reworked my routine of meditation, yoga and learning Spanish. Once my routine was back in sync, I was able to handle the ebb and flow of the aftermath. I personally credit my meditation practice and turning off television news with my increased resilience. but you need to find what works for you. In a state of constant change, having a routine that bolsters, rather than deflates you, is important for resilience.


There are going to be pain points. We are not perfect, nor will we ever be. There was a moment when I actually cussed out a customer service person. I’m not proud of that, but I was also able to accept this lapse in judgment at the moment. When you start going down that hole of negativity, just make sure you can resolve to step out of it and veer back to resilience.

End Your Workday Cleanly

You arrive home from work and completely forgot to stop at the bank, the store, the pharmacy, the _____.  How did I space that out?  You wake up at 2 AM and relive the outcome of the meeting with your boss, coworker, direct report, ______.  You not only relive it one or two times–you relive it twenty times by the time it’s 2:15 AM.  Not a good night’s sleep.  You open your front door after a full day’s work and all you want to do is zone out with a glass of wine and Grey’s Anatomy reruns.  The last thing you want to do is hear about your partner’s lousy day.  Not a very healthy or positive end to your day.


There is an answer for this end-of-day malaise and ensuing erosion to your health and happiness.  I subscribe to an app called Whil.  One of the series on the app is called “Live Fully Every Day” by Peter Bonanno.  I have been using his “End Your Workday Cleanly” for about a week and the transition from work to home has vastly improved.  Instead of waking up at all hours of the night with a huge to-do list for work, replaying the not-so productive production meeting, or trying to escape into Never Neverland when arriving at home–I’ve found I am finally able to bring closure to the day.


Here are ideas for clearing out your day:


  • Journal at workday’s end. This has been a real life saver for me.  I sleep better and am able to transition into my life at home much more energized.  Bonanno recommends writing this with pen and paper.  Melanie Pinola equally recognizes the importance of handwriting your thoughts in her Life Hacker article: “The Wall Street Journal discusses several studies that show students who took handwritten notes outperformed those who typed their notes on their computers.  Compared with those who type their notes, people who write them out in longhand appear to learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.”  So take out a piece of paper at the end of the workday and answer these prompts:


Journal Prompt:


What I am feeling right now is…


What’s left for me to do another time is…


What I’m grateful for today is…


This is a great brain dump that clears you head.  And it ends on a high note by highlighting what you are grateful for, which is a positive punch to the end of the workday.


  • Transition when arriving home to a quick walk with a friend or significant other.  As Bonanno pointed out, he and his wife walked at days end, but since they were not journaling, the walks took forever and started to turn into a pity party at times.  After starting to journal at the end of the work day, the walk with his spouse took maybe 10 minutes of recounting the day.  It became a much more positive experience.  Positivity is good and helps your evening get off to a great start.  So you’ve done your brain dump, you’ve connected with a loved one and now you are going to have a much better evening.


  • 10 minutes of daily planning. At your day’s end, do what Stephen Covey has espoused for decades.  Take ten minutes to plan your next day.  This along with the journaling helps you schedule the various things you never got to and places them in plain sight for the next day of work.  I’ve been doing this for at least a decade and I am rarely caught off guard by missing something.  It’s also part of Choice 3 of the Franklin Covey’s Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity.  Couple this with 30 minutes of weekly planning, and both will keep you on target with your personal vision and mission.


Self-reflection on a daily basis is a way of acknowledging what you have accomplished.  It’s so easy to get caught up in what you didn’t do instead of what you actually did.  Instead of thinking about “what went wrong”, think of “what didn’t go wrong”.  The glass is half full.