Regardless of who we are, we are not immune to problems, life is challenging, and it’s supposed to be. While we can, and should, choose our response to challenges, at times, we have to face the existence of the negative, lean in, learn, deal with it, and move on. Taking comfort in knowing the negative is balanced by the positive and the depths we have experienced, in time, open us up to the equivalent highs. Life is a journey of highs and lows, crossroads and dead ends, and our resilience is the guiding light at the end of the tunnel.
We are all resilient, albeit on a sliding scale. With some people seemingly immune to challenge, facing it head on and making the proverbial sow’s ear, a silk purse. Whereas others seem to drown in a challenge, left feeling like their life is being churned into the proverbial dog’s dinner. Regardless of where we sit on the scale, we can and do develop our resilience.
In this series of articles, inspired by the book 7 Skills for the Future by Emma-Sue Prince, I have explored each of the 7 skills and their potential for a future without depression. I’ve advocated for the skills of adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism and being proactive, but when it comes to well-being, no skill more than resilience is ‘sold’ as the cure to mental health problems. With many citing a global lack of resilience as the reason for an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression. I for one would choose not to question this assertion, and firmly believe our ability to increase resilience will directly impact an individual’s capability to prevent or mitigate their depression.
Emma-Sue Prince describes,
“Resilience is the ability to respond well to pressure, deal with setbacks effectively, respond well to change and challenges and, basically, bounce back.”
While resilience is a fantastic skill, our first step should be to avoid the need to use it. Sorry to bang on about this in every article, but self-care really is the optimum intervention for mental well-being. A commitment to yourself daily, for the rest of your life. Beyond this, focus on understanding yourself and specifically what triggers you to get stressed, anxious or begin to feel low mood. Avoid these triggers where possible or learn to reframe them either in advance or as and when they arrive.
Now, none of the following is going to be quick or easy, but it’s not impossible, and it is imperative. I accept for the purposes of this article it is easier said than done, I know I’ve spent the last 10-years doing it!
Identify and then cultivate a life built on your beliefs and values as this reduces the risk of you breaching them and causing an internal conflict for which your unconscious mind will hold you accountable, even if that means making you stop to take stock, unfortunately for some, myself included, through a period of depression. Now you understand yourself go a level deeper and connect with your purpose. Finding your purpose is the greatest exploration you will ever complete. Forget foreign travel or a journey into space;
If you want a trip of a lifetime, find your purpose, rev its engine and discover the adventure of a lifetime is actually your lifetime.
Understanding the direction in which your purpose is travelling is the most excellent tool for resilience, once you know the destination and the route, albeit fine to get a little lost along the way, you are less likely to quit on yourself. You have somewhere to be!
When it comes to this journey that is life, while you might be like me, a functioning introvert, it’s good to surround yourself with like-minded people on your journey. Scratch that, throw in some people who are not like-minded and then adapt to them, this will increase your resilience another few notches up the scale. Resilience benefits from having a support network, where it feels there are others around it gains a greater sense of capability, there’s meaning in the sayings ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and ‘two heads are better than one’. Both sayings I’m an advocate for as they are a primary driver for people to recognise the benefit of coaching.
Resilience is about taking on new challenges, creating new experiences, learning from your mistakes and moving forward with new found confidence. We will hit bumps in the road and sometimes that might cause a tyre to blow and for us to sit at the roadside figuring out how we resume the journey. Where this roadside pondering turns into depression, understand you will ‘fix’ yourself, and you will get moving. When you do, you should not underestimate depression’s side effects and its potential to actually support us to grow, develop and ultimately become stronger. When you have experienced and recovered from a period of depression, you have overcome another great challenge in your life.
I am a Life Coach who specialises in mental health and in conversation with one client we discussed the concept of walking through life conscious of ‘the black dog’ following us. It was Winston Churchill who coined the term ‘the black dog’ when describing his own relationship with depression. My client and I discussed our black dogs and how far we have come since their last visit, even questioning whether or not they were still following us or not. Having both experienced fights with our black dogs and successful battles to tame them (Crufts trainers have nothing on us!), it dawned on us how big and strong the black dog would have to be to take us down again. It was a beautiful moment of shared awareness where we agreed we just did not think our black dogs had it within them to muster a level of power to outweigh that which we have cultivated.
In the aforementioned book by Emma-Sue Prince, she provides seven steps to resilience:
- Get some perspective and learn from the situation
- Know how to manage stress including your triggers
- Know your strengths
- Build proactivity into your life
- Look after yourself
- Manage conflict, understand the nature of problem and possible approaches you can take
- Take more risks
For those of you who have experienced challenge whether associated with mental health or one of life’s many curve balls I leave you with this affirming belief:
If resilience is the ability to bounce back, the harder the ball is thrown, the higher it rises.