noun: resilience; noun: resiliency; plural noun: resiliencies

1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Back in January, before this pandemic broke all hell loose, I had a conversation with a friend about words or phrases that we were each considering to be our guide for 2020. I had no idea how apropos my chosen word, resilience, would be or how much I’d need to develop resilience—even more than moving abroad alone had prepared me for.

After blowing up my life in the States, getting rid of nearly everything and moving to Portugal, I thought I was pretty resilient. Actually, I know I am, but this isolation is testing even my predilection for staying home. There’s something about staying home, alone when you know you can go out vs. staying in when you know you can’t go out.

State of Emergency

As of Thursday, 19 March 2020, the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, decreed a state of emergency, and the prime minister, Antonio Costa, outlined what this would look like. We are only allowed out to grocery shop, to the pharmacy, and work, if we still have a job and are an essential worker (healthcare, sanitation, etc.). Oh, and we can go out for brief periods of exercise and dog walks. Yay for dog walks!

About a week before the lockdown, I started making meals (as I do daily from scratch) and setting aside a portion to freeze. If I get sick or run out of food or can’t get to the grocery store—or whatever other unexpected situation arises—I have several soups and stews ready for me. I’m wired to plan and prepare, and I enjoy a good challenge.

Since the lockdown, I’ve been strategic about going out in public.

I take my dog out for a few short walks, and I go to the grocery store once a week. Without a car and zero interest in public transportation right now, I have to be able to carry everything I purchase in just a few bags. Fortunately, this is pretty easy. I’ve been shopping at a smaller store, not one of the popular chains, and although I pay a slight premium, I am greeted by the kind smiles (behind facemasks) of the two women who work there, and no lines to get in. At most, there have been three other shoppers when I’m there.

My life, in the outward sense, like most people’s, has become tiny.

Developing Resilience

Developing resilience is always a good idea, but now even more so. We think this pandemic was out-of-the-blue, and it took most of us by surprise, but the best thing we can do going forward is to assume that life is chaos. To expect the unanticipated. To learn to weather what life throws our way with acceptance and ease.

But how do we build resilience? How do we roll with the punches and survive, or even thrive?

We can build resilience by:

  1. Accepting that change is constant. Just when we think we’ve got it figured out, the universe will shift—if only to keep us on our toes. Accept this and suffer less.
  2. Developing secure connections. We need one another, a fact even this introvert can acknowledge. Love deep, give generously, and form bonds with simpatico folks. It’s good for your health, their health, and it makes life more fulfilling.
  3. Dialing back expectations and being a bit pessimistic when imagining outcomes. This may seem counterintuitive, but by keeping your expectations low, and making friends with what could go wrong, you’ll be better prepared to handle crises when they do arise—and they will. If things go according to plan, then rejoice!
  4. Believing in your creativity and ingenuity. Although I suggest maintaining a slight edge of pessimism when considering life’s events, I recommend that you view yourself in a positive light and recount all the times you’ve triumphed. You are still here, after all, and that’s a win right there. You have what it takes to get through this—you can learn new things and carve new pathways even when the ground beneath you has shifted.
  5. Knowing that this, too, will pass. Life is temporary. So is the current crisis. The pandemic and panic will pass, so let’s keep perspective. We will get through this.
  6. Minding your health. Nothing builds resilience like maintaining a healthy and flexible body and mind. You don’t need to be an athlete, but you do need to move—every day! And the same goes for your mind. Flex your grey matter by learning something new. Meditate. Tame the mental chatter. Oh, and rest. Do these things and resilience will grow.

And remember, be kind—everyone has a different level of resilience so don’t berate yourself or others for how well they are, or are not, coping. We all handle stress differently and the ride on this coronacoaster is a twisty one, challenging even the most resilient among us.

(this was originally published for my newsletter life: examined. Find more of my writings, there.)