Really Surviving Life: Real Resilience and Passion

“In humanistic psychology resilience refers to ‘an individuals ability to thrive and fulfil potential despite or perhaps because of stressors or risk factors’. – James Neill

More than ever before the modern world is experiencing uncertainty and massive unexpected change. The massive social and technological changes we’ve seen in the past decade mean that most of us have little time to develop competence before there is more change.

The internet has opened up a global world and introduced the biggest time stealer known to humanity, and now we carry it around with us on our smart phones it’s all-pervasive. Have you ever just popped online to check something and then discovered you have been there for hours? It has also given the darker side of our personality an avenue of expression – the curious, the watching a car wreck from a distance, the envious, the devious and the inner bitch! Blogging and social media can be such fun until a person who is having a bad day decides to rip into you in a hideous and abusive way. Some of the most vicious responses I’ve seen are in comments on news websites and it can feel hard sometimes in the online world to preserve your faith in the innate goodness of human kind.

Life and managing relationships is hard enough without any more pressure from strangers. Change is one of the major stressors of the modern world. Things were simpler 40 years ago. I can still remember a truck from Farinosa’s that would come once a month to our farm with haberdashery, paints, stock feed and clothes. Stress-free shopping and it never mattered that everyone in the district was wearing the same clothes or whose houses were painted the same colour. It didn’t seem to matter.

Our capacity to manage life is what resilience is all about.

Resilience refers to one’s ability to successfully manage one’s life and to successfully adapt to change and stressful events in healthy and constructive ways. It is our survivability and bounce-back-ability to the bumps and bruises of life.

Essentially resilience is a balancing act between the stressors in your life, and the protective factors that counteract those stressors. This balancing act looks simple and yet it can catch us unawares at times.

Human differences, dramas and crises occur not just daily, but sometimes minute by minute – no wonder we all struggle at times. Many women find it very difficult as we have a tendency to want to control things – then issues turn up that we have no hope of being able to control. It is like a dance – some days it works and on other days when you do exactly the same thing, everything goes belly up.

So what helps build your resilience muscles and your coping skills so you can conquer this dance?

Step 1: Develop positive friendships and relationships within your community. We all need allies in life and reciprocal, life-affirming relationships where we live are enormously valuable in lifting your coping skills. If you can develop the art of healthy venting, this can create positive opportunities to de-stress BEFORE coming home to your loved ones. Healthy venting involves asking a safe person to give you just five minutes to vent. You need to provide the cuppa and preferably the chocolate biscuit and ask them to do nothing but listen. They must not try to help you solve or fix any conflict, it is just the art of healthy venting – the ally must not speak or ask for more details, they simply give you a safe opportunity to be heard. Without this opportunity we tend to take home our stuff and dump it on our loved ones. Worse still we can take home the tension and crabbiness and throw it at our children, partners or even the dog. Remember be confidential and totally trustworthy.

Step 2: Keep an eye on yourself for the warning signs that your body gives you when you are skating on thin ice! There are many signs that we sometimes ignore that show we are simply too stressed and tired for our own health and wellbeing. Some signs include :

  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Overeating or stopping eating
  • Short-temperedness and impatience
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Cleaning obsessively
  • Change of patterns – stopping exercising/walking the dog
  • Seeking junk food and sweet stuff
  • Thinking of wine at 10am rather than 5pm!
  • Disappearing from friends and family into invisible cave
  • Too tired and no energy
  • Lack of libido
  • Checking out job vacancies in other countries!
  • Being unpleasant to live with
  • Kicking the dog!

This is just a short list. When you notice your warning signs you need to then TAKE ACTION. This means you need to accept responsibility to take some steps to re-fill your cup, to take action to nurture yourself. No the world will not go into a holding pattern if you step back to do this – it may only take a weekend of doona days, a few small changes to your busy life and before you know it, you will bounce back.

Step 3: Fill your own cup – check out the list below and take some action

  • Spend time with beloved pets
  • Meet with friends for coffee or golf or fishing or shopping
  • Get a massage or other form of professional nurturing
  • Catch up on sleep
  • Play favourite music
  • Go dancing (preferably not naked in the park)
  • Do meditation
  • Make an effort to do something you really love doing
  • Spend time in nature
  • Have a bubble bath in the middle of the day
  • Enjoy creative pursuits like painting, cooking, knitting, sewing
  • Plant a garden or spend time in own garden
  • Prune everything in your garden
  • Do something for someone else
  • Take a retreat from your busy world
  • Go for a run or take a bike ride
  • Stay in your PJs all day
  • Grab a good book and hit the couch (Yes we know that many women will be attacked by the guilt monster – relax it can’t kill you)

Step 4: Physical care. Ensure you are eating well, and avoiding too much over-indulgence of any kind. Eating well means as fresh as possible, rather than as much as possible! The body needs good fuel to keep the energy levels up. Exercise does help reduce stress and make your brain work better. It also improves your moods. Yeah I know it’s often the last thing you feel like but just a short walk can work and you may not need to buy scary active wear and hit the nearest step class!

Step 5: Ensure you have healthy boundaries. Avoid allowing work, life and high maintenance friends to suck you dry. Give yourself permission to have free time and fun time – teach your children to make their own pizzas on pitta bread so you can have a night out of the kitchen.

Resilience means taking responsibility for one’s own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing while investing enormous energy in nurturing those who matter the most. Without a deep passion and commitment, and a healthy pattern of vigilance even the best among us can struggle to get out of bed some days. Forgive yourself – there is no perfect.

Resilience Tips

  • Instead of reacting emotionally say/think: “Now that’s interesting!”
  • “This too will pass” – a useful thought/phrase for resilience.
  • Use circuit breakers for your negative self-talk.
  • Take the dramatic words out of your vocab.
  • Give yourself some space outside.
  • Focus on your dream, goal or clear intention.
  • Allow lightness and laughter into your world often.
  • Create moments of silence and stillness every day.
  • Take note of your warning signs and then take action.
  • Remember to breathe – often, deep and slow.
  • Nurture your spirit as well as body and mind.
  • When all else fails there’s always chocolate!