Everyday Resilience

Helping you build inner strength and weather life’s challenges. Boost your resilience. Start by reading the FREE chapter.

Book Chapter

Not just a book to read. The one guide that will transform your life.

In this practical guide, Dr. Gazelle combines wisdom from ancient traditions, cutting edge neuroscience and social psychology research, and mindfulness practices to create the exact synergies you need to gain meaningful transformation in your life. Along with anecdotes of individuals from all walks of life, Dr. Gazelle shares her own journey from childhood abuse to successful Harvard physician, inspiring and challenging you to move beyond self-limiting beliefs to the resilience needed to overcome whatever challenges life puts in your path.

Frequently Asked Resilience Questions

If working with thousands of patients, coaching clients, trauma survivors, and others has taught me anything, it’s that EVERYONE faces some kind of struggle. No one makes it through life without a couple of scrapes–it’s simply part of being human. What matters most isn’t the challenges we face, but how we respond to them. This is the essence of resilience.

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Resilience has been the backbone of my life and career, and it’s something that ALL OF US have within ourselves. I’ve gotten immense joy and fulfillment from helping my clients get in touch with this strength, and my 30 years of practice as a physician and coach have given me powerful tools that can help us all be more resilient.

Resilience is not just for heroes, elite athletes, and fictional characters in movies and books. We all have resilience for each and every one of us to respond to the challenges that life presents, to show up everyday as our best selves, and to live the lives that we’ve always wanted.

That is Everyday Resilience.

What does it mean to be resilient?

Simply put, resilience is our capacity to bounce back from life’s challenges, small and large. I define resilience as a deep well of strength, wisdom, and goodness within us that allows us to weather the difficulties and challenges we encounter without unnecessary mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. This well resides within each and every one of us, yet we aren’t typically taught how to access it.

With resilience, we develop the mindset and skills needed to overcome adversity and thrive despite the obstacles that life presents. It’s not that we magically avoid challenge and adversity, it’s that we know how to access the strength, wisdom, and resourcefulness we need to keep these from overwhelming us.

What are the main skills of resilience?

Resilience requires self-awareness, knowing ourselves, and our patterns so well that we can work with them with calm, steadiness, and grace. Fundamentally, this is about mindfulness–the awareness of what is going on within and around us, the ability to see with clarity, and the intentionality we can then bring to everything we do.

Everyday Resilience includes 6 pillars:

  1. Connection with others – Maintaining a strong network of support that we can lean on
  2. Flexibility – Bending and adapting to the challenges life presents
  3. Perseverance – Acknowledging that difficulty and failure are part of life, and taking risks knowing that if we fail, we can pick ourselves up and start again
  4. Self-regulation – Recognizing our own emotional patterns so that we can anticipate and circumvent reactivity
  5. Self-care and self-compassion – Accepting ourselves as we are and knowing that we are worthy of the same kindness and compassion we readily give to others
  6. Positivity – Having faith in ourselves, our abilities, and that things will work our favorably

What are some examples of resilience?

Here is one that is very typical of the physicians I coach.

A physician comes to coaching mired in burnout. She has lost touch with her sense of purpose and struggles with exhaustion, anxiety, and a cynical attitude. She beats herself up for being burned out and has a kind of tunnel vision, only focused on what is not going well. She has lost energy for her patients, and, at home, is less engaged with her loved ones. She questions whether she can even stay in the practice of medicine.

With coaching, this physician develops the mindful ability to see what’s happened to her and realizes that she has a choice. Through a series of coaching exercises, she regains a sense of agency and sees that she has the capacity to correct her course. She learns to consciously pay attention to what’s going well–the wonderful relationships she has with patients, her good health, the fact that she has not faced the unemployment many are experiencing in the pandemic, and the happiness her children bring to her life. She starts making time for hobbies, even when it’s only 15 minutes a week, and leans into her relationships with loved ones. It takes effort, but she becomes energized and rapidly regains her sense of meaning and purpose. 

How do you build resilience?

There are a myriad of ways to build resilience and there is no one cookbook process. Here are three that I focus on in Everyday Resilience and in my coaching:

1. Utilizing mindfulness to identify self-defeating thought patterns and developing strategies to shift beliefs. So many times, we live in a sort of auto-pilot, and we don’t question the many thoughts that go through our minds on any given day. With mindfulness, we become more aware of what is going on in our minds. As we become the ‘observer’ of our thoughts, we can become much more able to decide which ones to pay attention to and which are really not serving us, and thus need to be tuned out.

