Building Resiliency in Times of Uncertainty

Reflections and Tips for Building Resiliency from Heather Sullivan, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Balanced Rock

As we descend the crest of the Vernal Equinox, familiar seasonal patterns emerge at the gates of Yosemite: a late season snow-pack forming in the high mountains, river and waterfalls growing, redbud and rainbows bursting, birdsong abounding and verdant green filling in the canyon between swaths of wildflower color blasts.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of uncertainly, destabilization, question, concern & fear. Stay at home mandates have many humans in many states and globally in our homes and anxious about what the future holds. Some people are losing jobs and income, students are home from school, some are shifting to work from home and nothing is as it was yesterday.

Lessons and opportunities I have learned this week give me hope for what, at times, can seem a very bleak or challenging future. These lessons are of the resiliency of humans and of communities.

Here are 10 concrete ways I have seen resiliency building within myself and in my community this week (while practicing social spacing). And I’ve included a suggested practice or action to accompany each one…to encourage your own building of resiliency:

  • Power of Connection: We are social creatures. This week, I have met or chatted with more of my neighbors over the fence than in the year I’ve lived in my house. We are all usually so busy moving around that we haven’t had the TIME to talk. One neighbor helped me fix my chainsaw so I could do some work, others called to see if I needed anything, one helped with yard work. We need to reach out and connect with each other during this time.

ACTION:  Write a letter to someone you have not connected with in awhile. Handwritten!! And send it! Or find another way to connect with someone.

  • Importance of Self-Care: In order to withstand the unknown, we need to find ways to relax, laugh, and enjoy life while exploring ways to keep our mind/body/spirit in optimal health. Staying hydrated and eating seasonally and locally are great practices to show our bodies the importance of self-care.

ACTION:  Begin the day with warm lemon water. Sip warm/hot liquids daily. Support local farmers or better yet, grow some of your own food. Plant some seeds today. Keep up vitamin C intake and Zinc. Get enough rest. Eat warm, nourishing meals.

  • Spending Time in Nature and remembering how critical it is to our health! I have been blessed to spend an incredible amount of time in nature through the course of my life. Over the last week, the moments I have been out and on walks have been overwhelmingly positive, nourishing and essential to my mental health and ability to process what is going on. Taking a break from news, screens and social media also gives a great spaciousness and mental clearing.

ACTION: Go for a walk (without your device) and observe how you feel while being outside. If you cannot leave your house, open a window and feel the air on your skin.  

  • Getting Exercise: It has long been tried and true that moving the body carries numerous benefits. Getting the heart rate up produces endorphins, which elevate the mood and even help support mental health. Through movement we stimulate our circulation, digestion, tone our muscles and so much more. 

ACTION: Make an exercise plan for yourself either outside (dog walks are great for this) or online classes that abound now: yoga, pilates, meditation, or even dance!

  • Cultivating Creative Outlets: In just a week I have seen incredible artwork made, music shared, creative responses to deal with the stress of C-19. I attended an online dance party, brainstormed signs for a spirit walk up our road, dressed up for a Zoom call in funny clothes and have cooked some delicious creations.

ACTION: Ask Yourself: What is your creative outlet? Spend at least 30 minutes that brings you joy in this realm.

  • Helping Others and cultivating a sense of purpose. The capacity to help others or being of service can bring great meaning to one’s life. This is a great time to check in on a neighbor, loved one or stranger and see if there is anything they need help with: stacking wood, a meal brought to them, picking up supplies or someone to talk with on the phone.

ACTION: Do something helpful this week for someone in your community (after your self-care routine! Remember that only when our cup is full can we help fill others)

  • Meditation/Mental Exercises/Breathing Exercises: Just as we train our bodies for optimal health we can work with our mind and our breath to bring forth health and wellbeing. Meditation, crossword puzzles, music, even learning a new languages!

ACTION: Experiment with a 10-minute meditation exercise (there are many great ones online if this is new to you. Observe any sensations you feel in your body or thoughts after the practice, feel free to write them down in a journal.

  • Getting Organized and Prepared for uncertain times or for any time can have a noticeable sense of grounding and stabilizing. This is great time for spring cleaning, deep cleaning, getting those projects done that are always on the TO DO list. You should see my “She Shed!”, she said. 

ACTION: Tackle one organizational project you have really been wanting to get to: that closet you pretend isn’t there, those kitchen drawers, your vehicle, those computer files…

  • Be Adaptable. Be Flexible. Easier said than done! But it’s beneficial to be willing to change to meet the circumstances, not to mention it has been how species have evolved since the beginning of time. As we face this current crises, we must look at how we change our current behavior to survive and hopefully eventually thrive again. Change starts on the individual level!

ACTION: Journal for 15 minutes about any ways you have noticed your behavior has changed in the last week that could be beneficial to you or others in the future.

  • Maintaining a Positive Outlook.  Last and certainly not least, in fact this may be most important! In dark times, maintaining hope and positivity may be the only thing that gets one through a tough situation. I have experienced this in my life and whole heartedly believe the way to raise my own and others vibration is to authentically look for the good, beautiful, positive and magical in the world…even in the bleakest of landscapes. Create a safe space to hold your darker emotions, but try to let the light of positivity lead the way.

ACTION: Gratitude Reflection. At the beginning of each day, start with a short gratitude moment. Express one thing you are thankful for. And at the end of the day, share 3 things you experienced that were positive, beautiful, or magical.

Disclaimer:  This may not be an exhaustive list on Building Resiliency, but it is a place to start and perhaps return to during these difficult times when we feel fear, worry, or despair creeping in.

Perhaps this list serves as a touchstone, like this image below.  I took this photo just before Yosemite National Park closed to the public. I sat alone in this meadow and under this oak–a place and view that have weathered some of my happiest of happy moments and saddest of the sad…and everything in between. I sat in befuddlement of what our world is facing…and then allowed myself a few precious moments to let the clouds dance above me, knowing it may be a long, long time before I can return to this familiar place. As I walked away…a raven settled in the middle of the meadow, a peregrine soared high above and a golden eagle circled mid-way between the two.

A rest for the meadow and return for the raptors…Resiliency, I thought. All creatures, all of nature…so resilient.

Photo credit: Heather Sullivan

Balanced Rock is a nimble, mission driven, primarily donor-supported organization. Ways we are Building Resiliency during this time are:

Above all, we are still striving to offer our mission to the community locally and beyond: inspiring health and wellbeing through deep connection to nature and spirit. Let’s continue to #BuildResiliency together!

Stay tuned to our social media channels for updates and access to Yosemite Yoga Online classes via our YouTube Channel. Use our hashtags below to share your health and wellness practices, and we’ll share them on our feed!

Instagram: @balancedrockorg #balancedrockorg #yosemiteyoga

Facebook: Balanced Rock Foundation

YouTube: Balanced Rock Foundation

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