Building resilience is one thing, but maintaining it is another and incredibly important to do. I live with mental illness (anxiety and depression) as well as many health conditions, including a chronic pain condition. In 2015 when my lung collapsed on the Christmas holiday and endured lung surgery as well as a painful eight month recovery, I learned a few things about what it means to keep building resilience in all aspects of health.
I had a tough time accepting that I nearly lost my life after my lung collapsed. It took a few months to cope with all of what happened, but in my recovery, I learned how every day, we should be doing things to maintain mental and physical resilience, especially in the face of struggle. After the first four weeks in the midst of my painful recovery, so painful I couldn’t lay in bed or lay down without wanting to scream, I developed a few mindsets to help me feel better and get back to my normal self.
One night when pain was so intense, I forced myself up and for forty-five minutes, I sat in my living room and did light stretching. It was the first time I said to myself, ‘just do something.’ The mindset I had to get out of, though, I’d think to myself, “This will never get better, it’s so bad!” For a while, I thought the entire experience would destroy my body and mental health. During painful, difficult struggle, we sometimes collectively may think that things will forever stay that way. With my situation, I didn’t think I’d be able to bounce back. I’m certain, however, a year after my lung collapsed I began feeling head-to-toe pain on a regular basis and within six months, I could tell I had fibromyalgia. And, I was correct after being evaluated by several fibromyalgia specialists. Before my lung collapsed, I did not have chronic pain.
Life can toss many lemons at us and for me, I’d have lemons falling from the sky onto my head (figuratively speaking). I could be bitter, angry about my circumstances and tearing myself apart because I have health problems, but I chose to find ways to adapt, to change habits and old behaviors, and create new routines for myself. Was it easy? Not at all. It took me several months to recover from that lung collapse because I’ve got back problems and now, spinal arthritis. It’s been a few months since I’ve discovered all of this and in those months, I’ve rewired my mind to focus on ways I could feel better every day. Here are the mindsets that’ll help you maintain resilience, mentally and physically.
Do something now
The ‘do something now’ mindset got my mind in the right place. Though it took a bit of time to make this a habit, I’ve carried this mindset all the way through my recovery. I began by doing light stretching, something I know to do even though it was hard to move at all. I did light stretching until I was doing my full yoga routines. And yes, living with a chronic pain condition comes with its setbacks, so when I have not-so-good days and am feeling pain, I do something the same moment I feel it. Five years ago, I couldn’t go on a light walk if I was fatigued. Now, I can feel lethargic and still get up and move, even when I don’t want to. The only way to maintain resilience is to do something constructive for your health now, despite not being up for it. That’s when your body will benefit the most. Since I’ve made this mindset a habit, my mental and emotional health improved as well, because I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Set realistic goals each day and stick to them
My pain won’t just go away; it will always be there, which means I’ll have to work hard to maintain mobility. Sometimes I’ll be working and my neck will stiffen up to the point when I can’t move my shoulders or upper body. Now, I never allow things to get so bad. In the midst of my recovery from lung surgery, I began setting goals to challenge myself. Before my lung collapsed, I had more than two years of doing Yoga accomplished, and I believe in the power of Yoga stretching. I also set goals to swim regularly even if all I could do was walk through the water. The best way to accomplish any goal is to set time aside each day, the same time, and when the time comes, force yourself to move. In the long term, you’ll reap the benefits.
I’ve persevered through so much already, I’ll persevere through this
If you’ve gotten to know my story through my other articles, it’s probably pretty obvious I’ve gone through more than the average adult. In the face of pain beyond words could express or describe, I’ve managed to continue doing my routines each day and today, I see the results. Now, I’m in the midst of doing a thirty day flexibility challenge, which has improved my pain so much, I hardly have any. The worst thing anybody can do is give up. I’ve gone through life, even at my very worst, and been able to accomplish a great deal despite my limitations, but you know what? We all to some degree have limitations; you can honor them and still challenge yourself to do more if it means improving your health and situation. When I find myself in an uncomfortable slump, (and some days, I do) I’ll say to myself, “I’ve persevered through so much, I can persevere through this, too.”
Resilience taught me about the importance of not giving up. The way we think affects how we feel and ultimately, what we do. A part of being resilient comes from how we think about ourselves and our core beliefs about ourselves. This is why positive and mindful thinking are essential; we’re training our minds to focus on healing, our emotional well-being, and not merely just rushing through moments because we’re uncomfortable. When I feel pain now, I do some form of enjoyable exercise, which has profoundly impacted my mental and physical health.
Originally published at medium.com