Solar Eclipse April 8, 2024

Lessons in Resilience from a Solar Eclipse

There’s something kind of magical about knowing exactly when the moon will sneak in front of the sun and cast a brief shadow over the day.

I remember an eclipse when I was in middle school that I witnessed through a pinhole on a sheet of paper. While I didn’t see the eclipse directly because I enjoy having healthy retinas, seeing the shadows interplay on the back of my math homework was still pretty amazing. I knew something big was happening in the sky.

Eclipses are totally predictable but we still get caught off guard by the randomness of celestial bodies lining up perfectly.

Stress is a lot like an eclipse.

We know it’s out there and we’ll experience it, whether we’re looking for it or not. But we have a hard time letting stress just be in our lives and observe it for what it is.

We work hard to find ways to get it to go away, to not feel it or experience it, or — on the opposite end of the spectrum — to prepare for every possibility so as to not be caught off guard and feel the stress of being out of control.

Big work presentation next week? Ready for it.

That yearly family get-together that’s equal parts fun and dysfunctional? As ready as anyone can be.

We see these kinds of stressors coming from a mile away and try to gear up mentally.

But what about the random stuff?

Flat tires, a sudden work crisis, those out-of-the-blue calls from the school principal, the brand new air conditioner that dies in July?

We can spot the big stressors ahead of time just like astronomers predict eclipses, and we’re happy to pull out our best instruments to measure it.

But we have to be just as diligent about being resilient with the small stuff.

In the same way the moon puts itself between you and the sun in an eclipse, stress places itself between you and what you want.

Every. Single. Time.

You can fight it if you want, if you think you can move the moon at will (maybe you could if it was made out of cheese).

Or you can find ways to take a breath and simply notice what’s happening around you, appreciate life for what it is, and wait for that stressor to pass out of your perspective, as it often does.

So, what do we do when life throws us a curveball?

The goal here is to develop psychological flexibility. This isn’t about being ready for a monumental event or crash; it’s more about being able to bend, twist, and keep your life going in spite of what gets hurled at you, big or small.

Every time you bend and twist, you get stronger and more pliable. Like Neo dodging a bullet in The Matrix, it takes bigger and bigger things to knock you down.

Here are a few broad ideas to get you started:

1. Stay Present
An eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event (theoretically; I’ve personally seen two, but whatever). You wouldn’t spend that moment scrolling through your phone, right? Of course not! Staying present, fully immersing yourself in right now, can help you appreciate what you do have, even during stressful times.

2. Embrace Your Experiences
Every experience, good or bad, brings with it a lesson. Much like how we marvel at an eclipse, understanding that its beauty is in the fact that it won’t last long, embracing your experiences without judgment can help you develop resilience. Acknowledge your feelings, don’t beat yourself up for having a human response, and move forward.

3. Make Your Values Your Compass
Your values are your North Star, guiding you through your darkest nights and your brightest days. Identifying what truly matters to you—whether it’s family, health, or career—can provide a sense of direction and purpose, especially during times of stress. Now you know what matters to you, and what doesn’t. Let those values guide your choices and decisions.

4. Take Committed Action
Small, consistent actions aligned with your values can lead to significant changes. Whether it’s prioritizing family dinners, making time for a run or walk, or pursuing the first steps of a passion project, these actions take you closer to where you want to be. Stress will feel less disempowering when you are aligning your behaviors with your deepest values.

5. Develop a Growth Mindset
If you let them, your challenges can be an episode of “Watch Me Grow.” Instead of looking at challenges as forces always trying to drag you down, or an indictment of your propensity to fail, learn to embrace the mindset that says, “What can I learn from this?” or “What other opportunities might this lead to?”

View each obstacle as an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before, and develop a stronger, more resilient version of yourself.

Just like those moments when we use pinhole cameras or special glasses to watch an eclipse, we can observe from a distance and manage our stress.

By staying present, embracing our experiences, aligning our actions with our values, and cultivating a growth mindset, we build resilience—not just to withstand stress, but to thrive right in the middle of it.


Old dog laying in the grass

What an Old Dog Taught Me About Fear

A few years ago, my husband and son were away on a summer trip with our church youth group. I love my family, but I am still very much an only child.

I love having uninterrupted time at my behest so I relished having a few days alone in the house. There’s a lot of coffee drinking and reading. It’s a raucous time, I can assure you.

Typically I don’t get too concerned about intruders. The neighborhood we were living in at the time was safe, and the fear of someone on my property really didn’t occur to me too much.

My first night alone I couldn’t wait to settle in and get some sleep. That particular day at work had been a busy one, and I had a lot on my mind as I was trying to drift off to sleep…

BLAM! BLAM! A loud banging noise at the back of the house had me sitting straight up in bed.

I thought maybe it was one of those weird dream-like states, where you hear a loud, banging noise and then wake up.


Nope, I thought to myself. That was definitely real.

Cue the fight or flight syndrome.

My palms got all sweaty, my ears got all whistle-y, and my heart started thumping right out of my chest like a Pepé Le Pew cartoon.

Somebody’s definitely trying to break in, I thought.  I fumbled around for my glasses on the nightstand, grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911.

