Toughen Up Your Resiliency!

On the menu today, I want to discuss a few articles that I have read that have gotten me thinking. Scrolling through social media (as everyone does these days) I came across two articles, and those articles brought back to mind some tweets I had also seen before. The first article was in the New York Times last week, and it discussed “What Makes Some People More Resilient than Others”. The second article was titled “30 Signs of Soul Exhaustion”.

Before I continue, what is resiliency? We have all heard the word before. I am sure you heard it growing up, “you have to more resilient?”. So, what is it? A quick online search will give you this definition: resilience is the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks, to adapt and move forward, and sometimes even experience growth.

The definition mentions difficult experiences. The piece was obviously written because 2020 has been one of the toughest years of many peoples’ lives. Not everyone has had a tough year, but many have. The world is amid a pandemic, people are afraid of the virus, states and countries have shut down to help prevent the spread of the virus, and jobs have inevitably been lost. The economy is down, and many people took a financial hit of some sort this year. If it was not that, then it was likely the social isolation or the limitation of normal activities that were once present. We lost the distractions of life that helped keep us sane, concerts, sporting events, normal restaurant, and bar experiences.


Now, as disruptive as coronavirus has been to the world, it has not been all bad. There are surely some positives. You can read the article I wrote back in May “Coronavirus Can Go, but These Changes Can Stay” on my site www.whatscookingwithcoach.com. It will detail some positives like spending time with family, being more active, spending time in nature, slowing down life, and decreasing consumerism, as we discover what is profoundly important in life.


Now, despite the fact the year has been tough, many people will say that hard times are a part of life, and I cannot disagree. One could argue that the situation that is presented currently is not any worse than previous generations experiences of wars and hunger.


I want to give a background to resiliency. A lot of this discussion about resiliency revolves around stress. Stress is a change in the body because of an outside force. Stress can be good, or it can be bad. Eustress vs. Distress. Motivation vs. disappointment. Motivation is positive and helps us pursue goals. However, distress can cause physiological problems in the human body.


Distress triggers the Fight or Flight response in each of us. This will tell us to fight and defend or run away. Either way the responses in the body give us the ability to do either. Physiological responses include pupils dilating, muscles tensing up, breathing rate increasing, and blood beginning to pump faster in the body. Stress hormones like cortisol will be released. This thickens the blood and increases blood pressure. During this time, “Happy chemicals” such as Dopamine and Serotonin decrease in the brain.


When distress is prolonged and “fight or flight” continues, the energy needed for it limits the energy used for other systems of the body including the digestive system, reproductive system, and immune system. Therefore, you see physical problems result from many people that are living in consistently stressful situations. They will show digestive problems, reproductive issues, and have an increased chance of sickness. It is clearly important that people develop a way to handle their stress to limit the negative effects of the body.

The discussion of the effects on the body bring up the second article I had mentioned. It details signs that your Soul Exhausted. This is another fancy title that simply says a person is down and depressed. It outlined signs that are listed below.




· No Laughing.

· You do not recognize yourself.

· Feel unmotivated.

· You Self-medicate.

· You are prepared to go against your own morals and principles (poor decisions lead to sadness later).

· Feel unloved.

· You do not let go of toxic people.

· You let others treat you like a doormat.

· You make excuses to be alone.

· You do not want to help others.

· You feel something is missing.

· The ghosts of the past haunt you.

· You eat too little.

· You eat too much.

· You lose your passion.

· You are afraid of the future.

· You feel weak.

· You feel anger and jealousy.

· Feel bitterness and resentment.

· Feel lost and lonely.

· Experience panic attacks.


Each of the signs on the list have a lot to do with physiological responses to stress. These are signs people show when they lack resiliency, or mental toughness, or more importantly, they lack the skills to handle their life’s experiences.


Let us bring it back to the topic of resiliency. Again, resiliency is the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks and adapt and move forward. How we handle stress and adversity is learned over time. Adversity is not a skill many are born with. Most people will learn their skills from their parents or caregivers, their environment, or from previous experiences. The efforts are cyclical in nature. Early attachments to caregivers are a heavy link to resiliency. However, if you struggle with the skills to handle your stress responses, you will need to develop skills to overcome them.


Many people will take part in destructive decisions to handle their stress. Drugs, Alcohol, food, gambling, shopping, sex, drinking, poor decisions, destructive behavior. These are temporary highs that mitigate the effectiveness of resiliency skills.

