In my early 20s I was interviewed by the British Army for a new,
unique position in Germany; it was a brand new post, and the person had to
be able to “start up” in an era where not much was written about start-ups and
entrepreneurs. There were no role models, no templates, no protocols. It was
pure adventure for a 23 year old Scots man.
I was successful in being appointed and soon found myself being “briefed” for
military service, albeit in a civilian capacity. My briefing officer, who had also
been on the interviewing panel, took me out for lunch during which time he
asked if I knew why I had proved to be the successful client. I hadn’t a clue.
I was just up for a foreign tour of duty and the chance to make a difference,
to live in a land I had come to love, and speak the language.
He reeled out a stream of words to describe the me the interviewing panel
had seen, certainly not the me I recognised. They reckoned I was resilient,
an adventurer, a risk taker, open, curious, creative and more besides.
Despite all my professional knowledge and skills throughout the years,
I reckon, looking back over my time and some very difficult challenges,
it is the qualities mentioned above that have seen me through. In all the
many knock-downs I have had, including going from being quite wealthy
to having nothing, due to the corruption of other, I have often had to dig
deep inside and find qualities of resilience,
often at a times when I felt had no resources left.
So let me ask – how do you deal with life’s knocks? Do you sweep them under the carpet, ignore them, deny them, or face them head on, resolve them, learn from them? Do you break down, or break through. Do you play the victim and hope for wish bone, or do you play the victor and show your backbone?
You always have a choice.
Some dictionary definitions speak of resilience as:-
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness: stickability
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity:
the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
How resilient are you?
Sometimes I feel that life throws at us opportunities every day to practise resilience.
But perhaps where it is most needed is when faced with multiple health conditions,
when there seems no way through, when things seem to just get tougher with no end in sight,
such as the case with mental health recovery.
You can tell if you are in need of developing resilience if the following keeps happening to you:-
You blow things out of proportion and react to every little thing
You get defensive easily
It takes just one word or sign of disapproval from others to rock your boat
You then live in your mind, sometimes for days, fretting over what the said and how you reacted
You berate yourself, you doubt yourself, you doubt everything
You think negatively about everything, including yourself
You try to focus but your mind will not settle
You worry and fret and are constantly “looking over your shoulder”
You find it hard to self-appreciate and so look to others for approval and validation
These signs became very familiar to me in 2015; in 2014 and 2015 I was dealing with the dying of my younger sister to lung cancer, I was facing numerous health challenges of my own, I was exhausted and whilst I knew I needed to take radical steps to heal, it proved difficult and more time consuming than I could ever have imagined.
I found our National Health Service to be fragmented, filled with time delays and waiting lists, during which time illness became worse. It was reductionist, focussing only on symptoms and never exploring let alone attempting to treat causes. There was no attempt to deal with me on a holistic level, to make connections between one illness or another.
I became very sensitive to the language used by medical personnel. It spoke of “No hope” “Get used to it” “Nothing can be done.” How careless and mindless to indoctrinate patients in this way. I lost all sense of who I was. My usual resilience had gone, the batteries had run dry. And m no one would listen because to our medical profession much of this was a “mystery” illness.
I had a choice to surrender to such negative conditions, or make radical steps to develop even more resilience.
You have choices too.
Resilience can mean showing up for medical appointments, even when we don’t feel like it. It can mean being open to and trying a new medication regimen. It can mean being strong when we feel vulnerable and weak, reaching out when we feel like isolating and closing in. It can also mean standing up to professionals who believe they alone hold the answers.
The good news is that once you start becoming aware of how you're acting or feeling, and take action to improve your situation, you begin bit by bit to notice the Universe conspires with you and helps you build your inner strength. And as you become more resilient, your confidence returns, you may even find inner reserves you never knew you had, and your defensiveness gives ways to a more replaced and compassionate you.
So if it’s time for you to up your resiliency quotient, here are some ways.
Become aware – don’t set your goal as solving your problems eg clearing your depression, quitting smoking,
resolving your diabetes or even becoming more resilient. The harder you try the less you are likely to succeed.
Instead, focus on your approach to life.
Do an honest inventory of how you are feeling and behaving. No judgement or blame. Just a truthful statement of,
“This is what I do!” What you cannot face, you cannot replace. Write down the consequences of what you do, what
works and doesn’t. Again no blame, no shame!
If you find yourself losing the plot, then as soon as you can ask yourself some difficult questions, be still, take time, and be prepared to be open to the answers you get: -
Have I just overreacted again?
Am I allowing myself to be blown off course?
Am I blowing things out of proportion?
Am I fuelling the drama by ruminating over it?
Am I trying to justify how I feel?
Am I blaming others?
Am I failing to simply accept my part in the chaos?
Is this just about you?
Who and what else is involved in this scenario? List the factors (people, decisions, etc.) that contributed to what happened.
What you are aiming to do here is sort out the proverbial wheat from the chaff, which part of what happened is really down to you, down to others, down to circumstances. Maybe you thought this was an act of God, or just one of those things that happens. You say, “it is what it is” which is just a good way of taking no responsibility to move forward. But now you can start to see you can make new choices either to resolve a situation, prevent it recurring, or to learn from it and create new patterns in your life. But you have to ask yourself: are you willing to influence and create the new in your life?