I tried to stay calm as I explained to the dispatcher that I heard a noise at the back of my house a couple of different times. I’ve never heard any noises there before, I told her, certainly not one so loud.

BLAM! BLAM! There it was again, oh crap!

She assured me someone was on their way and stayed on the phone with me until I heard a knock at the door.

I opened the door to see one of our local sheriff’s deputies, looking very relaxed and chill. He got some information from me and went around to the back of the house to check things out.

In what couldn’t have been more than two minutes later, he emerged right back to the front door with the perpetrator in tow… an old dog who had apparently settled in for the night next to my back door.

I guess he was having trouble sleeping, too, because his tail wagged every time something got his attention in my backyard.

Hence, the BLAM! BLAM!

Cue the embarrassing face palm.

While my story turned out not to be this week’s true-crime thriller, my physiological response was unmistakably real.

I felt fear, and my body knew it.

In this case, my reaction was appropriate because I thought I was in real danger. From an old dog.

But what about the fears that don’t come from a predator or a true feeling of danger, things like a tricky conversation with your boss, or a leap into a new life chapter?

What Is Fear, Really?

Fear is our body’s natural response to a perceived threat. It’s a survival mechanism that protects us from danger. When we sense a threat, our brain sends signals to our body to prepare us to either fight, flee, or freeze.

When I felt my heart racing, and my palms getting clammy that was my body trying to give my muscles the oxygen and nourishment they needed to take action. You know, because picking up a cell phone is really taxing lol.

But you get the idea.

Our bodies are wired for those kinds of responses to keep us safe.

But we also run into other fears through things like negative associations, conditioning or trauma. These are responses that we learn as we participate in our families of origin, or have experiences that we’re not equipped to handle.

If you’ve ever been bitten by a dog, you might develop a fear of dogs. Or if you’ve had a bad experience while flying, you might develop a fear of flying.

These fears are not innate but we learn them through negative associations. The brain is excellent at making connections, and once it links a specific situation or object with danger, it’s hard to break that association.

The modern workplace can sometimes feel like a minefield of stress triggers.

An email marked “urgent,” a last-minute meeting request from your boss, or even a colleague’s offhand comment can send your heart racing.

But are these situations truly life-threatening? Hardly.

Yet, your body can react as if they are, kicking into high gear with a fight or flight response that feels as real as if you’re facing a wild animal.

So, how do you tell the difference between legitimate danger and a false alarm?

Understand the Signals

First, let’s get in tune with what your body is telling you. When you’re in true danger, the fight or flight response is invaluable.

But in the office? Not so much.

If you notice your heart racing, palms sweating, or a knot forming in your stomach during work stressors, acknowledge these signals for what they are: false alarms.

Your body is trying to tell you that something is bothering you.

Take a Step Back

I can’t stress this one enough: Before responding to the stressor, give yourself a moment to step back for a minute.

Excuse yourself from the situation for a few minutes (ladies rooms are great for this).

Take a few deep breaths and assess the situation.

Ask yourself, “Is this threat real, or is it a learned response?”

Just like my late-night canine visitor, is the threat really just an old, harmless dog rather than a criminal perpetrator?

Reframe Your Thoughts

The stories you tell yourself about your experiences is often what makes a situation seem scarier than it really is.

To reframe your thoughts, start by acknowledging your initial reaction without judgment. Recognize that while your emotions are valid, they are not always accurate reflections of reality.

Then, consciously choose a new narrative to work from.

  • Identify the Negative Thought: Become aware of the specific thoughts that are contributing to your fear response. Is it a general sense of doom, a worry about personal inadequacy, or a prediction of a worst-case scenario? Get to know exactly what kind of negative thought you’re dealing with.
  • Challenge Its Validity: Ask yourself, “Is this thought based on facts or on my interpretation of the situation? Is there evidence to support this thought, or is it an assumption?” In many cases, you’ll find you are quite the master at making assumptions.
  • Look for Alternative Explanations: Could there be another way to view this situation? It doesn’t even have to be an explanation grounded in reality, literally anything will do. Aliens, gremlins, or other unexplainable phenomena are better than assuming the worst.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Shift your attention to actions and aspects within your control. What steps can you take right now to manage the situation? By focusing on action, you move from feeling victimized by the situation to being the one in charge of it.
  • Adopt an Attitude of Growth: View the stressor as an opportunity for learning or personal development. Think, “What can this situation teach me?” Look at the situation in terms of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.
  • Visualize Success: Instead of imagining the worst, picture yourself navigating the conversation with your boss with ease, or managing the project efficiently. This positive visualization can change your mindset and reduce anxiety. Studies show that when you visualize something in your mind, your brain doesn’t know the difference. It actually thinks you’re there on the podium getting that Olympic gold medal in the sport of talking to your boss.
  • Affirm Your Abilities: Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes. Think about times when you’ve handled similar situations well. No doubt there are many to draw from. Affirmations such as, “I am resilient and can adapt to challenges,” can reinforce a positive self-concept.

By reshaping your narrative, you not only change your perception of the stressor but also empower yourself to respond in a healthier, more effective way.

And every time you do that, it gets a little easier to do it next time.

And if you keep doing that, you might just develop a new habit.

Great job!

Now just keep doing that!