With summer winding down in Sitka, the salmon are returning, the students and teachers commence another year of schooling, and the potential for moss growth between your toes increases exponentially. Between now and the first dusting of snow, the southeast panhandle will undergo a predictably steady onslaught of precipitation – such that it leads to an unspoken comradery existing among the local residents reflecting our collective experience of consensual dampness.
While extreme conditions such as ice, snow and heat have been known to shut down entire communities, Sitkans consistently exhibit world-class adaptation skills when it comes to living in the land of liquid sunshine merely by leaning into it. Rain gear and rubber boots are notoriously deemed standard apparel for all occasions ranging from the mundane trips to the store or workplace to more elegant events like weddings, funerals and graduations. It is noteworthy to add that umbrellas (though much-maligned as being not-rugged-enough for the “wilds” of Sitka) are counted in the category of foul weather gear despite the shame factor.
Nonetheless, whether you have lived here for twelve months or thirty years, or your family has been dodging droplets since time immemorial – the implications of opting to remain perpetually damp suggests that Sitkans are spectacularly resilient creatures.
Sounds about right. But what exactly is resilience and why does it matter?
In simple terms, resilience is the ability of an individual to bounce back from adversity. It means seeing inclement weather as a challenge and not as a disabling event that will set you back. Resilience further means committing to goals in spite of the challenges. If you intend to walk or bike to work every day, then you will make certain that your raingear is always included in the plan. Finally, it requires an investment in the belief that you are in control of your life. In other words, resilient people choose to adapt to life at the edge of a rainforest by learning to dance in the muskeg mud-puddles.
The definition of community resilience is a bit more complex and refers to “a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations.” In other words, community resilience is the inclination of our local citizenry to help each other to become stronger in difficult times. To extend the meteorological metaphor, it sometimes means committing to support our friends and neighbors by enthusiastically attending ballgames, parades, and outdoor events year after year – regardless of the soggy side effects.
In times of instability and upheaval, resilience dictates the prioritizing of individual and collective strengths over adversity and fear. It means that we need to help each other in learning how to lean into these challenges with unified courage and commitment towards the end goal.
For significant examples of community resilience, take a moment to consider how the rest of the world reacted to the events in New York on 9/11 in 2001, or closer to home – how Sitkans responded to the 2015 Landslide. In both cases, astonishing acts of bravery and communal caring occurred in answer to profound tragedy.
This may all sound very complicated and so much deeper than a puddle, but according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.” In fact, some common features of resiliency suggest that most of us have the capacity to rebound from adversity in the same way that we regain muscle strength after injury or disuse: use it or lose it.
The following are some basic tips that can help you bolster your resilience. The idea is to work some of these into your daily life so that your emotional muscles stay strong and impervious to every other cloudburst.
- Take care of your mind and body by getting enough sleep and exercise.
- Practice stress management skills such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Learn and practice positive thinking. Don’t let negativity detail your efforts.
- Learn from your mistakes and failures. Every lesson is a gift.
- Think before you speak or act. Your reactions are your choices.
- Set specific and realistic goals and move towards them.
- Nurture self-confidence. Trust your instincts.
- Develop strong and supportive relationships with other resilient people.
- Treat others with compassion and empathy. We are all in this together.
- Focus on being flexible. Know that the weather can change at any moment. You can choose to adapt.
Hope to see you at the next parade or ballgame! I will be wearing a ball cap and rubber boots. And probably not holding an umbrella.
- Adapted from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/resilience.htm