Let’s face it, we’re 21 months(!) in and we’re all tired of COVID.

We’re tired of hearing about it on the nightly news and listening to vaccination rates across the country.

We’re tired of feeling whatever we’re feeling about it (agitated, anxious, and angry are among the top feelings reported).

We’re tired of mutations, mandates, and masks. (although we continue to do our part).

We’re all worn out, worn down, or just plain ole’ worn.

Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness guru and one of my teachers, popularized the term, ‘full catastrophe living,’ years ago when he wrote a book by the same name back in the mid-90s.

Working with patients at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, he happened upon the phrase from the movie Zorba the Greek.

In one scene Zorba’s young companion asks him if he’d ever been married, to which he replies,

“Am I not a man? Of course, I’ve been married. Wife, house, kids . . . the full catastrophe!”

In Jon’s telling, “It was not meant to be a lament, nor does it mean that being married or having children is a catastrophe. Zorba’s response embodies a supreme appreciation for the richness of life and the inevitability of all its dilemmas, sorrows, traumas, tragedies, and ironies.

Zorba’s way is to “dance” in the gale of the full catastrophe, to celebrate life, to laugh with it, and at himself, even in the face of personal failure and defeat. In doing so, he is never weighed down for long, never ultimately defeated either by the world or by his own considerable folly.”

Living “the full catastrophe” captures something that’s positive about our ability to get a grip and come to terms with what’s most tricky in life, and finding the space to learn and grow in that place.


In short, it’s about tapping into what’s most human within ourselves—our capacity to bounce back in face of the full catastrophe.

However, what typically occurs, and the first thing to go, is what a colleague calls our ‘stabilizing’ activities or practices:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating healthy
  • Taking time to renew your energy
  • Connecting with friends, family, or the neighbors
  • Time away from screens

Instead, we find ourselves on a slippery slope of choices and behaviors that don’t support us:

  • In the freezer with our spoon in a quart of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
  • Not prepping as effectively for meetings, thinking we can wing it
  • Reaching for that extra afternoon coffee or glass(es) of wine
  • Driving by the gym to hit up the drive-thru
  • Staying up too late on our devices
  • Isolating from others and adding stress to relationships

None of these unconscious choices help build the resiliency needed to effectively deal with the likes of COVID or any other “catastrophe” for that matter.

Building resilience involves choosing to intentionally stretch outside or our comfort zone, though it’s not something extraordinary or something that only others can grasp. In fact, we’re all capable of developing it as part of our own unique and ordinary journey in life.

It’s embracing the need to adapt to change, even in the face of any number of adversities, that grows your resilience.


5 Ways to Build Resilience

Cultivate Connections—good relationships where you can give and receive are essential. Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Social connection even strengthens our immune system!

Accept that Change is a Part of Life—living the full catastrophe—in the face of reality, some goals may not be attainable. Accepting this allows you to focus on what you can impact and control.

Keep it in Perspective—Make it your habit to consider multiple perspectives in any stressful situation or conversation. Holding it in a broader context will allow you space to let emotional reactions settle while building your emotional capacity.

Practice Positive Self-Care—pay attention to your energy emotional needs so you know which next right step is best for you e.g. exercise, social time, a nap, etc. Taking care of yourself keeps your mind and body primed for situations that require resilience.

Take Decisive Action—rather than numbing, avoiding or getting caught up in a twist.

You can start today by choosing to build your resilience, “I want to do this for myself.” Whether it’s going to the gym, an evening out with friends, or turning off the third episode of the show you’re bingeing.

It’s quite possible that you’ll likely face self-resistance at first; it’s normal.

So you can anticipate that you might just try to find ways to avoid and diminish the positive effects of resilience-building practices, despite also wanting to become stronger.

You’ll build the habit by remembering that you’re choosing to allow resistant thoughts to pass you by while committing to enacting the practice it anyway.


Action Steps

1. Pick two of the above examples as non-negotiables for the next month.

2. Commit to doing them by telling a friend or spouse about your decision which will strengthen your resolve. Even better, get someone to commit with you!

3. Lastly, select a check-in time with yourself once per week. It’s a time for true-to-you self-accountability to make sure you’re on your own right track and to celebrate the wins from the week.