The Art of Resilience: Don’t forget about stayin’ alive.

Ahh, ahh, ahh, yeah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…John Travolta and the Bee Gees had a real thing going back in the golden days of disco, and we can learn something from it today. In the quest for environmental resilience, we are often so eager to create the kind of world we want to live in that we forget about the key to it all: personal resilience.

I know, I know, none of us environmental do-gooders really want to think about it: “Taking care of myself? But there’s so much work to be done! I have to turn the compost, and feed the chickens, and chop some wood, and ride my bike, and call my senator, and volunteer doing stream restoration, and make more money so I can afford to buy organic food and clothing! There’s no time to rest when you’re saving the world!” Trying to live lightly on the earth can so easily turn into a lifestyle that includes a lot of wear and tear on our bodies and minds.

UM is in the throes of spring semester, with papers due and finals coming up all too soon. Spring break just ended, and people are starting to look a little wild-eyed from less sleep and more caffeine. The temptation to abandon personal sustainability in favor of accomplishing goals – even goals that contribute to environmental sustainability – can be overwhelming. I’ve started subconsciously bargaining with myself: if I sleep less and exercise less now, I promise I’ll make up for it this summer…

That’s why I always cling to wisdom – and science – like these tips, that remind us of the importance of caring for ourselves even as we strive to care for the world around us:

– Not convinced that sleep really makes a difference? Turns out that getting one additional hour of sleep each night would make you happier than earning $60,000 more a year.

Exercising at least a little bit every day decreases depression in everyone. I know you’ve heard it before…but really, folks, it works.

– The average person spends nearly 47 percent of their waking hours with their mind wandering…living in the present moment and engaging with what you are doing right now keeps you more sane. And alive.

Trusting yourself actually reduces the odds of having a whole slew of psychological issues like anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem.

There are so many more words of wisdom out there, urging you to remember that you can’t change anything unless you are first a whole and healthy person. I’ll leave you with some encouragement from the great civil rights activist Audre Lorde:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

Make your week resilient. Give yourself that extra hour of sleep, or a really delicious meal, or a walk outside in the late afternoon sun. The environment will thank you.


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