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BOUNCE WITH ME

Scientists have been assiduously tucked away in their labs studying resilience, the quality that explains why some people rebound so well from setbacks while others remain stuck like glue. And now researchers, including psychiatrist Dennis Charney, Dean of Icahn School of Medicine and his colleague, Yale professor Dr. Steven Southwick, have surfaced to share their findings with me and you.

As Mandy Oaklander writing for Time Magazine explains in her article on the science of bouncing back, resilience is essentially a set of skills that allow people not only to get through hard times but to thrive during and after them. Resilience is not a disposition, personality type or other fixed quality, so it can be learned. In short, rubber rebounds, so do resilient people.

Resilience training can transform the brain, making it more resistant to stress and trauma. And not a moment too soon. Stress is everywhere. As Oaklander notes, the boss gets on you, traffic tugs at your temper, spousal spats get you down, credit card bills and social commitments and correspondences of various types all conspire to fray the nerves, and this does not include the major traumatic stressors that at some point or other everyone will face. Accidents, catastrophes, untimely deaths. Because stress is at the heart of all major ills, including heart disease, appropriately enough, learning to better deal with stress can positively impact your life at every level.

Don't worry, I'm not about to launch into the benefits of meditation, although the article does endorse the practice for increasing resilience. Been there done it! So here are 10 other tips for resilience along with examples or explanations that may apply - or a silly space-filler when I can think of neither.

1. Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake. Recognizing your identity with the Divinity that pervades all is a good place to start, or finish, or pretty much anything in between.

2. Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened. Here I gotta cite Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, the subject of a new VH1 video, who after losing the tips of his fingers in a welding accident thought his career was over, and before it had really even begun. A pep talk from the factory's manager led him to persevere in his playing, and by tinkering with the instrument's strings he eventually developed a new sound which led to Black Sabbath's astronomical rise in the world of metal.

3. Maintain a positive outlook. Needs no explanation. What's your favorite slogan? Sorry, "I'm the king of the world" is already taken. Care to be my queen? (Please, gals only need apply.)


4. Take cues from someone who is especially resilient.  Like your grandparents. Lloyd Christmas said it best: "The elderly, though slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose."

5. Don't run from things that scare you: face them. Bullies don't just exist on the school playground. They lurk everywhere you turn. The mail carrier, the FedEx guy - okay that's just me being paranoid. But seriously, even last week's laundry can start to loom not to mention stink if you put it off too long. "Never do tomorrow what you can do today." That's Dickens.

6. Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire. A good support system certainly helps. Imaginary friends will do in emergencies.

7. Learn new things as often as you can. The brain can create new neural connections well into the golden years, so developing new skills is a plus yada yada yada. Crosswords, Soduko. Learn to tongue-tie a cherry's stem for all I care. This one's so obvious it's a cliché. Come on, Time!

8. Find an exercise regimen you'll stick to. The scientists found that working the muscles makes the mind more resistant as well, because exercise spurs the development of new neurons. With time, regular workouts can tamp down the stress response. Another no-brainer, but not if you exercise!

9. Don't beat yourself up or dwell on the past. How does the saying go, "Never regret what you do, only what you don't do"? Still that leaves a lot of regrets. So, regret nothing. In a world perfectly orchestrated, where everything happens for a reason, and it is impossible to judge the parts by the whole, just try your best, keep the faith and strive on - and when in doubt use whatever other hackneyed phrase will help get you through. Call me a utilitarian. I'm only being practical.

10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong - and own it. Take stock of your strengths, and if you cultivate new skills you'll be adding to your armamentarium, proving that like fine wine you'll only get better with age, and like rubber - I can't think how to make rubber's aging be metaphorical for anything you want to be associated with, so I'll stop here.

I think we should add to this list the virtues of listening to music, which almost always offers stress-relief, depending of course on taste. Even The Dillinger Escape Plan offers their take on a slow jam.


Phew, a lot to think on. The cliff-note version: Rapper Jay-Z quite nicely summarized the findings of the aforementioned venerable clinicians nearly 20 years ago when he intoned, almost in a whisper, as though it were some valuable and top secret information, probably because it was at the time, though if you've read this far, it is no longer: "Bounce with me."

And clearly Jay-Z knows what he's rhyming about. He is after all an "eight-figga nigga." I will never be an 8-figure nigger. But only because I will never have 10 million dollars. Not because I am not a nigger. See, like other men of color I am free to bandy about the N-word since I can with confidence trace my genealogy back to the first man himself. I'm referring to Adam, who is also my namesake and who most certainly was a black man. Adam the African, he of the red earth, and my ancestor. I have the dusky skin to prove it, and also the 'fro.

So, my niggers, or if you prefer, niggas, join with me, brothers and sisters, and sing: "Can I get a what-what?"

Well, can I? Can you? Can we all what-what together? Rap music always makes me randy!

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