Image by Debbie Digioia
We don’t all experience and survive trauma the same way. Though genetics play a part, there are commonalities among adults who come through traumatic childhood or adult experiences and bounce back relatively quickly. Building resilience is one more way to move toward reducing internal distress in order to become a “normal” eater.
In “Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure” (Harvard Business Review, 6/24/16, https://hbr.org/2016/06/resilience-is-about-how-you-recharge-not-how-you-endure) authors Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan lay out a sadly convincing explanation of how our American lifestyle reduces our ability to be resilient. They describe our “militaristic, ‘tough’ approach to resilience and grit,” saying, “We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefor the more successful we will be.” This adage may work for the Marines, but not for the general public.
The authors tell us that, at least in scientific terms, this approach to building resilience is doesn’t work. They explain that “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again,” because when we overdo, we need to stop doing and get back into balance before doing again: Do→Stop→Recover→Resume. This process is similar to re-regulation after emotional dysregulation. We need to calm down to regain equilibrium and only then are we ready to resume.
In order to succeed at reaching a challenging goals, we need to spend time recovering both internally and externally. Internally we need to take a break, shift our attention, or relax. Externally we need to get away from whatever it is we’re “working” so hard on. The idea is to rest our bodies and our brains. We need to give ourselves permission to stop and do something else or (gasp) even do nothing. This is what gives us the wherewithal to go on, not pushing ourselves beyond what a normal person can endure.
When we don’t implicitly or explicitly permit ourselves to take time to recover from hard (physical, mental or emotional) work, we’re setting the stage for mindless eating because we feel that this is an “allowable” way to recharge. By understanding that we need a break—a real time out—in order to resume whatever task we’re trying to complete, especially if it’s one that has long-term goals, we can then choose one which builds resilience. Food should not be a hyphen between tasks or between repeated efforts to complete them. To avoid mindless eating and build resilience, the fact is that we must stop pushing ourselves so hard and so harshly.