Resilience is a practice. Like brushing your teeth and other daily good habits, it can only be developed if you practice daily and not wait for the crisis to happen to rally the troops. In fact, resiliency skills are best practiced when you do not need them. Once you change your physiology, you will be able to easily access these skills when you really need them. An example from my life is when COVID hit, I felt prepared to adapt to the changes in the world without anger and judgement. I did not fall in the trap of blaming others. Instead, I used my energy to figure out how to move through this trauma with the least amount of wear and tear on my body, mind and spirit.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Trank
Andrea Trank, Ed.S. Curriculum and Instruction, M.Ed. Science Education is a certified HeartMath® Trainer, Clinical Coach and Trauma-Sensitive Practitioner. She was a science teacher in the high school and college levels before she burned out and was diagnosed with autoimmune disease from the stress of teaching and living. She then went on a healing journey which included obtaining certifications as a yoga teacher, Somatic educator, Integrative Medicine Health Coach, and a HeartMath trainer, clinical coach and trauma-sensitive practitioner.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My most interesting story may not be the one that taught me the most. But in a way it is illustrative. When I was a television news reporter, I covered many major stories, including famous actor Clint Eastwood when he was elected mayor of Carmel. I spotted him in a restaurant eating dinner with his family before any other reporters knew he was in town. I always had a lot of guts, so I walked up to his table, introduced myself and asked if he would be willing to do an interview. He looked at me and said, “I am eating dinner now, but if you stop by my hotel in the morning, I will give you an interview.” Now that could have been the end of the story, but I was always a person with a lot of heart who thought of others. So, I said to him, “Mr. Eastwood, I know there are hundreds of reporters here all clamoring to grab an interview. To be fair to them and to preserve your sanity, why don’t we do a press conference?” He said yes if I made the arrangements and picked him up in front of his hotel room the next day. The next morning, all the reporters were happily lined up and I was all over the news walking toward the assembled crowd of reporters with Clint Eastwood. The irony of all of this was that I was not looking at all like a reporter, more like a lovesick teenager and my parents were watching this on NBC nightly news and laughing. This story illustrates the way I ran my life and career. I always wore my heart on my sleeve. What I did not learn until much later was that being so willing to share my heart with all including my very needy students (when I became a teacher) without learning tools to keep my own internal battery charged up, left me vulnerable to burn out and getting sick. Learning resiliency skills has taught me to keep my inner battery charged so that no matter what is going on in the world, I am able to prepare for, adapt to and bounce back from turbulent times in my life and the world.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company is me. It is my gift to the world. I only teach and coach from an authentic place of a long and winding road of healing from anxiety, gut issues and chronic health conditions related to Hashimoto’s (autoimmune thyroid disease). Here is a real-life story. I refused to fly for thirty years because of fear. My son decided to marry a beautiful woman in Brazil. I knew I needed to get on an airplane. So, I set out to heal my nervous system and uncover the layers of fear that were preventing me from living more fully. In doing so, I overcame my fear of flying and became more and more compassionate to myself and others whose lives were being hampered by seemingly irrational fears. Through compassionate inquiry and guided practices, I help my clients live from their heart instead of from the fears in the head. This enables them to develop resilience.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have had many teachers and coaches along the way. What I have come to realize is that even those who rejected me and sent me packing were actually helping me become more resilient. That was a big lesson for me. At the time, I felt rejected or felt that something was wrong with me. But in hindsight these rejections were spiritual invitations to take a different path and grow. If there was one person that really stands out for me, it was my first yoga teacher 30 plus years ago. She was a storyteller and she informed the way I teach. I learn and teach through story.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
My definition comes from the HeartMath trainings I have been through in the past two years. Resilience is the ability “to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of challenge or stress.” I love this definition because I believe that many of us including me don’t develop resilience until something really terrible happens to us and then we are forced to either “man or woman up” — get stronger, pick ourselves up and move on. The problem with waiting for the “other shoe to fall” so to speak as I did is that as we age, our lives get smaller and smaller. Fear of bad things happening inform our decisions in life. At least that is the way I lived for a while. Once I learned how to emotionally self-regulate and practice daily resiliency skills, I no longer worried so much about my ability to handle what was around the corner. I knew I was prepared, could adapt and bounce back from anything.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is one of the heart qualities you need in being resilient, but according to HeartMath, there are many other heart qualities that can also develop your resilience muscle — things like compassion, care, joy, appreciation, patience, and even neutrality. What all these heart qualities do is help an individual develop heart/brain coherence. In a more coherent state physiologically, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, one can become more resilient in all those domains.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My dad, who is 92 and is a senior playwright, comes to mind. He was an attorney for 50 years. His parents were both deaf, so he learned to read lips (a great advantage in the courtroom). He was married four times. He wakes up everyday with a purpose. When COVID hit, he decided to stay at home and write and read and watch his favorite sports teams. He sends me articles that he reads every day. He espouses his wisdom, much of which I don’t agree with (ha ha). For instance, he says the reason he has lived so long is because he refused to eat green food. He makes fun of all my healthy meals, but I know the real reason that his diet has not negatively affected his health. He has a resilient attitude which gives him a strong desire to live everyday despite his age and chronic pains.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
