Rebuilding our Topsoil of Resilience




In these times that we are in it can feel like the topsoil of our lives is getting thinner and thinner. And yet sometimes we try to just keep going and may even berate ourselves when we can't accomplish as much as we were doing pre-COVID.


As the world is changing, it behooves us to be tuning into ourselves, others, and the world around us. The problem is that as our stress goes up, our ability to think creatively and see new possibilities diminishes. Our peripheral vision actually narrows from 180 degrees to about 30 degrees. And this is helpful at times when we need to focus.


However, when we need to adapt to what is emerging, it's critical for us to access all of our capabilities... And some of them are NOT available when we are in a constant state of stress, with the accelerator of our nervous systems stuck to the floor (sympathetic nervous system).


Here in the US we just had a holiday weekend. And I don't know about you, but my body, nervous system, my whole being said YES! My whole being said, "Could I have one of these four-day breaks once per month?"


For those four days, I decided that I would have zero screen time (which was actually very little screen time if I'm honest). I said, I'll still be reachable by phone, but not by text or email. And what this made possible, along with just plain ol' slowing down, was accessing my parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) in a deeply nourishing way. And I ended up having some deep reflection time, in my journal, and walking down by the water.


Richard Boyatzis, who is an author and professor, is one of the world's leading experts in leadership development and emotional intelligence. I'm reading a fabulous book that he co-authored entitled, "Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth."


Boyatzis was a recent presenter in a coaching course I'm taking ("The Neuroscience of Change"). One of the things he said that was fascinating was about the imperative of accessing our PNS more often. He said, that's great if you like to take an hour long walk each day. Wonderful. AND, what's even better is to have many small moments throughout our day where we are accessing our PNS.


This could be just taking a 5 min break from your computer and going outside for a draught of fresh air, or putting your feet up for some restorative yoga for 10 minutes after lunch. Or enjoying a great conversation with someone you are close to. When we access our PNS, we are detoxing our stress hormones.


Even taking one minute of deep breathing, to breath in on a 3 count, and exhale on a 6-count (key is longer exhale) can clear cortisol from our system. (learned this and much more from an interesting HBR article HERE.)


When we carve out these times to reset, renew, and rebuild we are building the resilience that it absolutely essential to thrive in these times.


Do yourself a favor and ask yourself, "How will I build resilience this winter?" And before you ask that....take three deep breaths.


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And, if you really want to rebuild the topsoil of your resilience, I recommend that you do it with others.


Susan Howlett, who has literally worked with thousands of nonprofits since 1975 and I created a course for nonprofit leaders who want to build resilience together.


We ran it with a cohort of 12 people in October and it went so well we decided to do it again starting January 14, (four Thursdays in a row from 10am-noon PST)


We have a Super Early Bird rate that is good until midnight tomorrow, December 4. Check our course page HERE for more information. And to register! And please spread the word to any nonprofit leader you know who could use added support and resilience in these times.



Honestly I think we all need this right now during the pandemic. It’s caused a lot of stress within our agency and in all of our lives. So to have the tools that we need is really important for me as I help with my staff and my family. I thoroughly enjoyed the class. Every day when I stepped back, I walked away feeling better with some new tools in my toolbelt that I was able to use immediately with my team and my family. It’s been a beautiful thing. I highly recommend taking this course!

Vicci Hilty,

Executive Director

Domestic Violence Services

of Snohomish County

Everett, WA












David and Susan gave us tools to use in our professional lives and our personal lives. They helped us all feel safe and we realized that we were not alone. The variety of activities we engaged in meant it wasn’t just content being spewed at us. It felt like we were on a weekend retreat, where we had the chance to bond with other great colleagues.

Brent Mason Executive Director Foss Waterway Seaport Tacoma, WA










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