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How Can You Stay Resilient in These Tough Times?

Mental Health
Author name: By Chaplain Mike Warthen – Director of Spiritual Services


Leaf and Tree Stump Photo

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written for healthcare workers, but the message of hope and positivity is the same for all community members in these difficult times.

Take a moment to look closely at the image above.

What do you see? It’s OK to answer out loud – just ignore the looks that you might get.

The tree has obviously experienced an extremely traumatic event. It has suffered many losses and unimaginable pain. The tree was left for dead without hope of survival.

The stump is left as a reminder of strength diminished and purpose lost. After all, what good is a tree that has been reduced to a stump due to external forces taking their collective toll on its vitality and life?

I wonder if the stump can look deep within itself and remember its “why?” A tree that once provided shade on a sunny day, lodging for small animals or a much-needed layover for migrating birds.

Enough about the stump.

What about you? Do any of these descriptions about the former tree resonate with you – cut down in your prime and unable or limited in your ability to serve effectively? Has your sense of meaning, value or purpose been rendered ineffective? Do you feel that you are being pushed and motivated by fear? Are the strength and perseverance you once possessed a distant memory that haunts you in the face of new or prolonged challenges?

Is there anything within you that is pulling you through to another day?

Look at the picture again and focus on the new growth on the top of the stump. A brief internet search will display hundreds of similar images that might be used to visually explain resilience. Many of these metaphorical images involve a sprout in an arid river bed or in the crack atop a stump whose seed might have migrated to that location.

No, I like this image. This growth is emerging from the existing stump. The new growth is a part of this tree. This is resilience in its purest and uncomplicated form! In the face of overwhelming circumstances, life found a way. Something inside of this apparently dead tree made its way to the surface and sprouted with opportunity and hope.

We also possess this potential for new growth.

We’ve all heard a great deal about resilience in the past several months. There are possibly thousands of websites and presentations dedicated to understanding it. Resilience isn’t a checklist or learned behavior that we Google when things are tough. There are no life hacks available to quickly restore your sense of worth.

We’ve made it so difficult to understand that we abandon the search and benefit.

Resilience resides deep within us all and springs forth when the need is greatest. Recognizing the strengths that dwell within our soul that call us into tomorrow with courage and fortitude is the goal.

The tree survived because it is a tree that had not stopped living.

I am learning that resiliency is individual in its development and expression. By the way, ‘resiliency’ is one of those words that when you type it, hear it or see it enough times it often begins to lose its clarity and meaning. So, let’s reframe the word for just a moment.

Resilience is deeply rooted in our “why.” Why did we accept the calling and challenge to invest ourselves in the lives of strangers? Why did you choose to put yourself in harm’s way to heal? Why were you motivated to choose a career in health care? This is the “why” I’m referring to.

The “why” that pulled you in the path of compassion and caring is the same “why” that will pull you into the future. Pandemic or not, your own personal “why” has power over pandemic and fear. So, do the work of rediscovering your “why” and you will renew your passion. Embrace it. Own it. Your “why” is now your personal definition of resilience.

Your unique “why” is not taught – it has become of part your emotional and/or spiritual DNA. You can’t lose it, run from it, have it cut down or taken away. It emerges when all seems lost. You may use words like faith, hope, love, kindness, gentleness, patience or self-control to wrap your mind and vocabulary around your understanding of “why.”

You are resilient! Period! Call on those strengths that reside in the depths of your soul to defeat confusion, loneliness, fear and despair.

The stump never saw itself as anything but a tree. A stump didn’t emerge – a tree emerged and flourished because that is what it is genetically designed to do. So will you. Refuse to give in to the circumstances that might lay an ax to your “why.” Lean into it and thrive!

Need someone to talk to? Reach out to our experienced, compassionate professionals at Lee Health Behavioral Health Services.

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