I know it’s hard to talk about minding our minds when it feels like the world is falling apart around us. The loss and heartbreak of the wildfires in Oregon (and California and Washington) are devastating our families, friends and neighbors in surrounding communities. It’s feeling impossible to process this disaster on top of COVID-19.

How much “bouncing back” can we expect when there’s no air left in the ball? I know we hear a lot about “resilience” and “grit” these days, but I have to say, I’m struggling with those words right now and how to write this blog in a meaningful way. Resilience and grit are often explained as abilities, personality traits and character traits. That bugs me. It seems to imply that if you’re having trouble recovering from a difficult situation, you’re somehow weak or flawed. I don’t believe that’s true. So here are some thoughts about resilience and grit that I hope you find helpful.

Meriam-Webster defines resilience and grit as:

Resilience: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Grit: firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

So instead of talking about resilience as an ability or character trait, let’s reframe it. Let’s think about how we might replenish our reserves or put some air back in the ball. Instead of enduring hard times, let’s talk about how we might rest, recharge and reset to get through the next few hours, days, weeks or months.

Inspiration, gratitude, perspective and good habits are four things that help me replenish my reserves when I’m feeling tapped out.

Finding inspiration

I’m fortunate to work with nonprofit organizations that inspire me every single day and I often draw on them to keep me grounded. Through our local High Desert Education Service District, I watch a team of incredible educators, specialists and staff rally around kids and families while juggling their own personal and family needs during the pandemic and school building closures.

Through an incredible non-profit organization in Southern Oregon called Mercy Flights Inc, I see paramedics and other crew members showing up tirelessly to evacuate the region’s most vulnerable residents to safety as wildfires devastate their communities. At the same time, they are being evacuated from their own homes. Last week, one paramedic who lost his home to the fires continued to show up to serve others. This struck me with a sense of profound sadness and gratitude. There is hope in our ability as people to help each other.

These are just a few of the stories that are fueling me right now. Here’s an inspirational video from Mercy Flights Inc.

Calling on gratitude and perspective

Last week I was scrambling to meet work deadlines and running late for a music performance at Whispering Winds, a local retirement community. I was on the phone with a client when I rushed out of the house without all of my gear. I ended up having to go back home for equipment but had just enough time (15 minutes) to get to the show. Then, I got stuck behind the tracks of a stalled train, backed up in Central Oregon’s version of “traffic” and was unable to turn around. I sat in my car fuming, trying to practice deep breathing and calm myself until I put a screeching halt on my brain. How serious was my situation in the grand scheme of things? I would be late, people would understand. There was nothing I could do. My family and my community and my home were safe. This was not a life or death situation. Calling on that perspective helped me take a step back and shift my mindset from frustration to gratitude. It’s good to acknowledge our frustrations, but also important to look beyond ourselves when things feel overwhelming.

Resources and habits

Leaning on local resources and paying attention to small habits can also help us refresh when we’re feeling tapped out. If you haven’t visited the Mind Your Mind Central Oregon website, please do. We have  resources to help us find support in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

Here are 10 simple daily habits to consider. Please take a peak at these. They are good common sense reminders.

While it’s hard to talk about minding our minds when we’re in crisis, it’s more important than ever. What we need more than anything right now is to put on our own oxygen masks. Let’s replenish our mental health reserves so we have what we need to get through these difficult times with compassion, kindness and grace…for ourselves and for each other.

Stay safe and well.

Old Mill photo courtesy of Gary Calicott

Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a  blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.