Heal, Karyn Shanks MD, The Nine Domains of Healing, Healing Roadmap

How to Create Resilience: Adaptability, Energy, and Strength for Life

Dear One,

First, we survive.

Then we step back and ask, what am I called to do next?

And we realize, we knew it all along, didn’t we?

We knew where our reverent care of ourselves was taking us.


And we know in our guts—This. Is. Our. Call.

Survival First

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced—personally and collectively—in any of our lifetimes, isn’t it?

The personal losses, sacrifices, and economic smackdowns we are both experiencing and witnessing far exceed 9/11.

It’s hitting us hard in our collective gut—exploiting us where we are most vulnerable. Our first and most appropriate steps are about survival.

And this is exactly how we’ve been responding to the first wave of this pandemic. “Flattening the curve” through social distancing, hand washing, and personal quarantines. Protecting the vulnerable, sparing resources, and staying alive.

What’s our next step, after the hyper-focus and adrenaline of survival?

We widen our perspective to look broadly at how this pandemic illuminates our weaknesses, and we see what we must do. Our next steps are what we’ve been preparing for all along.

Heal Conventional Medicine

We’re called to heal our collective approach to healthcare.

Our current healthcare system operates from a paradigm of disease-oriented crisis management. It does not teach us how to bolster health and prevent disease.

The tenets of conventional medicine have been blown apart by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Disease-oriented medicine leaves people vulnerable by not reversing the gene-environment-lifestyle collision that leads to chronic illness.

What we see is how conventional medicine can’t save us in a global pandemic that comes straight for the most physically vulnerable. It’s what’s turned COVID-19 from a global challenge to a global disaster.

The pandemic is striking the hardest blows to those with the most precarious health: the elderly, institutionalized, those with chronic illnesses and immune system compromise, and those on the front lines with the greatest exposure and levels of stress.

These are the very folks our healthcare system has failed.

Most chronic disease is preventable. It’s not responsible to wait until the train has run off the tracks.

COVID-19 is a huge collective and individual wake up call to heal—ourselves and our medicine.

Our Call

We can’t single-handedly fix our healthcare system, but we can fix ourselves.

This is what we know. What we’ve been working toward.


Create resilience.

We create resilience through self-care. And we can do it now. But we must stop looking to the “experts” of conventional medicine to lead us on this path.

Through our improved health we’ll create resilience in our communities, use fewer medical resources, and limit the scope of the tough challenges that come our way in the future.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the adaptability, energy, and strength we create to support our successful response to life’s challenges—the daily chores as well as global pandemics.

Resilience is how we weather the storm, and how we heal when the storm is passed.

We create resilience in ourselves through vigilant comprehensive self-care.

How Does Resilience Help Us in a Global Viral Pandemic?

Determinants of Virulence

How much harm a viral illness leads to depends on two main factors:

  • The tenacity and adaptability of the virus.
  • The tenacity and adaptability of the host.

The host is us. We’re the terrain the virus lands in.

The virus, like any living organism, wants to survive and thrive.

Will that terrain it lands in (which is us) be hospitable to the virus, allowing it to invade and replicate widely, to create the most damage as it survives and thrives?

Or will the terrain have robust boundaries, a deep supply of energy and resources to defend itself, the ability to mount an appropriate immune response, and the capacity to recover, repair, and heal itself?

The resilience we create within ourselves through self-care becomes the terrain that supports us through a viral illness. It’s what helps us survive and thrive.

Illness is a Collision

Illness is a collision between our genes and all the environmental and lifestyle factors our bodies are exposed to. Our bodies respond to that collision in precisely the way they were designed to within those gene-environment-lifestyle parameters.

Do you get what I’m saying here?

How successful we are at coming through these challenges—including viral challenges—alive and able to heal is a direct function of the resilience we’ve created in ourselves through self-care.

The True Enemy is Not the Virus

By now you understand: the enemy is not the virus.

The true enemy is the virus-gene-environment-lifestyle relationship that favors the virus.

Our resilience (over the virus’s) is the defining characteristic of our ability to survive and thrive.

And it’s what we can control.

How Does Self-Care Lead to Resilience?

Self-care provides the resources we must have for strength, energy, and adaptability in every domain of our being—physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.

This global strength, energy, and adaptability comes about through dynamic changes in our genetic expression, physiology, and function.

Self-care begets the resilience to support us through all of life’s challenges.

Self-Care: Radical New Healthcare

While I know I’m preaching to the choir with you all, self-care is not how everyone operates. Most Americans are not aware of the power they have to create their own lives and to heal through resilience.

We have a lot of work to do to get our communities’ wellness to the optimal level it could be, but it begins with us. And you know the drill.

We create resilience through:

  • Sleeping well.
  • Eating a whole-foods, plant-rich, sugar-free diet.
  • Moving a lot.
  • Letting go of toxins, irritants, and negative energy.
  • Holding love, compassion, and forgiveness in our hearts (for ourselves and others).
  • Rest, pause, and play.
  • Creating healthy work-life balance.
  • Connecting to our strong center within.
  • Managing stress well.
  • Adjusting our mindset about life’s challenges. AKA challenge is good—it’s how we grow and learn.
  • Practicing practical optimism (see the silver lining).
  • Just feel. Every feeling is worthy of respect. Then move on.
  • Cultivating awe and joy. AKA be present.

Where Shall We Jump In?

All self-care begins with behavior change.

I like to teach behavior change via the “rule of threes.” Three is a power number for the human mind and the rule of threes is a tool to help us stay focused on just a few simple things to work on at a time. We do “simpler” and “fewer” better.

Where on the roadmap you jump in is precisely where you know you need to go. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself.

We Hear Our Call

We know where we’re headed. And we know everything we do for ourselves is exactly what our communities need.

Our strength. Our energy. Our adaptability. Our resilience.

My three things?

  • Laugh more.
  • Take myself less seriously.
  • Do more child’s poses throughout the day.

Have a Beautiful day!


p.s. Now more than ever, we’re called to heal. Ourselves. Our communities. Our planet. It begins with each of us.

Join me for a bird’s eye view of our healing roadmap and a deep dive into your own personal hotspots—in my new book, Heal.

Heal, Karyn Shanks MD, The Nine Domains of Healing, Healing Roadmap


Karyn Shanks MD. Simple is Better: the “Rule of Threes.” 2017.

Karyn Shanks MD. Heal: A Nine-Stage Roadmap to Recover Energy, Reverse Chronic Illness, and Claim the Potential of a Vibrant New You. 2019. Heal Literary Press.

Karyn Shanks MD. Your Beautiful Energy Roadmap (The Nine Domains of Healing). 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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