Webinar presenter Dr. Kimberly Miller answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Increasing Your Bounceability: Ways to Build Resilience Every Day. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Are burnout and resiliency connected?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah, absolutely, they are. Burnout is real and burnout as a cumulative process that happens over time. It’s not like you wake up one day and then you’re burnt out. Burnout is something that happens over time. The reason people get burned out is related at its core to resiliency and the biggest component of that, well, the two biggest components of that are lack of self-care because many of us that are burned out, tell the story I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I’ll do that later. So we’re not doing intentional self-care. We’re not getting enough rest. We’re not doing our exercise. We’re not spending quality time with our friends whatever it is. The second part of burnout deals with the mindset and the stories we tell. We only burn energy in three ways throughout the day: physical, mental and emotional.
Think about it for yourself, what exhausts you most, mental and emotional, not physical. If all we have to do is run a marathon every day, we would have tons of energy, but what exhausts us, what leads and contributes to the burnout are the thoughts we think and the emotions we have. If you want to stave off burn out, if you want to be more resilient the best two things to do are number one, engaging yourself care regularly at least once a day do something for 10 minutes. And number two, be really picky about what you think and what you feel because if you go around all day angry, frustrated, with a victim mindset, nothing ever goes right, this place sucks, I hate my job, I hate my boss, etc, you are going to be exhausted and much more vulnerable to burn out, and burn out is going to happen way quicker if you’re not minding your mind and you’re not doing the self-care.
Audience Question: You talked about hunting the good. A couple of people noticed that sounds like Brene Browns’ gratitude journal like writing down three things, writing down five things every single day that’s a good thing that’s happened that day. Are you talking about the basically the same thing?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yes. And first of all, I love Brene Brown. I’ve read all her books if y’all don’t know who she is, go read all her books. I think the most relevant right now is Rising Strong because I want all of you to rise strong after this. So yes, she’s fantastic and it is the idea. Gratitude is one way to hunt the good. Every day and every night, I write down three things I’m grateful for. So that’s one part of it but another part is I mentioned in this might seem simple, but I mentioned the moon last night as I was driving home from a colleague’s house I was like look at this amazing moon. It is gorgeous. This is a great night. That’s the first thing that popped in my head. So sunrises, sunsets that are the other ways to hunt the good all day, seeing somebody be kind to somebody else, all that kind of stuff.
Audience Comment: You know, it’s funny. You said that because I one thing that a number of my friends I know have said is that they’ve noticed how many more flowers are out and how they’re seeing little while animals, you know to come out into our neighborhoods and how the sky is so clear these days. Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more.
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yes.
Audience Question: Kimberly, can you explain again what are crush events?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: So I’ll tell you these are just examples, I give you some examples from my personal life. So crush events are things that really were negatively impactful in your life, that was pain, loss. So for me in my life, one of my biggest crush events was my parents’ divorce. That was very unexpected for me. I didn’t know and I guess I had this illusion our family would always be great and happy and then it wasn’t and that was very hard for me.
My other crush event was the unexpected, untimely death of my godchild at 24. That about killed me that because though I didn’t birth her, she was my baby and I know some of you who are aunts, godparents or uncles understand that that was very hard for. It took me a very long time to work through that. For a long time, I had a negative story around that. My story was I’ll never get over this. Guess what, for a long time I didn’t but now I look at it differently. I don’t know why she had to die but she is in heaven taking care of me and I’m telling you I need some taking care of. So thank God she’s up there. She’s got my back and it’s all good and I’m going to see her one day in heaven. So, you know, it’s good. I do miss her but I know she’s taking care of me. So that’s my new story. I’m much better off but it took me a long time to get past that.
Audience Question: What do you mean to use every painful event for my good and I think you kind of touched on that a little bit with your goddaughter’s death but do you want to add any more to that?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah, you know it is hard and that’s been a journey I’ve been on for a super long time is finding a gift or a lesson and a challenge. Because in my experience in my life if I don’t find a gift or a lesson, I have dropped the anchor and I’m always connected to the pain of it. Whether it’s somebody hurt my feelings, or somebody cheated on me, or somebody broke my heart. If I don’t find a way to grow from that personally for me, I’m always connected to that. Another example is one of my ex-boyfriends cheated on me and totally did me wrong years ago, that was another sort of crush event that took me forever to get over that. But now I’m like well, thank God because that was not a healthy relationship. He was a hot mess. Now, thank the Lord, I’ve learned to have better boundaries. I’ve learned to stand up for myself and I’m grateful for the wonderful relationship I have right now.
I’ll give you one other thing to think about some of you might know this person and some of you might not but this is another fantastic book and resource to help you with your mindset and story and build resilience. It’s Viktor Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning and really quickly, he was a Jewish psychiatrist that was captured by the Nazis during the occupation and taken to the concentration camp. I’m not to tell you the whole story of it because I want you to get the book and read it but he basically found a way to have a positive mindset in the concentration camp. He basically said they can control my food and clothing, and if I get sent to the work camps, or if they torture me, or they kill me, but you know what they’re not going to control is my mind. I’m going to find a way to bring hope to this concentration camp. I’m going to find my way to build my own resilience and I’m going to find a way to get through this and he survived. And everybody else in the concentration camp that followed him survive to and I’ll tell you that that book changed my life. So if you’ve never read it, go get Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s another great tool and it always reminds me that I will probably never be at that level of a challenge, no matter my crush events, no matter the things that have happened to me outside of my control. I will likely never face anything as horrific as being in a concentration camp. I have realized that if Viktor Frankl can make it through with his mindset, I have it much easier and I can too. It’s my responsibility to work on my mindset.
