Developing Resilience in Times of Upheaval
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach
green soccer field
Upheaval. What better word to use to describe these last few months. Since March, collectively, we have lived with unprecedented global change. No one on the planet has been spared. And we are living with the fallout of it every day.
Some of us have been hit by upheaval in more than one area of our lives.
Hundreds of thousands of families are grieving the loss of a loved one. Some families have lost more than one member to COVID-19.
The pandemic has also created economic turmoil for millions.
On top of the pandemic, George Floyd's death sparked the flame that led to protests and social unrest that have played out in streets across America since May.
And, as though that weren't enough, the Gulf Coast is bracing for not one, but two potentially massive storms that might merge into one enormous hurricane.
Any single one of these events could cause massive upheaval and stress for those impacted. Combined, they can feel overwhelming.
These events all have one thing in common:  they cause upheaval and disruption in our lives, whether it be for the short term or long-range...and right now, the pandemic, the economic distress, and the social unrest are here for the foreseeable future.

So, what can you do to deal with it all?


Coping strategies on road sign

This week, I am starting a new series that is going to look into how we can deal with the upheaval in our lives regardless of its cause.
Over the next several weeks, I will offer some strategies for dealing with upheaval in your life.
This is a series that I feel needs to be provided right now. Let's face it. Some of us are faring better than others with all this disruption in our lives.

But none of us are unscathed.

So, perhaps everyone reading this will find something that can help them move forward despite the upheaval in their lives.
So, let's get started.
On September 25, 2019, Dr. Lucy Hone, Director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, opened a TED Talk with some questions. Hone is an expert on resiliency.
She was speaking in Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch, you may remember, is the home of two mosque shootings that occurred on March 15, 2019.

The gunman responsible killed 51 people that day.

At the start of her TED Talk, Dr. Hone asked people in the audience to stand up if they met the following criteria:
  • They had ever lost someone they loved. 


  • They had ever lived through a natural disaster.


  • They had ever had a miscarriage.
  • They had ever had to cope with a physical impairment.
  • They had ever known someone who'd committed suicide.

In one minute, this list grew, and more and more people stood up.


By the end of the list, there wasn't a single person still sitting.


Her point was clear. Upheaval is universal, and no one is exempt.
 It doesn't matter if you're wealthy.
 It doesn't matter if you follow all the rules and pay your bills on time.
 It doesn't matter what your race, color, ethnicity, or nationality is.
It makes no difference if you went to college or even finished high school.
Upheaval is an inevitable fact of life. S#it happens.

And it happens to all of us at one time or another.


S#IT happens road sign


In an instant, your life can be changed forever.

A car runs a red light.
A tornado drops out of the sky.
A lightning strike sets off a forest fire that engulfs thousands of acres and hundreds of homes, including yours.
You arrive at work only to have your boss call you into the office to tell you that your job is being eliminated.

I have shared with you that my father died in an accident.

That was truly awful for my family and me.
But part of how I got through that time was reminding myself that he wasn't singled out in any way. People die every day from dozens of different causes.
My father hadn't been picked by God to be the only human to die as some sort of example. He hadn't even been the only human to die in an accident on that day. I am sure of it.
I saw evidence of other people dying--both young and old and of natural causes and accidents--in the obituary section of the newspaper every day. Dozens of them just in my town alone.
Everybody dies at some point. This had just been my dad's time to go. And I took some comfort in knowing deep down that if my dad could choose his way to go, he would have preferred a quick exit as opposed to a long, drawn-out illness.
Ironically, my dad wasn't even the only person I knew who died unexpectedly in an accident at about that same time.
About a month after his accident, a colleague's husband was killed in a car accident. He was sitting at a stop sign, minding his own business while on his way to work one morning. A van careened into him. The driver was drunk as were all of the van's passengers.

My colleague was seven months pregnant at the time.


They hadn't been married for a very long time. And her husband had never changed the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. My colleague's mother-in-law was still the named beneficiary. And the mother-in-law had never liked my colleague very much. She preferred, truth-be-told, the first wife over my colleague. So, the mother-in-law chose to put the insurance money in a trust for the unborn child so that my colleague could not get access to it even though she had a financial need after losing her husband so tragically and unexpectedly.

Talk about upheaval.

The truth is that events happen every day that are truly tragic on multiple levels. One can hardly fathom the things that happen at times. Mass shootings are one example. Who can understand what a shooter must have wrong with his brain that he thinks gunning down dozens of innocent people is a good idea?
It is the randomness of these events that throws us. 
Totally Random written on raffle tickets
Think about these things that could happen to you out of the blue and without any warning:
  • You lose your job after years of faithful service.
  • The stock market crashes, and your retirement fund disappears.
  • You or a loved one gets a diagnosis of cancer, and the prognosis is not promising.
  • Someone in the family dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, a stroke, or a cerebral hemorrhage.
  • A global pandemic hits (and will likely happen again).
  • An out-of-control forest fire engulfs your neighborhood, including your house.
  • Wars between countries break out, or even factions within one country war one another.


  • A 100-year flood washes over your city, including your home.
  • A 6.5 earthquake that turns everything to rubble.


  • A tsunami washes over a small island, laying it to waste and killing thousands.
  • The suicide of a family member or good friend.


  • And the list could go on.
Just yesterday, my sister called to tell me that an uncle may have lung cancer AND an aunt--same side of the family--has had a heart attack and possibly a stroke, and she may also have lung cancer.
Because of COVID, there is nothing we can do except pray. At other times, we would rush to their sides to be with them. But that is out of the question right now.
These events happen, and they occur without warning.
Even if we can see them coming, they are very much out of the realm of our control. There is little we can "do" besides praying for our loved ones and the strength to handle whatever happens.

And here is the real kicker.


We kid ourselves that we have control over anything other than our response to these events when they occur. And when we find out we aren't in control of outside events, it can freak us out more than a little.
We too often think these things can't happen to us.
The truth is that we have all dealt with upheaval in our lives in one form or another. The key is to learn how to deal with the upheaval. As Lucy Hone points out in her TED Talk, we can make a decision not to let the change get the best of us.
Is it easy to face upheaval with grit and resilience? No.

But if you want to live your best life, you will need to develop both.


Keep moving

Being prepared is perhaps the best armor. Know what you may have to deal with as you cope with the upheaval of death, the loss of a job, cancer, or the myriad of other tragedies that can hit you in your life.
Understand that you are not the only person who has had to deal with the pandemic and all its negative fallout.
We are, after all, in this together if that brings you any comfort. And I hope it does.
In next week's post, I will go into the various emotional effects of coping with upheaval in our lives.
Until then.
P. S.
Have you lost (or quit) your job because of the pandemic? Are you thinking about quitting your job because of safety and health issues? If so, you need to sign up to attend my next new free live webinar workshop. It's entitled, "Design Your Career in a Post-Pandemic World."
I will be talking about how you can take control of your life and design a brand new career in the post-pandemic world.

There will be two live, in-person presentations: 

​​​​​​​Saturday, September 12 at 1:00 PM EST OR
Satruday September 19th at 2:00 PM EST
To register, click here: and choose your date and time.


Vanessa Jackson
Phoenix Rising Coaching
1541 Flaming Oak
New Braunfels Texas 78132
United States of America