How resilient are you?
Take this quick, utterly unscientific quiz:
1. Your son or daughter moves across the country, taking your grandchildren 2,500 miles away.
a. Become depressed, cry, lose sleep?
b. Cry a bit, then begin searching online for fun places to take your grandkids when you visit in three months?
If you answered “a,” your response is totally understandable; change can be stressful, and nests can feel very empty indeed.
If you answered “b,” you might be what psychologists refer to as “resilient.” Your greater ability to cope with stress and change may just help you live longer.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to handle stressful situations more easily and with greater calm and confidence. It’s what helps us adapt to changing circumstances–job changes, moves, loss of a spouse, illness. The quicker we can adapt and move on, the more resilient we are.
As the American Psychological Association (APA) says, resilience doesn’t mean you don’t get stressed or sad or angry or fearful; resilience is the ability to move through the negative and stay focused on the positive.
Remember “Keep Calm and Carry On”? It might as well be the mantra of the resilient because that’s, in a nutshell, what resilient people do.
In stressful situations, people who are resilient:
- Make good, actionable, realistic plans and stick with them.
- Are flexible enough to change if that very sensible plan is no longer appropriate.
- Have confidence in their ability to handle the situation and ultimately be successful.
- Rely on their resources–especially their support network.
- Aren’t overwhelmed by strong emotions.
- Stay positive, even when confronted with setbacks.
Resilience, says Harvard Health, is one of the hallmarks of longevity. People with resilience, not surprisingly, suffer less from depression. Those on the opposite end, who suffer chronic stress and anxiety, tend to have high blood pressure, sleep disorders, poor immunity, digestive issues, and heart disease.
Resiliency and Menopause
Considering how stressful midlife can be with aging parents, retirement worries, and relationship issues, there’s rarely a time you’ll need resilience more.
But menopause, with its constant changes and unpredictability, can test our resilience like nearly nothing else. How can you be positive, confident, and calm when you’re worried about hot flashes, heavy period flows, and emotional outbursts?
Chances are, you’re already exercising resilience. And “exercising” is the right word here, because resiliency, like a muscle, can be strengthened and developed with practice.
The Amazing Resilience of the Menopausal Woman
If you’re in or have been through the perimenopause > menopause transition, “resilience” is where you live.
Headaches, fatigue, joint pain, hot flashes, mood swings, rage, anxiety, depression: some women get a few, some get ‘em all, but most of us deal with at least one or two, and sometimes for years at a time.
There aren’t a lot of great solutions that we feel good about: hormone replacement may be effective, but it’s off the table for some and worrying for others. Herbs, acupuncture, foregoing sugar, wine, coffee, and exercising all can be helpful, but even the healthiest lifestyle may not eliminate the symptoms entirely.
So what do women do; what have we always done? We rely on resilience. Here’s how we do it and how you can exercise your resilience muscle to make it stronger.
How to Build Resilience (you’re doing this already, BTW)
According to the APA, you build resilience by:
- Making connections. Building your tribe is perhaps the single most important factor in having a successful menopause transition. You do that already by reading PRiME Women, talking with friends, staying close with family, communicating openly with your partner.
- Knowing every hill has a top. When you’re facing a challenge, it may seem like you’re in it forever, especially when the challenge is something like perimenopause, which can go on for a decade or more. Remembering that the crisis is finite and not forever can help you regain a positive mental attitude.
- Taking action. What menopausal woman do you know who doesn’t live by lists? The simple act of writing something down so it’s not forgotten or crossing something off when it’s accomplished–these are powerful, positive actions. Stagnation sucks away our confidence; action–even the smallest step forward–reminds us that we’re in control, at least of our response to our circumstances.
- Getting comfortable with change. Menopausal women, more than just about anyone, have this one nailed. Tinnitus yesterday, restless leg syndrome today? We adapt, we look for solutions, and we keep moving on. Knowing that change is inevitable helps us struggle less when it comes and instead embrace change as an opportunity to learn.
- Staying positive and keeping things in perspective. Many if not most post-menopausal women say they feel stronger, better, and more confident once they’re through and out the other side. Trust that you have the skills and wisdom to meet any challenge, envision yourself crossing the finish line, and don’t let the drama and urgency of the moment get out of proportion. And where possible, try to find the humor. This one can be tough, but if anyone can find the funny in today’s disaster, it’s the woman who makes jokes about her new and luxurious growth of facial hair.
- Engaging in some serious self-care. When you have a moment of peace, take advantage. Do those things that relax you, give you joy, or make you feel strong and capable. From bubble baths to shoe shopping to pub trivia night to rock climbing, whatever gives you a chance to refill your energy and positivity reserves is a good and worthwhile thing.
- Exercising some “muscle” memory. You’ve been in stressful situations before and survived; how did you do it? Did you do some research, reach out to a friend for help? Not only might it be useful to take a cue from past actions, it can also help you remember how very resourceful you are and take confidence in your capabilities.
Resiliency can be learned, and it can be strengthened, but perhaps one of the best ways of finding that cool steel core in yourself is simply by knowing and believing that it’s there.
The next time you face a challenge that seems unbeatable, step back. Take a breath. Feel the strength you know is in you, bring the wisdom of your decades on earth to bear on the problem. Then, calmly and with grace and precision, kick its ass.