Mindfulness August 14th, 2020

How to Grow During Times of Stress and Trauma

How to Grow During Times of Stress and Trauma

In this course, you will learn the art and science of reclaiming your mental wellness and creating a better normal after crisis.

32 Cards

Let’s start by traveling forward in time, to the not-too-distant future. In this future, we are on the other side of the eruptions, disruptions and crises that we see around us today.

Take a moment to look around. We’ve learned how to take care of ourselves and to show ourselves compassion. We’ve found stability even in the midst of uncertain times.

How did we get to this better “normal”? To show you, let me take you back in time, to today. In this scene, most of us are struggling with high levels of stress and distress.

The characters and action in this scene are hazy, like a mural covered by many layers of graffiti and paint. But if we peel back the layers, we start to see why we are so stressed.

Even before we were dealing with a pandemic, we were dealing with what the World Health Organization has called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” - burnout.

Burnout became an official medical diagnosis in 2019, and it affects a huge number of us. It starts with a threat to our wellbeing that we can’t easily shake.

When faced with a threat, our body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. But while our ancestors faced threats like lions, today we face both physical and emotional threats.

Constant change and disruptions in our world are threats, the “lions” of our day. Today’s global pandemic is a disruption that threatens our health and economic wellbeing.

The color of a person’s skin can also be a constant threat to their survival, as we’ve recently been reminded. This has sparked a global movement.

All of these physical and emotional threats can lead not only to burnout, but also to loss and to grief.

Today, we grieve the loss of normalcy. We grieve the loss of our normal routines and the world as we knew it. This is called collective grief.

Today, we grieve the loss of the future that we had anticipated, which is now shrouded in uncertainty. This is called anticipatory loss.

Some of us have lost so many things, including the boundaries between our home and work lives, that we can’t even put a finger on the cause of our grief. This is called ambiguous loss.

Many of us have lost so much so quickly that we haven’t even had time to grieve what we’ve lost. We are experiencing stress and grief at a level we have never known.

Looking to the not-so-distant future, how do we move past all of today’s stress and grief? The first step is acknowledging our pain, and realizing that we aren’t alone.

Ignoring your mental wellness does not make you a hero, but acknowledging that you need to take care of yourself does.

To take care of yourself, make sure that you and your emotions are not at the mercy of all the stressors you face every day. Take breaks and use breathing as a reset button.

When you take slow, deep breaths, you are creating space between stressors and how you react to them. This space that you create is the power to choose your response.

To move past unprecedented stress and grief, we must also practice radical self-care.

Continue to learn more about radical self-care.

Think about radical self-care as a toolkit you are creating to help you cope with stress in healthier ways. Radical self-care helps you take back control of your emotions.

Radical self-care looks like taking more time to do things you love. You might take time to write, to visit and connect with others, to read or to listen to music.

Radical self-care looks like starting each morning with a relaxing activity that gets you in the right mood to take on your day.

Try this in the morning: Practice a few minutes of deep breathing. Think about what you are grateful for.

How do you feel after doing this?

Radical self-care looks like building physical exercise into your day, eating as healthy as you can, and sleeping as well as you can (at least 7 hours per night).

Radical self-care means being kind to yourself. Remember that you will not be as productive as normal during a crisis. Set reasonable goals and take small steps forward.

Radical self-care builds emotional fitness. But it can help you build the resilience you need to bounce forward, not backward, when bad things happen.

In every crisis, you always have three choices: You can let this crisis destroy you, define you, or strengthen you. When you build resilience, crises strengthen you.

External factors like your job or friends can motivate you to keep going when bad things happen. But to build resilience, you need something more. You need internal inspiration.

Inspiration is about finding the light inside of you, even in darkness. To find this light, ask yourself: What’s important to me? What legacy do I want to leave? What is my purpose?

  • Think about times in your life that had meaning to you. Why did they matter? What do you care about deeply? What gets you excited? What inspires you to do what you do?
  • You might be inspired by reaching for goals, solving challenging problems, empowering others, or being a part of something that's bigger than yourself.

The power of purpose is the strength you need to help you grow despite what you are experiencing today, so you can get to a better normal.

It’s no coincidence that new inventions, new companies, and important national changes come out of times of crisis. Purpose can help us find meaning and growth in adversity.


One of the greatest abilities that we possess as human beings is the ability to see beyond our circumstance. We just need to develop better eyesight.

You can use the extraordinary moment we are living in today to move you toward a more inspired future forward.

Practice radical self-care. Try to find your purpose, and act on it.
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