Audience Question: How can you give enough time to a feeling such as grieving a loss without dropping anchor? She continues on I tend to ignore feelings so I don’t drop anchor but I sense that’s also not healthy either. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah. So ignoring feelings, actually, I would say you have dropped the anchor, but you’re pretending it’s not there, right? Because you’ve dropped it but you’re ignoring it as your boat tries to sail out to sea, but then you occasionally get tugged back but you’re like I’m not going to look at that. I’m not going to process it. I’m not going to work through that. So I would argue you have dropped anchor because you haven’t worked through it. As far as saying a timeline like for grief like with my godchild, it took me years. I mean it took a long time and in that time of my life, I had not gotten to the concept of putting a time limit on it because the crush thing happened. I thought oh, I’ll just never get over it but there’s no perfect time limit, right, for somebody. They might, for a particular incident, might only have to be angry for a week. Some people might have to be angry for a month. If you’re talking about grief and loss, that’s messy. There’s no one way to get on the other side of it. So be patient with yourself. As you start to unpack the feelings which take a long time but I encourage you to start unpacking those feelings. Say I’ll give myself a year to grieve and if the end of that I need more time, I’ll give myself more time. If you give yourself a year to grieve as an example, don’t just sit there in the emotion without understanding what it’s about, without then taking action and doing things to get on the other side of it. So for me just as examples, I had to write my feelings down about the loss of my godchild. I had to journal what I was going to miss about her, what I loved about her. I had to talk to some people I trusted about some regrets I had that I didn’t go visit her enough in Alabama when I was in graduate school. I didn’t make it home enough to see her. I had to talk through that with people I trusted and work through that guilt. As I was sort of getting through that pain and through the guilt and the loss then I just started talking to her. I just started talking to my godchild, Austin, and saying, “Oh, so I guess you’re up there taking care of me. Thank God because I need your help.” And I started reframing it but that took me a long time. So I guess my advice would be, be patient with yourself but don’t just let yourself sit in the emotion if you’re not exploring what it’s about and working to get on the other side of it, but there’s no one way, there’s no easy way. There’s no one right way but I do encourage you to start working through them or you’ll always be attached to the pain of that event. Even if you ignore it the attachment still there. The pain still there.
Audience Question: Do you have any tips on how to deliver this information, what basically you just said how to say it to youth and teens? So often they struggle to get out of, you know, get out of the here and now and focus on positivity. It’s so hard to get them to do that. How can we deliver this information that best connects with that unique population? What a great question.
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I think you have to get and this is not just true for teens and young adults, but anybody you are talking to, get on their level. So number one, be empathetic when they’re in a struggle. But number two, ask where do you want to be? What do you want and they might not know a career yet or whatever but who do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? How do you want to grow? What do you want to be known for? Some responses might be, I want to be a good person. I want to be a role model and many young people say I want to be a leader. I know there was somebody on this call that says they’re too young to lead. I disagree with that. We all have great things to offer. So number one, I would engage them in that conversation.
Number two, I would ask them questions like these, do you want this current circumstance again, whether it’s the virus stuff or maybe someone broke their heart. Ask them, do you want this event to define the rest of your life or transform the rest of your life? Now, that’s also a great question for all of you who are still on the call. Do you want this crisis to define the rest of your life or transform it? Most people that I’ve talked to you when I’ve asked that question, they said well, of course, I want it to transform my life and then you can get them in a dialogue. Okay well how could and one of my friends has a daughter that her senior year has gone. She’s not going back to school, they are not having prom, they are not having graduation. I was talking to him the other day and say what have you asked her your daughter? Is she going to let this destroy her, knock her down, or is it going to transform her? How could she use it to transform her? He said, “Oh, I never thought about that before.” So, I would encourage you to ask these bigger questions and get your young people thinking about that. Now, they might also show that they don’t have the confidence to go well yes, I want to transform but I don’t know how So then you might share some things. “Hey, read this book Man’s Search for Meaning, read Brenee Brown’s book.” Let’s talk about how we can rise from a challenge instead of letting it crush us totally or define us or end up in a victim mindset. So I think to start with some open-ended questions that can get them thinking in a positive way or setting a vision and then bring in resources and tools and maybe do an activity with them and say well this bad thing happened, how can we reframe it? All this stuff that I’m teaching you all about resilience is a skill. And if we don’t find ways to practice it all the time, we won’t be good at it. We can’t wait for a crisis to practice. We can only pull from the habits we’ve established. So again with your young people, you could say, well what if this bad thing happened? How could we reframe it? It might also be helpful to talk about things that don’t impact them to start with. So you might ask them, what advice would you give to a friend that just got their heartbroken? See what they might say because it’s easier to offer advice or a positive mindset outside of ourselves. So, sometimes it’s easier to start there but then bring it back to what they’re going through.
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