Remember, the answers you find it toughest to “hear” are the ones you probably most need to listen to. But once you can face the truth, you can embrace it, learn from it, then decide how to replace it.
It's not always easy to accept the answers. But once you notice your patterns, you can start to change them.
Above all at this time, be open to your heart.
Be open to hearing the part of you that is angry, irritable, annoyed, hurt, let down, rejected or whatever it is. What does it need?
With new insights, new information, we can see things in a different light, and we can create more new in our lives.
As soon as you can after you become calm, instead of more self-berating and rumination, get out a pen and paper and start scribing. Write down
What you’d learned
What you need to do
What do you need to learn
What research will you do?
You may decide you need to be less reactive, more compassionate, more empathic. But these can be easily said but may require acquiring new skills, attitudes, and practice.
Take time out – it may mean half an hour; it may mean if things are serious taking a few days’ break! Remember, when you are highly emotionally charged, your ability to think things through rationally and with a measure of intelligence will be at an all-time low. Watch some TV, listen to music, get out in nature, go for a walk, phone a friend and ask them just to listen – no trying to offer solutions or fix you. You need space. You may wish to try reading or painting, praying, meditating, or working ouot at the gym or going for a swim.
Aim to get some perspective – what meaning have you given to your situation. Hold it up to scrutiny. Perhaps use the questions from Byron Katie’s writings, “The Work!” It’s about opening to your heart, not about trying to change your thoughts. Ask the questions, then go inside and wait for the deeper answers to surface.
Is the meaning true? (Yes or no. No ifs, ands or blames, or buts! If no, move to 3.)
Can you absolutely know that it's true? (Yes or no.)
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?
And I would add in, how would life be without that thought or meaning? This helps you begin to move off the hamster wheel and heal.
It's vital to recognise what meaning(s) you have invented. But stop yourself from justifying the meaning. Your ego mind (ie your lower mind) will always try to convince you that you are right and “they” are wrong or bad. Just recognise that you have invented a meaning.
Yes, remain open. You may be surprised to find some light-bulb moments are happening, you are seeing things vaguely or even sharply in a different light.
First, remember, you are not trying to solve problems. You will never solve a problem with the same attitude or level of understanding at which it was created. A decision made in anger or depression will create totally different outcomes to that created in peace and positivity.
Neither is this about identifying 10 things to do to create a better life, certainly not at this stage.
Prepare to take one action at a time to improve your situation.
It can be something silly, or something long term and impactful. But decide on one action to take. For example, it could be a situation involved the way you were treated. Perhaps you expected to receive thanks. Instead, take action to give to the world the gratitude you wanted to receive. Think about how you can now give.
Whatever it is, the starting point is a new thought, a new belief, a new attitude, a new form of commitment.
It is about bringing in new habits.
Here are some ideas.
Come up for air. Give yourself some more space if needed. Slow down. Take a break. Commit to doing things differently, Think differently. Behave differently. Start your day differently each day.
Take care of yourself. Tend to your needs, including diet, exercise and stresses…sleep and rest. Distance yourself from negative relationships.
Aim to build a supportive network – this could be a mix of friends, family, and professional people. By supportive I mean people who will support and challenge you, who will listen, who will help you reach your own conclusions and decisions. At this time you do not need people who attempt to tell you what you OUGHT to do or try to fix you as if you were broken. Surround yourself with supportive others.
Spiritual practice. Remember this does not always mean religious practice. This is the moment, when you perhaps feel least like it, but engage in meditation, prayer and any other rituals that are important to you. Create some structure in your life – a time each day to just be to reflect, to pray, to meditate, to eat mindfully, to have time out, to phone a friend.
Spend time in silence. It’s in the quiet moments that we are best able to hear our inner wisdom, the voice of the Divine.
Seek professional support. Becoming more resilient takes time and practice. If you don’t feel you’re making progress or the issues and patterns are really overwhelming, don’t be the martyr thinking you can do this alone or you know best. You only know what you know! I know enough now to know I will never know enough. There is strength in asking for help so seek out the guidance of a professional eg therapist, counsellor, coach, priest, minister, psychologist, healer, doctor.
Resolve to be proactive. It can take time to recover from a setback, to top up the resilience batteries, but know that your situation can improve if you work at it. Retain an attitude of hopefulness.
Get connected. Resilience is about reaching out for support whether it be contacting a supportive friend with a good listening ear or seeking the professional guidance mentioned before. Begin to consider how you can create supportive relationships. Sometimes volunteering to help others is an excellent way to heal; as you give, you get.
Make every day meaningful. Do something each day that builds a sense of purpose and accomplishment; set goals to look forward to, not huge life changing goals at this stage, simpler ones like – I’ll have a walk at 11am, I’ll take in thjat movie I’ve always wanted to see, I’ll make mysef a mnice sandwich.
Learn from experience. Consider skills and strategies you’ve used in difficult times in the past.
Remain hopeful. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety
Up to You
So now, head over to the RX pages and write out your own prescriptions to develop more resilience in your life.
Draw on the ideas above.
Revisit this section often to remind yourself and to try out new things.
Come up with ideas of your own.
Be brave and bold and above all, be resilient.
What is resilience?
and grow resilience