This has been the story of my life. “Don’t become a reporter. You can’t write,” my college news writing professor told me. I went on to become a reporter. “Stop teaching. You can’t teach,” was the advice given to me by the first school administrator after a tearful first year of teaching. I left their school, went to a school across the street and a few years later was awarded the Golden Apple for teaching. “You can’t make a living teaching yoga and health coaching,” I was told by some skeptical friends and family, but despite these doubters I launched the next chapter in my teaching career at age 55 doing just that and here I am, still at it, and finally making a living and loving what I do. I used to be upset at these people for doubting me, but now that I have learned the art of resiliency, I understand that these statements are not personal, they are a cry for help for them and a kick in the butt for me. I now have the skills to respond rather than react to detractors in a way that keeps me uplifted and just might help them feel better about themselves.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
In my early 30s, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a potentially debilitating disease that can lead patients to be placed on feeding tubes. I was prescribed a medicine that caused chemically induced depression. I was laying in bed on medical leave from teaching and caring for my three young children. My husband was at wit’s end. After losing 40 pounds from not being able to eat, I got myself out of bed and went to my first yoga class. I could barely do ten minutes of it, but I stayed the whole class and listened to lyrical tones of my first yoga teacher’s voice. I also took up jewelry making, finding that the meditative art of designing jewelry was therapeutic and healing. I stopped taking all medicines, completely changed my diet and started learning everything I could about holistic health.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I have recently come to the conclusion that my childhood had its share of traumas, not big “T’s” but for my nervous system, they were traumas nonetheless. My mother was divorced when I was 2. She remarried when I turned 8. In between, she was a single working mom raising three children. When she married her second husband, a widower with 6 of his own children, I had some very big challenges at home. It was a struggle in the blended family and my way of dealing with it was typical of many children. I spent as much time away from the house as possible, hanging out with friends. Six of my siblings were brothers and they picked on me without mercy. I was a very sensitive child and to this day I can still recognize how I react when I believe I am being bullied. I married a man who has treated me with so much respect and love. I learned from my childhood. Throughout my life, I have always stood up for anyone who I feel is being bullied. As a teacher, my classroom was the safe place for anyone who did not fit in or belong. I worked hard on myself to be stronger, smarter and in my own way, more successful than siblings. I rejected many of their values but realized that even rejecting values was not the way to be resilient. Forgiveness and compassionate latitude were. I forgive them all and thank them for making me the resilient person I am today.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Practice Heart/Brain coherence skills daily so that you are connecting your heart and brain and emotions through simple breathing and awareness techniques. Before I meet with every client or teach a class, I stop for three minutes and slow my breathing down. Then I focus my breath on my heart center. I ask myself what quality of the heart I want to take into my interaction with my clients or students or my family. After a few minutes, I feel my nervous system and heart and brain start to sync up like a finely tuned machine and I can think better, stay more connected and present with others, and feel better.
- Become aware of your triggers and to acknowledge them, forgive yourself for responding to them and learn tools to respond in a way that does not drain your inner battery, as HeartMath calls it. A trigger for me is feeling like I am not being respected. So rather than just assume that is what is happening, I have come up with kind ways to ask the other person if I am understanding what they really mean or if I am just making up a story in my head.
- Learn skills to switch your emotions from depleting to renewing. HeartMath researchers and many other scientists are studying the strengthening effect of renewing or uplifting emotions. We have known for years about the draining and debilitating effects of “so-called negative” emotions including the release of cortisol, increase in blood pressure, lowering of immune system, but there is a growing body of evidence that shifting your emotions to those that uplift you has the opposite effect. Joy, Courage, and Serenity are all considered uplifting emotions and they lead to higher cortical functioning, the release of oxytocin and DHEA, an improvement in Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and the improvement in your vagus nerve functioning.
- Lifestyle matters when it comes to resiliency. Yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, time with loved ones, eating foods that nourish your body, rest and sleep, and eliminating toxins from our lives are all part of my daily resilience practices. Am I perfect? NO WAY, but I know that when I do these practices, I feel better. When you feel better, you are naturally more able to be stronger physically, physiologically, emotionally, and mentally.
- Resilience is a practice. Like brushing your teeth and other daily good habits, it can only be developed if you practice daily and not wait for the crisis to happen to rally the troops. In fact, resiliency skills are best practiced when you do not need them. Once you change your physiology, you will be able to easily access these skills when you really need them. An example from my life is when COVID hit, I felt prepared to adapt to the changes in the world without anger and judgement. I did not fall in the trap of blaming others. Instead, I used my energy to figure out how to move through this trauma with the least amount of wear and tear on my body, mind and spirit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love Planet Earth. I was a science teacher and an environmental activist when I was younger. I understood back then how important it was and is to connect with Mother Earth. I have always wanted to inspire more people to appreciate this amazing planet we live on and to see that every action we take can either contribute to all of us thriving or the continued degradation of this beautiful planet and our own health.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Greg Braden. He is a big believer in HeartMath, and he has a great interest in education and in ancient spiritual practices and in protecting our planet.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is https://heavenlanecreations.com . I am on all the social media channels including Facebook https://facebook.com/heavenlanecreations , LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreatrank , Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heavenlanecreations , Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/HeavenLaneHealing/ YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/AndreaTrank
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!