By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
Most everyone goes through a challenging season personally or professionally, but those with the tools of everyday resiliency survive better than most, believes Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe.
“Today is day 725 of a global health pandemic. That is a very long time to try and do our best and keep showing up. So if you feel wobbly, that is a normal response in the current landscape,” said Hanley-Dafor, speaking to women attending the virtual Women Entrepreneur Summit hosted by Farm Credit Canada in March.
“Resiliency is associated with grit, resourcefulness and hardiness but we saw that it is really about belonging, perspective, acceptance, hope and humour,” said Hanley-Dafoe. In fact, she credits these traits as the five pillars of everyday resiliency.
• Belonging is about relationships which provide trust and psychological safety.
• Perspective is usually thought of as an intellectual process but is about “getting your head and heart on the same page.”
• Acceptance is recognizing that “some things are outside of our control” and lets us find new strategies so we do not stay stuck where we are at.
• Hope is “what the world needs a big dose of” and is actually a choice so that people can weather difficult seasons
• Humour can be play, joy, merriment, lightheartedness and they all contribute to everyday resilience because they provide release, explained Hanley-Dafoe. “Laughter is a natural tranquilizer that allows us to catch our breath and feel lightness from the weight of the world.”
To enact these five traits of resiliency, people need to know what the barriers are in their life. For many it is stress. While stress provides energy when a task is at hand, when there are too many tasks, the body keeps making cortisol and passes the threshold of energy into distress, explained Hanley-Dafoe. “Distress is where so many people are stuck,” she said.
Distress starts as fatigue, then erodes into exhaustion. “You know you have distress when you get a good sleep and still feel tired. When that exhaustion lasts, it leads to burnout,” said Hanley-Dafoe. Other indicators of distress are cynicism and decreasing performance.
Before that happens, Hanley-Dafoe recommends getting outside. “It’s an amazing way to regulate the nervous system,” she said. Crying is good too. “Get all slobbery. It’s a glorious way to reset your system.” Additionally, eat carbohydrates. “Eat all the yummy things and you can feel stress release because stress cortisol is using up those calories.” Within reason, of course.
There are other tools to explore because not every tool works for every person. Hanley-Dafoe talked about emotional regulation and how everyone has to find a balance with their drive system, threat system and soothing system. One of these tools is called Birthday Cake Breathing. It’s where a person imagines a birthday cake in their mind. They take a deep breath and then blow out the birthday candles.
“It works because when we focus on an image in our minds, it quiets the mind’s chatter. Then the breath is an effective way to regulate quickly,” said Hanley-Dafoe.
Other advice she offered at the FCC women entrepreneurs summit included:
• Mono versus multitasking: “We may think we get more done when we multitask but the cognitive load is higher and depletes us quickly,” said Hanley-Dafoe.
• Mark down the things you HAVE done to celebrate what you have accomplished.
• Create morning and night routines. Morning routines will create a baseline in the morning while night time routines help people wind down and prepare the body for rest, she said.
• Micro-breaks: These little breaks can help people “catch their breath” and think about what matters most.
• Think about comeback rates: Is what you are doing high effort/high reward, or high effort/low reward or low effort/low reward? “Things like watching television might be low effort but they are also low reward. You need to have ideas for activities that are low effort/high reward, such as sending someone a thank you note,” she said. High effort/high reward activities can also be good, and may include going on a brisk walk or making a meal for the family. ◊