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Coping during COVID-19: The resilience tree

Perhaps you’ve been told that resilience is the ability to bounce back from life’s stressors or get up after the knocks that life dishes out - returning to who or what we were before. Personal tragedy, loss, disappointment and even failure are things that eventually happen to us all in some form or another. Our current life circumstances with regards to lockdown are not what any of us asked for, but life may be calling us to courageously move into a deeper place of emotional resilience.

Difficult life circumstances – a divorce, the death of a loved one, retrenchment and yes, even being in lockdown - changes us. To expect them not to potentially have a profound impact on us may be unhealthy and even irrational. Can we challenge ourselves to shift our perspective with regards to emotional resilience, that it is not solely bouncing back from challenges, but rather a process of moving through them into a different way of being? What happens to us becomes a part of us. With this view, emotional resilience may mean finding healthy and adaptive ways to integrate them into our lives and grow from them.

When I think of emotional resilience, I visualise a willow tree. Willow trees have been symbolically associated with strength, wisdom and growth. Willow trees are firmly rooted, yet their branches are flexible and able to bend with the wind. The willow tree endures all seasons with courage while embodying a type of strength that relies on dynamic flexibility.

We usually have established expectations about how things should be, and struggle against the fact that they are not going the way we wanted or planned.

Perhaps the challenge for me, you, and all of us, is to create within ourselves deep roots like a willow tree, with patience and perseverance that allows our natural resilience to surface when challenges arise. Often, we desire emotional resilience and strength that comes from surviving something challenging without having to actually go through it. Just as the willow tree needs water to grow, we too can grow immensely through experiencing challenges and adversity. We do not grow in a constant state of sunshine and summer, but through the winds and waves that comes from being alive. Moving through these challenging times is exactly how we build resilience.

The seedlings of resilience begin with acknowledging our challenges and facing our hurt and the hurt of others in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives. By recognising our thoughts, emotions and behaviours, and allowing ourselves the grace to engage with curiosity may lead to a greater rootedness within ourselves.

Remember to be patient and gentle with yourself, as all great willow trees take time to grow.

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