This whole discussion reminds me of my early years, well into my adulthood. I remember a variety of philosophies about how to handle “tough” situations. I grew up watching movies such as Rudy, Rocky, and every other motivational movie you can think of. The common theme was to move forward regardless of the stress issue. The ideas of “toughen up”, “be a man”, “act your age”, “get over it”, come to mind. These are simply statements and not skills. I will admit it took time to develop those skills.

When I discuss hard times, stress, resiliency, and mental toughness I am reminded of an M. Scott Peck quote, from A Road Less Traveled.

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

It is absolutely true. Once we understand that, no matter what we do does not feel like a drain. Man was designed to suffer. That is inevitable. If people always go their way and never dealt with tough experiences, problem-solving skills go away.

I have a running joke with a mentor and colleague about the handling of bad news. We refer to it as the “glazed donut look”. It is a simple blank and emotionless stare. It is developed over time through experiences where the situation no longer surprises you or that you have seen that situation before. Once you experience conflict multiple times, it does not scare you, trouble you, or bring you down. You immediately begin to think about the process of fixing the issue at hand, as opposed to being distraught by the news.


Initial reactions to a negative experience is anger, but many people will say sadness and depression. Sadness and depression are forms of anger. It is the quiet rage that builds up inside a person. Anger is a “fight” reaction in the human body. Anger results from situations that a person feels is a threat to their life or lifestyle. These threats are out of a person’s control. No one ever gets angry with themselves. They might feel disappointment in their actions, but the anger is directed at an outside source that is a perceived threat. Anger can be destructive if not checked.

We must understand that we are in control of only two things, our actions, and our attitudes. Any outside sources such as rules, regulations, what people say, cannot be controlled. People need to reframe their thoughts, and an inner peace will eventually develop.

So, we have talked about Stress and the body and what resiliency is, but how do we develop it? Resiliency takes time. It is learned through experience and takes committed, daily practice.


How to become more resilient? Here are some tips:

· Reframe the situation: Treat the negative experience as a lesson or learning experience. Turn the negative into a positive that makes you a better person.

· Have a Moral Compass: Make a list of your values. These are things that are important to you. They can be material objects, people, or ideas/thoughts. Once you have developed your values, stick to them. The values will help guide your reactions to outside stimuli.

· Believe in Something Greater than Yourself: Now you do not have to become a religious nut, but you should have an idea that your life has a purpose to a greater being. You can determine that being, whether it is a god, or nature.


· Develop Your Altruistic Self: Never waver in your care for others. People develop joy for helping people. When we stop helping people, we isolate ourselves. Help others become better.

· Accept what you cannot change: People can only Control their actions and attitude. All other statements and actions by others are out of your control. Work on what you can control. Your time, your money, your health.


· Develop a purpose: Purpose changes over a lifetime. However, purpose will give people meaning. It is a reason for living. When someone has a purpose (or a goal) that is to be accomplished, all else begins not to matter and cannot bother you!

· Develop a social support system: People develop the characteristics of the five people they spend the most time with. Choose wisely. Pick a positive circle and one that works towards greater goals.

2020 has been a difficult year, and we still do not know what our future holds. It could be worse, but it can also be better! Let us understand that we have more control over our bodies and our minds than we give ourselves credit for. Life is tough, and it will never be easy! Tough times make happy times more memorable. Always work to develop your resiliency every day! You will eventually see a huge difference in how you handle daily life stresses.

Health Questions:


1) Are there positives to fasting?

There are extreme benefits to fasting. This question could be a podcast in itself! Apart from the modern era, food was always scarce and early ancestors went long periods of time without food and were known to eat all their calories in a short span. The benefits to fasting include limiting calorie intake, better nutrient absorption, a shift in focus of eating for entertainment to eating for sustenance. There have been studies that are starting to connect the dots of intermittent fasting and better immune system responses. I would start with a 10-12 hour fast first. Do not eat from 7p-7a or 8p-8a. As time goes, work to the 14-10 or 16-8 fasts.

2) Why do we eat food when we are bored/stressed?

People take part in stress eating, or boredom eating because the human brain is devoid of the “happy” chemicals such as dopamine. When the brain is missing those chemicals, it will trigger a person towards actions that will increase the amount within the brain. This is associated with eating. Fat and sugary foods trigger a positive response in the brain. It is instinctual towards prolonging life. Advice: pick a happy activity that does not involve food to get the brain chemicals going! Do something to occupy the body or the mind and the hunger will dissipate.

That is all the time we have for today! I want to thank you for joining me on What’s Cooking with Coach?! I hope you enjoyed the podcast. Be sure to tune into the next episode in two weeks! If you wish to send feedback please do so by e-mail Kristopher.metea@gmail.com

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See you next time, goodbye!

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