RESILIENCE: the ability to COPE with adversity, ADAPT to challenges, RECOVER and LEARN from setbacks, and GROW from the experience.
I used to do endurance races (e.g., 50k ultra-marathons, marathon, triathlons) not just for the fun and competition but also as a way to test, reveal, and strengthen my mental toughness.
Now, to test, reveal and strengthen my mental toughness, I parent three small humans. More specifically for today, I fly cross country solo with three toddlers.
Stress is inevitable when flying with three toddlers. I knew the challenge that was before me. In fact, it was the main reason I didn’t fly home in June, and the main reason I initially said no to flying home for Christmas. Add in the COVID pandemic, uncertainty of whether it’s the “right” thing, and tiny humans who constantly have their hands in their mouths, yeah, added stress.
I thought I’d share some lessons learned from today (for myself to remember as well as for sake of a teachable moment that may resonate with others):
- Keep the big goal in mind. In races, my goal was to get to the finish line. Same held true today. Just get to the final destination.
- Break up the goal into more manageable parts and focus on the present. Like a biathlon, we had two flights and one transition (layover). I focused my energy into each event without worrying about the next.
- Mindset matters. Just like my racing days, I went Into today’s adventure focused on strengthening my resilience rather than having the perfect race. This helped me welcome adversity and obstacles because they were opportunities to strengthen my resilience muscles.
- Keep realistic expectations. So much goes into this one. But to keep it simple, it’s safe to expect it will be hard and some moments will be really hard. But, it’s also safe to expect it won’t all bad. There will be good moments. Easy moments, maybe, even if brief. “It doesn’t always get worse.”
- Enter with intentions. I am equipped with coping strategies. I don’t always use them in my daily life but, as mentioned above, I approached today as an endurance challenge so I went into it with intentions of sharpening my resilience skills and utilizing coping strategies. Big ones today were (a) control the controllables; (b) hunt the good stuff; (c) mindfulness; (d) deliberate breathing.
- Mindfulness buffers stress. Mindfulness means bringing your attention to the present moment and being accepting/not judging the experience within you or around you. In performance events, this is the key to unlocking your potential and setting self up for your best performance. Today, mindfulness helped me be what my kids needed me to be. I needed to be present and tend to their every need, every passing second. I couldn’t waste energy or attention worrying about what others were thinking or how my kids behavior may or may not have been disturbing them. I had to accept the chaos and focus on giving my kids the best of me; all of me.
- Recover when you can. Endurance races require sustainable energy. You need to find opportunities to recover fuel (physically, mentally, emotionally). Today, when there were pockets of calm, I took some deliberate breaths to turn down the stress response and recenter.
- Encouragement goes a long way. When racing, an encouraging word from a fellow participant can offer a boost of energy or just comfort in solidarity. Same with today’s flying adventure. Each compliment or feedback received today helped strengthen my resolve.
- Trust your gut, and trust your training. With races, there are always reason to “not” sign up, or to back out of the race before hitting the starting line. And, if making it to the performance, it’s not uncommon to be filled with anxiety and worry of “how it will go” and whether you’ve prepared well enough. Same was true for me with the decision to sign up for today’s event. I was uncertain, but I trusted my gut. This was the right thing to do, for us. There were/are many, many things I could focus on that would send my anxiety and stress about the “performance” through the roof, but I knew that wouldn’t be helpful. So, instead I focused on trusting my training and preparation. I reminded myself that I have been through tough events before, I have the skills and strategies I need to endure the “race”, and I trust others will show up for me and I’ll gladly accept help from those who offer.” (Yes, that’s part of resilience too- use your resources!).
Taking a few moments to pause and reflect on my experience today will enable me to learn and grow (part of resilience). And, I will surely be re-reading this next week when we do this all over again. 😆