2. Realizing that what you focus on becomes your reality. If we attend to what is going well, and our own strengths, we become more likely to see the positive elements in our lives. if we focus on what we don’t like, find annoying, or have labeled as ‘bad’, then we become experts in seeing the negative. What we understand from the field of neuroscience is that our own brains are remapping and growing new connections every moment of our lives. There is truly little about our mentality that’s fixed, and this good news sets the stage for cultivating resilience.

Seeing the many choice points in our lives. It’s true that many of the challenges and adversities we face can be beyond our control. But resilience is largely about the choices we can make. Far from being a passive endurance of life’s tribulations, resilience is an active process you can choose to engage it.

What is the science behind resilience?

Resilience hinges on a number of core neuro-biologic principles. Here is a high-level view of two of these:

1. Actively rewiring the brain
We now understand that brain structure and function are highly malleable, and are almost constantly changing throughout our lives. This is called neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt throughout our lifetime as a result of thoughts, actions, and experiences. Nerve cells that are repeatedly activated create stronger connections and organizations with each other, thus the adage “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”The beauty of this is that what you practice can truly become your reality. If you dwell on your positive experiences, strengths, and successes, your brain becomes more inclined to focus on these qualities as those neural connections grow and deepen. If, on the other hand, you hold on to grudges and resentments, regularly accuse yourself of not being smart enough, and engage in other forms of negative thinking, you’ll cultivate your ability to be negative. A major aspect of resilience is intentionally choosing where we focus our attention.

 2. Avoiding the amygdala hijack
Much of our emotional reactivity comes from the fight/flight/freeze stress response is activated by the amygdala and limbic system. As we become more aware of our own emotional weather patterns, we can notice early warning signs that our body is leaning into a stress response (sweating, warmth, tightening of the fists, flushing of the face, etc). By paying attention to these triggers, we engage the prefrontal cortex, enabling us to make logical decisions based on our principles, not our stress response (the amygdala). The more frequently we trigger our amygdala and make emotional, anxiety-driven decisions, the more anxiety we feel, the more our hormones get out of whack, and the more burned out we get!

Why is resilience important in healthcare?

Because in healthcare we are responsible for the well-being of patients, it is so important that we are able to focus on our own well-being. Being able to take care of ourselves and manage our own emotions and reactivity means that we are able to bring our best selves to our work and to our patients. 

Working in such a stressful field AND a field where calm, compassion, and presence is most needed means that in healthcare, it is critically important that we focus on resilience. 

In training for physicians and others, we learn surprisingly little about how to build resilience. I wrote Everyday Resilience to help fill this gap.

How does resilience relate to burnout?

Burnout is when we need resilience the most – and when our current habits and behaviors have led to an unsustainable life. We might be lost in anxiety and fear, unable to sleep or think clearly, and lacking fulfillment and confidence in our lives. 

Developing resilience and integrating it into our lives is the most surefire way to avoid and prevent burnout. When we make the choices that leave us with more energy and clarity, we are able to spend less time in burnout, and we can proactively move towards calm and confidence.

How does resilience relate to mindfulness?

In many ways, resilience stems from awareness. Oftentimes the biggest thing holding us back from resilience and miring us in burnout and anxiety is something that we aren’t even aware of–the workings of our own mind!

Mindfulness gives us access to an observational lens where we can examine our common thought patterns.We can get caught in self-defeating loops and lose sight of what’s important to us, and we can forget that our thoughts are not always factual. Some are blatantly untrue!

Some common thought patterns:

“I’m a fraud and an imposter.” 

“I’m not as smart as everyone around me.”

 “I’m terrible at my job.” 

“I’m not very attractive.”

Mindfulness helps us notice these patterns and teaches us to be selective believers – in other words, we can choose which thought patterns we want to hold on to and which we want to shed. A core practice that backs resilience!

Why is resilience important in leadership?

Being a leader isn’t easy – there are many challenges that come along with managing people. It turns out that many of these problems can be tackled by learning to manage ourselves. But being resilient helps us have more control of our own responses, and maintain the energy, purpose, and focus needed to be an effective leader. 

Practicing resilience is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your leadership. By focusing on our own well-being and strength, we become role models for self-care, efficacy, and resilience, and begin to radiate an energy and self-reliance that people trust and admire.

When is resilience needed?

Resilience is needed every day! Resilience is how we regain fulfillment, confidence, and joy in our lives, and is a constant state of mind and way of being. We lean on resilience the most when we need it the most – but we have to work to cultivate it in ourselves so that we’re prepared for these moments when they arise. 

Some instances that might challenge us to draw on our resilience: a painful breakup or divorce, getting skipped over for a promotion, the death of a loved one, the ending of a meaningful friendship, an injury or physical trauma, abuse, neglect, or emotional trauma, or any other significant challenge that life will inevitably present. 

The good news is that we all have resilience within us. Everyday Resilience helps you see how to access and strengthen yours.

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