The Ability of Self Awareness to Boost Resilience
It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. ~C. JoyBell C.
Have you ever felt like you’ve hit an emotional wall? Call it stressed-out, overwhelmed or burned out, it’s a state of mind that can result from any number of circumstances – unexpected change, extreme overwork, a relationship or health crisis, or maybe the Universe has decided to test you by unloading many small problems on your shoulders all within a short span of time.
Whatever the circumstances may be, once you hit that emotional wall it can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in quicksand and struggling to take even the smallest step forward. When this happens, the best way to find relief and a way out of the muck is to make time for an exercise in self-awareness.
Self awareness involves looking within yourself to get a better understanding of your thoughts, beliefs, emotions and motivations. The problem is that for most people “honest” self reflection is not an easy process, either because they resist taking the necessary time to nurture themselves, or they are so filled with layers of internal limiting beliefs that they no longer have a clear sense of their true self.
The Benefits of Self Awareness
Self awareness is not only the first step in becoming clear about what you really want from life, it is also an important characteristic of highly resilient people. It allows you to manage the controls of your emotions, behavior, and personality so you can better see the way to overcome problems and create the meaningful changes you desire.
While it’s not really difficult to become more self aware, there are no quick fixes. A book or article may be able to set you on the right path, but you will still have to do the work.
Where to Begin
The first thing to understand is that if you begin a program to increase self awareness when you are already experiencing a crisis or stressful time in your life, it’s likely you’re going to feel like your swimming upstream without a paddle because you’ll have to work through all the built up emotional sludge in order to reach an effective state of calm and reflection. But don’t let this deter you because you have to start somewhere, and once you’ve done the work and begin to feel better, if you are willing to make a period of self reflection a daily part of your life, your reward will be that you will experience fewer and fewer periods of negative stress or emotional turmoil.
Simple steps to begin a program of self awareness:
Create the right environment: The best environment to encourage a period of self reflection will be different for each individual. For some it may be writing in a journal each day, for others meditation, and for still others a long soak in a tub. Since I live on an Island, I’ve found a walk along the shore with my dog works wonders to calm my soul and clear my mind.
Look for triggers: Highly stressful situations that result in feelings of overwhelm or helplessness are often complex and require a bit of digging to identify the root cause. Once you’re in a calm state where you can take time to reflect on the situation it should be much easier to identify the trigger(s) that resulted in your emotional tipping point. This will allow you to either avoid the trigger (not my favorite solution), change how your react to it, or find a way to confront it.
Ask the right questions: It may seem obvious to state that the kind of questions we ask trigger specific responses; but let’s consider a couple of examples to see how this can affect the quality of your life, particularly when you’re feeling vulnerable.
What if you were to repeatedly ask yourself questions such as “Why am I always so unlucky?” … “What if I had done this earlier?” or “Why am I always the loser in these situations?” Such questions are self-defeating, and the answers you get with them will be naturally disempowering.
On the other hand, questions like “What can I learn from this experience?”… “What can I do differently to move forward?” and “How can I share what I learn to benefit others?” are empowering and provoke you to think in terms of possibilities.
Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves. ~Walter Anderson
Be 100% truthful: This may be the toughest, most uncomfortable step in the self awareness process because it is so very tempting to either start playing the blame game for unsatisfactory circumstances in your life, or pull back behind the protection of self-imposed shells for fear of discovering that we have even more flaws (either real or perceived) than we realized. So what to do?
If you’re beginning a self awareness program in the midst of a crisis or stressful period in your life, it’s best to begin by focusing on the situation at hand rather than attempting to sort out your entire life. Once you’ve achieved a calmer state, then you can begin to reflect on your thoughts, feelings and desires for each area of your life.
Contemplate your actions: Becoming more self aware and reflecting on what you do and don’t want in your life will by its nature flow into the process of contemplating actions you may want to take to achieve your desired outcomes. The question is how to translate these various actions into a plan to create meaningful change … which is an entire article in itself, so in my next post I will talk about specific steps you can take to transition your desires for improvement to various areas of your life into an action plan.
How about you? Do you make the time to practice self reflection? Do you feel confident about how you manage stressful situations, or would you like to become more resilient in life? What are some of your favorite ways to nurture yourself?
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