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Mama’s Pearls of Wisdom

By Sunshine Burgess

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Recently while sitting in resilience training, I had to wonder why this training even existed. It all seemed like common sense to me because the things they were talking about were all things that my parents taught me. The information isn’t new or mind blowing, it is simply what I learned growing up. After much thought about that fact, I realized that not everyone had the “put on your big girl panties” kind of mother that I had, so now we are teaching these same things to adults.

Like most teenagers, I was difficult and thought I knew everything and that my parents were completely stupid. Now as I sit learning about resilience, I realize that my mother was pretty smart and she had spent years teaching me the things I needed to be successful in life; giving me tools I needed to survive. However, she never stops and I am never too old for her to teach me. I am sure she is reading this now and having one of her “I told you so” moments and that is okay because I now get to share her pearls of wisdom with others.

So, this morning while having coffee and chatting about some issues within our family, she chose to once again impart some knowledge and a life lesson. She said in order to stay calm, she had to sit there and review the four A’s. Now to understand this, you have to understand that my mother is one of those people who clips inspirational quotes and such from magazines or prints them off of websites and she has a massive collection of these posted in her office area around her computer. I swear she has a quote for whatever ails you. So today’s pearl of wisdom is the 4 A’s from a Mayo Clinic article she read and I realized it completely pertained to being resilient and once again she was teaching me a lesson.

  1. Avoid the source of your stress
  2. Alter your reaction to it
  3. Accept things as they are
  4. Adapt by changing your expectations

As military spouses, we can’t always avoid all stress when it relates to deployments, illness, and children; however, we often put ourselves in additional stressful situations that we have a choice about and we should identify those and separate ourselves. We need to surround ourselves with supportive people and ditch the people who bring drama into our lives. This isn’t always easy because sometimes those people are our families, but in order to be healthy, both mentally and emotionally, then sometimes we have to cut those ties.

Resilience is all about altering the way you react to situations. When a deployment notification drops, the easy thing to do is fall apart and think your world is ending. Isn’t that the easiest thing to do in most tragic situations? Falling apart does nothing to lessen your stress. Work instead on being rational. Prepare for the separation. Get your affairs in order. Make sure you have access to all accounts and the powers of attorney to take care of problems that may arise. Tears are inevitable, but your reaction can’t start and stop with that. I personally find that planning things out like where I will spend holidays and take trips with the kids helps me feel productive.

Accepting things as what they are and realizing that often there is nothing you can do to change it. This one has always been a hard one for me. I am the first born child and grandchild. On top of that, I was born under the Virgo sign. All of this culminates with me thinking I can fix things and be the big problem solver. It is hard sometimes to accept that some people and situations can’t be fixed. This goes for your personal life as well as your military life. Some things are just the military way and sometimes we just have to accept that whether we like it or not, that is the way it will be done. You can’t let it add to your stress, you just have to accept and move on.

The last A can be easy or hard depending on what kind of perspective you take. I have always been that glass half empty kind of person. I pretty much live life “preparing for the worst and praying for the best”. Altering expectations isn’t hard for me because I already keep my expectations of myself and what I can and will do very high, while keeping my expectations of other people pretty low based on what history has shown me. This may sound harsh to many, but the Mayo Clinic says I am keeping my stress lower by doing so. If you don’t put too much faith in others, then you won’t be disappointed. I find that being pleasantly surprised when they exceed my expectations is a much easier pill to swallow. Start trying it and you will feel your blood pressure drop!

Whether you are new to this life or have been around for a while, whether resilience is a new concept to you or just lessons from your childhood, or maybe you are an amazingly resilient person who simply carries way too much stress, the four A’s can work for you. If you didn’t find the answers you were looking for in this little pearl of wisdom, just let me know. Like I said, Mama has a stockpile of sticky notes, quotes and articles, so I am sure she would have something to cure what ails you!

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