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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Bryan

Everyday Resilience: Be Generous with Yourself

I don't know about you but last week was rough. I began working from home and stopped hanging out with people. Every day the numbers of COVID-19 cases doubled, the calls by healthcare providers for personal protective equipment got louder, and on a personal level, Americans overseas were told to either come home now or plan to shelter-in-place for an undetermined period of time, setting off all my maternal instincts about our daughter in Germany. Meanwhile, I expected myself to be just as productive as usual at work - more actually, because hey, I was home with no other demands. I should have been churning out continuing ed options left and right. But it was all I could do to focus on answering email, do a literature search, and attend a couple of virtual meetings...since I work part-time my days off were a relief because at least I didn't have the expectation of productivity hanging over my head.

And then on Friday, I joined a virtual conversation with the trauma-informed community of and found the forgiving language I didn't even know I was seeking:

-- "I hope you didn't expect to be productive this week"

-- Play the long game. If you expect to be as active and productive as you usually are during these uncertain times, you are going to burn out fast

-- The top priority is stabilizing your home - feeling secure in your emergency plan will help

-- Give yourself an adjustment window

-- It is unreasonable to expect your same level of productivity during times like these

Long exhale. Of course. All of our lids are flipped (meaning our highest rational brains have been hijacked by our amygdalae) and we are functioning out of our survival brains! Certainly, last week I was in a steady state of alarm, which meant I was functioning out of my lower emotional brain. Thanks to work by Bruce Perry, when I am in alarm state I know my sense of time is decreased to hours or minutes, making it very difficult to think creatively about future events, and my emotions are driving my thinking more than usual. It's difficult to focus; I am more sensitive to my interactions with others, more reactive than reflective, and less patient. My emotional intelligence decreases.

We are all adjusting to living in uncertainty. Daily we are told it's going to get worse - today I even read how we should brace ourselves! And meanwhile, we are trying to meet the expectations of family and work responsibilities.

Is this resonating with anyone else? If so, I invite you to give yourself an adjustment window too. If you are feeling chronically alarmed like me, then realize how important it is to take moments in which you exhale longer than you inhale, to notice the magnolia tree blossoming regardless of the pandemic. To remind yourself that you are doing the best you can do, letting go of pre-pandemic expectations. We are in a new world. I hope this poem speaks to you the way it did to me this morning: let's focus on not losing our light and on being generous - with ourselves and others.

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