teamwork handsWhile reflecting on the start of this year’s holiday season, it’s brought to mind some additional thoughts on the topic of resilience.  Since the Pandemic, many have been reading, learning, discussing, strategizing, and supporting this topic.  Based on my personal and professional life experiences, I’ve come to believe that helping others to develop resilience is a primary purpose for my life and work.

While many revel in joy at this time of year, many others struggle more than usual and need additional encouragement and support.   In 2004, studies on the spikes in suicides, homicides, and motor vehicle accidents during the Christmas season began.  Additionally, in 2010, David Phillips, professor of Sociology at University of California at San Diego completed U.S.-based research that focused on deaths by natural causes alone.  His research found that deaths from natural causes on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas/Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day accounted for the highest dates of deaths, too.  Is mental health or lack of resilience a causative factor?  Research is indicating that mental/emotional wellbeing of individuals during the Christmas season is an ongoing, significant causative factor in death causation.  Social connection is a piece of it.  However, from my experience, there are others.  Why do some people demonstrate more resilience than others?

As a decades-long entrepreneur, I’ve consistently managed to weather the storms of:

  • National Financial Crises: October, 1989 – 1991 recession when the fed elevated interest rates to tame inflation; The Great Recession of 2007 – 2009; and the financial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • High Impact, Immediate Family Member Losses: the untimely losses of my younger brother to brain cancer and my husband to CJD, and then last year’s loss of my father and 25-year business partner.

Why and how was I able to not only survive the losses, but to grow from them and find greater meaning and purpose? I concluded that seven (7) influential factors build that ability.

  1. Solid Connections With Others – family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  While one may want to remain isolated “in a cave,” you’ll not likely heal there.  Reach out for 1:1 time with one or two individuals you trust and who reliably provide comfort to you.  Remember, you’re not alone.
  2. Support by Mental Health Professionals It can work when you have someone who interpersonally connects well with you and who has proven experience resolving issues like yours.   Mental health services no longer carry a stigma in our society.  Additionally, it can help you to generally become a better, more self-aware, happier, and more successful person.
  3. Remember Your Accomplishments – Remind yourself of the good you’ve done.  Jot down past accomplishments in terms of your work and family as well as in providing help to others who needed and benefitted from that help.
  4. Build Your Fortitude – Commit to 1 – 2 things you will accomplish per day and while doing so, examine what’s motivating you.  Perhaps you’ll discover untapped, internal fortitude.  Meditation/mindfulness or acupuncture may be a useful way to help you to become the ‘calm in your storm.’
  5. Creative and Exercise Outlets – The arts help people to visualize and effectively emote (express personal emotion).  It could be writing a journal, painting, acting, or in my case, competitive dancing.  I was able to emote my grief while dancing and envision myself executing new dance moves as I built my will to thrive again.  7 – 14 hours a week of exercise is a good way to relieve stress and focus your mind.
  6. Commit to Help Others – Identify and commit to 2-3 things you can do to help someone in need – no matter how small.   Then, reflect upon how that made you feel and add it to your Accomplishments List.
  7. Find Hope – Reflect upon your spirituality (belief in a greater good, power, and purpose) to consider what you can do in a positive way with what you’ve now learned/experienced or what you likely will as a result.  And, focus on a special occasion, goal, or opportunity that is meaningful to you.

By Regan MacBain Traub, Founder & Managing Principal