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Resilience

How are you doing? A simple enough question but how do you respond? In the new world we live in, you need to arm yourself with tools that can help you answer this question and cope with the answers. Most find the new normal to be challenging.  Understandably, these challenges are frustrating, cognitively taxing and exhausting. These frustrations range from having to don a mask to spending an inordinate amount of time with others that may be just as frustrated as you. 

Additionally, in our span of cognitive overload, we are drinking information through a firehose to keep ourselves and family safe while still continuing to perform the service we took an oath to fulfill. To soothe our soul, terms like resiliency, mediation, and mindfulness, are chucked at us by those well intended but we still need to understand how they can positively affect our lives. These terms can become your powerful mental tools. This article intends to explains some of these terms and provide you with resources for use in your everyday life. There are many tools available, but here are some handpicked and easy to make your "go-to” resource. 

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress - such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves "bouncing back" from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. 

Here are five ways to build resilience: 

Nurture relationships. Have a range of positive, supportive connections within and outside your family. Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. The most important relationship is the one with yourself, so foster wellness, be present in the moment (mindfulness) and take care of your and body. 

Find meaning in difficulties. When faced with adversity, see if you can discover some positive way in which you’ve dealt with the challenge. Every situation has meaning, you just have to look for it.

Be optimistic. Use mindfulness to shift your attention from negative rumination to more positive thoughts about the future. Redirect your thoughts as seeing crises as insurmountable.  You can’t change the fact that very stressful events happen, but how your respond is within your power.    

Be decisive. Make decisions and take action rather than hoping things will get better one day. This will give you some control and lessens anxiety. 

Accept that change is part of living. Expect things to change and adversity to occur, rather than pretend all will always be well.  Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle. 

Communication

Strong relationships foster resilience, one way to strengthen relationships is through communication.  If someone brings you some good news, the most productive way to react is to multiply the joy that is brought to you.  You can actively listen, ask welcoming questions and promote mutual conversations. Authentic engagement doesn't require pom-poms -It only requires us to lean into the conversation.

Do your best to avoid actively deconstructing the conversation.  As law enforcement officers (LEO) tend to try to see situations from each angle.  We lend our thinking to all things that can go wrong in situations so we can protect ourselves and colleagues.  During these types of communications, this is one instance where it shouldn’t be our go-to.  It’s less helpful to seek out all the given problems when being brought information by a loved one or colleague that they want to share.  This can be a conversation killer and you could be the thief of joy. 

We are not mind readers, take the initiative to communicate your needs with the people in your life.  It’s ok for you to say what you need and also ok to ask what others need.  This removes the mind reader pitfall in communication breakdown.  

Anxiety and catastrophic thinking – let’s not do this

‘About to’ moments may lead to thinking traps that can cause anxiety. The thinking trap highlighted here is catastrophizing, which is not a healthy or helpful way of thinking.  If you have ever been in catastrophic thinking, you may recall that your thoughts were so vivid that your body responded as if what you've imagined was happening in the moment. Those vivid thoughts are what caused your body to respond by invoking the fight, flight or freeze response. 

Catastrophizing is when you're wasting critical energy ruminating, you're going around and around and around in your brain, around irrational, worst-case outcomes of a situation, and all of that thinking prevents us from taking action.  If you find yourself anxious about an upcoming situation, think of what the worst, best and probable scenario will be.  Once you articulate these and come up with a plan, you will find the anxiety and tendency to catastrophize will diminish. 

Take a two-minute break  - an easy meditation tool.

Wherever you are, at your desk, in a chair, get into a comfortable position. So put both of your feet on the floor. You can have your eyes open or have your eyes closed. And take a few breaths, if you want you can put your hand on your chest and on your belly. You want your belly to expand like a balloon and when your belly expands like a balloon, you know that you are taking in the full capacity of your breath. And when you exhale you want to push all of that air back out and contract your belly so that you are pushing out all of that air that you just took back in. So if you're a visual person, you can think of that balloon imagery if you think it's going to be helpful to you. Count a cadence for five seconds during inhalation then five for exhalation. Try this for two-minutes.  

Next, take a minute and generate as many different positive emotion words as you can come up with.  Words such as love, happy, thankful, contentment, tranquil, serenity, hope, inspiration, awe, are common positive emotions.

When it comes to resilience, flexibility is the name of the game. Discovering ways to adapt to the changes that life throws at you makes you more able to cope.

FLEOA is working closely with the Treatment Placement Specialist/Arcadia Health, who are available for you and your family.  Bill Mazur and Joe Collins, both retired LEO’s, will talk/text/email with you and get you connected to a provider who is vetted and who is familiar with the LEO culture.  FLEOA is at the grassroots stage of putting together a Peer Support program for our membership.  Remember, you are part of this large family called FLEOA.  We are all here for you.  Your strength, skills and resources are what will get you and your family through these uncertain times. The following resources are also here for you - peer support/No shame-No judgement: You can text "HOME”  or "BLUE” to 741741 to connect with a counselor; call 1-866-Cop2cop; call blue line support 855-964-2583; call the National Suicide hotline 800-273-TALK (8255); The national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19 - call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a caring counselor.Please use these resources, sometimes a mere connection will pull you out of a funk.