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How to navigate through difficult times and build resilience

by | Create a Turning Point

“Write about a difficult time from the past, after which you thrived. What helped you get through that time? What strengths and resources made a difference?”

The minute I heard the assignment, a lightbulb turned on. A memory came up immediately, and the words just flowed from my pen:

I am a young mother. My son is only a year and a half old. The siren starts at 2 am. We follow the instructions and place our son quickly in a small tent-like crib. Looking at his parents wearing their scary gas masks, he screams like crazy and vomits. It is not clear yet what kind of missiles were fired on Israel. I want to get him out and hug him, but I know that if I do, he might die.

Growing up in Israel, I lived through four wars. But the 1991 Gulf War was the most traumatic. I have never been so afraid. It was days before we learned that the weapons fired on us were conventional. Eventually, we got into a routine of running to the bomb shelter or hunkering down in a safe room in our apartment. I adjusted to our new reality. But the wounds and the trauma lingered.

This small writing assignment opened up a vulnerable conversation with my husband and adult children about traumas and how they affect us.

I was lucky to relive this memory in a supportive and guided environment. I attended an online mini-retreat with Nancy Seibel from Keys to Change. Nancy guided us through writing assignments that enabled profound insights.

Looking at the way I dealt with this past experience and how I deal with sudden changes today helped me realize how far I have come.

When change happens, and we face a crisis, it’s hard at first to build resiliency. We experience waves of fear, panic, sadness, and even anger. We feel hopeless. We feel lost.

Recently, I shared five ways to stay sane in times of collective panic. When navigating a crisis, we get into survival mode first. We can’t build resilience until we feel safe and secure. At the onset of the COVID-19 turmoil, we had to take action by sheltering in our homes to ensure we were safe. Once we created and adjusted to a new routine, we could begin building resilience.

The first step to building resilience is understanding this:

Fear, worry, sadness, and anger are normal emotions. They are not harmful, nor are they problems. Unless we allow them to control us.

Once you welcome and accept the emotions, once you learn to manage them instead of push them away, you’re on your way to healing. Fear doesn’t necessarily have to turn into anxiety. Sadness doesn’t necessarily have to turn into depression.

Self-awareness helps you catch the emotions at an early stage and start managing them. If managing your emotions on your own is hard for you, or if you suffer from mental health issues, please seek professional help.

Togetherness is a must for building resilience.

The Beacons of Change Method is based on the belief that we possess the ability to live at full power, regardless of what is going on around us. For me, “power” refers to both personal and spiritual power. In order to connect with our gifts and strengths, we need to access both types of power. And while doing the inner work is the key, you cannot build resilience unless you interact with the world around you.

We recently discussed this phenomenon of building resilience through togetherness during a weekly call with my online Beacon’s Sisterhood community. Rachel, a member of the sisterhood for more than two years now, shared how she nurtures herself consistently by practicing self-care through engagement with the sisterhood. Each beacon in our sisterhood knows that when she has a low moment, she can reach out to the other women in the tribe to receive the wisdom and guidance she needs both to feel accepted and to upshift her emotions. And when she feels strong and resilient, she will be the one who encourages others.

Building resilience cannot be done in isolation. Because “healing together outshines healing alone.”

Building resilience is possible when you access the many tools and resources available to you. Today, I am focusing on only one tool: learning from past experience.

Find your voice. Answer these questions. Share your story.

Grab your journal. Make yourself a hot cup of tea. Start writing. Answer the questions below (inspired by the questions I was asked at the mini retreat with Nancy Siebel):

  1. Looking at the challenge you are facing now, what is a past event that presented you with a similar challenge that you were able to overcome?
  2. What do you remember from that event? What happened? How did you feel?
  3. What helped you to go through this time?
  4. What inner and external resources made a difference?
  5. What did you learn from this past experience, and how can it help you cope now?

Once you complete this exercise, the next step might require you to get out of your comfort zone: sharing your story.

Writing can help you find clarity and reconnect with your inner strengths. Sharing your story with others will help you take your healing to the next level, own your gifts, and bring them to life in the present moment.

Who is a friend, a family member, or a professional who “gets you” and will support you as you share your story?

Reconnecting with the way I handled the situation in 1991 and talking about it in the online retreat and with my family later led me to a few realizations. At the time, I did not have enough tools to cope. I allowed fear to take over and turn into anxiety. I tried to fight the fear by myself, which only made it worse.

I am thankful that in the decades since, I have:

  • Developed practices to take back my power once I give in to fear
  • Maintained a daily routine of connecting with my power and seeking wisdom
  • Learned to rely on my intuition and my heart, not only on my mind
  • Established a solid system of support so that I never have to be alone

What about you, beacon?

What memory from the past offers clarity on how to cope better in the present?

What inner strength is available for you, regardless of what is happening around you?

Please share in the comments area. Or if it’s too personal, email me.

2 Comments

  1. Nancy L. Seibel

    Michal, it was a delight to have you at the mini-retreat. Maybe you can imagine the profound sense of alignment that I get from reading your post. As you so well describe, a simple prompt, or series of prompts, and a brief time to write can lead to important discoveries. In this case, it was one you shared with your family. Most of us have had at least one very disruptive or traumatic experience in our lives. We’re incredibly strong and carry on with our lives in spite of them. But they’re a lot to carry, and they can continue affecting us even if they are now well in the past. Bringing them into awareness, with the guidance of a writing facilitator is a way to follow advice we’re all familiar with, though it can be hard to do. The writing allows us to make meaning of that past experience, understand how it is woven into the fabric of our lives and then do what is often so difficult, which is to release whatever we’ve been carrying that no longer serves us. Thank you for sharing this with your readers.

    Reply
  2. Michal Spiegelman

    “The writing allows us to make meaning of that past experience, understand how it is woven into the fabric of our lives and then do what is often so difficult, which is to release whatever we’ve been carrying that no longer serves us.” I love that. And thank you for being a beacon and guiding others through healing. Adding writing, as you teach it, to my toolbox has been very meaningful to me.

    Reply

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