60 – Navigating Crisis with Ikigai with Jamila Rodrigues

Want to overcome life’s challenging situations? Uncovering a source of ikigai can empower you to persevere through life’s toughest times.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick welcomes back Jamila Rodrigues to discuss how having ikigai can help people cope in times of crisis.

Ikigai in times of crisis

“The participants gave me the idea of losing ikigai, maintaining ikigai, recovering ikigai, or finding new ikigai. Ikigai becomes very dynamic, because it's either lost or maintained or recovered. A lot of participants told me that during the crisis, and also after the crisis, nature was the kind of connector, and this is how I ended up being so interested on environmental issues, and sustainability, and perceptions of climate change crisis, and what does the connection of people with nature have to do with their well-being? 

So during the crisis, they felt that connecting to nature helped to overcome the crisis. And after the crisis, still appreciating nature was something that was very much rooted in people's experiences.” - Jamila Rodrigues

Jamila Rodrigues

Jamila Rodrigues - Ikigai

Jamila Rodrigues is an anthropologist focused on well-being and crisis management. She completed her Ph.D. in Dance Anthropology and Sufism embodied ritual practice at Roehampton University in London in 2017. She worked as a professional dancer and travelled to different countries, such as the UK, South Africa, and many other countries for 12 years.

She is a visiting researcher at the Marine Climate Change Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. Her current research is on Embodied ikigai: Japanese women’s narratives on well-being in times of crisis. Jamila was a guest on episode 56, “The Embodiment of Ikigai.”


Academia - Jamila Rodrigues

Podcast Highlights

Maintaining ikigai during times of crisis

During challenging moments in life, individuals often instinctively search for external solutions to improve their circumstances. However, what many fail to recognize is the power of introspection. By turning inward and delving into their inner selves, people can uncover the answers they have long sought.

Jamila wrote and submitted an article earlier this year titled ‘In the middle of up and down, ikigai is there’: Japanese women embodied narratives of crisis and coping. This piece was born out of a personal experience: Jamila's involvement in a car accident. Motivated by this traumatic incident, she embarked on a journey to explore the theme that became the focal point of her article.

Crisis and coping

In Jamila's article, she explores the central themes of crisis and coping. She emphasises that crisis and coping can encompass various aspects, including personal, social, and environmental dimensions. Moreover, she underlines that the coping process is subjective, as individuals navigate stress and challenges in diverse ways, leading to different levels of coping mechanisms.

“Crisis and coping can mean different things. We have personal crises, social crises, environmental crises, and the same happens with coping. I think, in general terms, coping is a process that entails different levels and its outcome depends on how the individual handles that stress. It can be psychological, physiological, gendered, temporal, social, cultural-based, and involves moment-to-moment interactions. So coping is not fixed, it's a process that evolves.” - Jamila Rodrigues

Crisis and Coping

Ikigai as a coping mechanism

During times of crisis, individuals often find themselves disoriented and lacking a sense of purpose. That is why embracing ikigai can offer both motivation and a sense of fulfilment in life, helping people overcome life’s challenges.

Narrative of crisis

Jamila’s interviewees shared various experiences of crises. 

  • Illness - those who suffer from chronic conditions and accidents
  • Work - those who are undergoing a career change, overworked, or experiencing conflict with colleagues
  • Living abroad - those who struggle to be culturally accepted in social adaptation
  • Interpersonal relations - those who struggle with a loss of a loved one
  • Family - those who put up with domestic violence or childhood trauma

Narratives of Crisis

Embodied experiences of crisis

The interviewees also shared their encounters with crisis in terms of their physical and emotional experiences.

  • Bodily doubt - when the body doesn’t work as it's supposed to, that can lead to a disruption of normality.

  • Bodily response - when confronted with a crisis, certain individuals may undergo stress-related symptoms such as weight loss, skin ailments, hair loss, and fatigue.

  • Cognition - during challenging situations, individuals may experience a lack of concentration, mental fogginess, and restlessness.

  • Feelings and emotions - when faced with setbacks, individuals may encounter a range of emotions including anxiety, confusion, sadness, stress, or frustration.

Embodied Crisis

Ikigai amidst a crisis

Amidst a crisis, individuals may undergo transformative experiences of ikigai, where some may lose their existing sources of ikigai, while others rediscover their sense of purpose, and a few may even discover new sources of ikigai.

Participants in Jamila's study emphasised the significant role of nature in coping with crises. Regarding social networks, some individuals experienced the loss of friends, while others sought support from their friends during challenging times. Additionally, some participants discovered a new sense of identity after navigating a crisis. The role of family was also deemed essential during such times, and individuals acknowledged the growth that stems from life's challenges.

“Nature seems to be a universal ikigai source for everyone. I imagine nature, whether it’s the forest, the ocean, or mountain climbing, would just help you heal or help you cope.” - Nicholas Kemp

Ikigai Source

Enhancing one’s self-perception

“Ikigai and its embodied experience may serve as a coping mechanism for women dealing with personal crises, to process and assimilate changes, leading to growth and personal fulfillment. These experiences transformed women’s sense of self.” - Jamila Rodrigues

Coping Mechanism

Some challenging situations can lead to transformative changes in women's social roles. Some may find a greater sense of purpose and usefulness in society, while others discover improved career opportunities. According to Jamila, overcoming traumatic experiences enables women to develop a heightened awareness of the world around them.

This is similar to what pioneer researcher Mieko Kamiya suggested, that one can feel ikigai most intensely when overcoming hardship.

Yaku ni tatsu no hito and enduring

When it comes to work situations, many women often discuss the importance of feeling useful or valued, which is referred to as yaku ni tatsu no hito in Japanese. This often leads to decisions like leaving their current job and seeking new opportunities where they can experience a sense of being needed. Furthermore, overcoming a crisis and feeling needed by others provide them with a sense of self-satisfaction.

Additionally, the idea of isshokenmei or enduring is often associated with challenges such as illnesses and domestic violence. In these situations, many women strongly believe that they must endure and exert tremendous effort to overcome these circumstances.

Jamila’s learnings

In her interviews with Japanese women, Jamila discovered that through reflective practices, individuals can internalise their experiences by imagining and deeply feeling them. This process allows these experiences to become integrated within their body knowledge, fostering a greater connection with their holistic selves.


As explored in Jamila’s article: ‘In the middle of up and down, ikigai is there’, despite the challenges we encounter, there will always be opportunities to discover ikigai sources, enabling us to get through even in the toughest times.