- Posted by Virginia
- On June 21, 2017
- 0 Comments
Joan Borishenko PhD has spoken about the importance of developing resilience. She has a powerful message to share, and when I heard it in 2015, I realized it matched where I needed to be around structuring my time in recovering from burnout.
Joan described a scenario during the second world war, in which prisoners who were optimistic, and hoped to be rescued from the concentration camps, were the first to die! Whereas resilient people, who had a tendency towards pessimism survived! What a confounding theory, as most of us have the belief that optimism is the best way to survive ordeals.
However, the reason the optimists died first was due to false hope. They first thought they would be rescued by Christmas, but Christmas came and went. Then they thought they would be rescued by Easter, and Easter came and went. When the optimists started to lose hope and maybe their faith too, their immune systems were affected, they became depressed, and with the living conditions etc, they succumbed. Whereas the realists accepted the situation, and knew they might not get rescued right away. They worked out ways to survive the ordeals presented to them. These survivors learned to communicate with each other through tapping on on the walls; they exercised in small spaces; they had faith in something greater than themselves, like God; they were radically creative and developed strong practices in things like mindful meditation and other practices like visualization (perhaps imagining the pitifully meager food they had as a banquet); they cultivated friendships and supported one another; they kept a sense of humour. All these attributes kept them alive, and these are the very things that will guide us towards healing from burnout, or other stressful life situations.
In Victor Frankl’s 1984 book “Mans Search for Meaning” he was a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp. He was a psychologist and used many of the above practices to help him stay alive. This is one of those books everyone should read who is recovering from burnout, or any kind of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual suffering. When I was taking my Masters degree, I wrote a paper on existential suffering in the terminally ill. Another term for this kind of suffering is called “Total Pain”, where the body expresses pain from our suffering of mind, body and spirit. Victor Frankl speaks of suffering in this way: “If there is meaning to life at all, then there must be meaning to suffering…”
Living in the moment, and practicing ways of being in our suffering, is the way through.
Here are some ideas for practicing the development of resilience.
Tools and Practices to Develop Resilience
- Meditate —if possible for 20 minutes, three times a week
- Focused Activity like qigong, yoga, Pilates, to keep us in the now.
- Exercise like walking, running, biking, 4-5 days a week
- Slogans—uplifting saying and affirmations. (Louise Hay has a multitude of those in “You Can Heal Your Life”).
- Breathing exercises— one beautifully easy breathing exercise, which works especially when you are stressed, is to take a deep breath in and blow out through pursed lips as if you are blowing gently through a straw. Provide a little resistance, and slowly empty your lungs. Do this five times, and you will realize your breath has reduced from the normal 15 to 18 per minute to 3 to 5. There can be an immediate shift in your stress level.