Gas cans and rubber bands: Resilience while running on empty

10/26/2017 9:09 PM | Rebecca Kindall Nelson (Administrator)

Katie Johnson, MHSCN President Elect

As I sit down to write this article on resiliency, lyrics to the 1977 Jackson Browne song “Running on Empty” run through my mind. Can you relate?

As we on the MHSCN Board discussed content possibilities for the upcoming Fall Conference, consensus around the table suggested “resilience” is a topic we could all use help developing, especially while “running on empty” amidst the changes, stressors and demands of our professional roles.

re·sil·ience -  rəˈzilyəns/

According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the “process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…..our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don't go as planned.”

The statement most interesting to me in their description of resiliency was this: “Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.”

Resilience, they say, is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

This is good news for me and for all of us hoping to find enough fuel to survive each day and enough elasticity to adapt and grow through each twist, turn, valley and mountain on the day’s journey.

Choose resilience

So I’ve come to the conclusion my behaviors, thoughts and actions need to focus on things that:

  • fill my “gas can” and help me find contentedness and purpose
  • act as rubber bands that help me stretch and adapt to stress and change

If you share my quest to hone this “ordinary” skill, here are a couple good resources I’ve found from Dr. Amit Sood.

Sood is a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester. His website, stressfree.org, is full of scientific and practical information on resilience and happiness, including a one-week guided happiness journey.

Sood has also created several lighthearted but effective videos on the topic of resilience you can find on the front page of his website like this one (worth the watch, even if it’s just to smile at his accent, his drawing style and his rhymes!).

Sood likens resilience to the rumble strips on the side of the highway.

"From the rumble strip you can end up in the ditch, or you can recover back on the highway," Soot says. With resilience, “the idea is to recover quickly on the highway of life.”

Take it easy

So to reference yet another Jackson Browne song, I invite you to "take it easy" as you run down that road trying to loosen your load. Be gentle to yourself and be mindful of the benefit of helping yourself by helping others.

I hope you’ll share your resilience tips and reflections with me and the rest of your MHSCN colleagues at our Fall Conference or any time we gather. 

Speaking of the Fall Conference, we’ll offer a great topic on resiliency by Melanie "Mel" Sullivan, EdD, chief people officer, Constellation.

Together, I believe we can help each other fill those gas cans and find rubber bands to hold us together and to improve our collective health.

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