When I talk about resilience I want to be clear that I am talking about the whole picture, from the amount of daily life stress that you can work with, to your immune system and physical energy levels.
Resilience, to my mind, is the ability to stay afloat, calm and ‘mentally together’ when life is happening all around you.
I know there are a great many wellness blogs out there that will tell you to spend 30 minutes forest bathing every full moon – and sure, that can’t hurt. I love forests and I love the moon. But over here on my blog I like to keep things realistic.
We are busy people with adult responsibilities, and we can’t just nip off to the forest when we need a mental reset. So what we need then, I believe, is to build and nurture our resilience to keep ourselves together for as long as we have to wait for our next opportunity to disappear into nature and reset ourselves.
Without further ado, I want to give you a few of my tips about resilience, that didn’t come from an unrealistic dream of regularly escaping reality, and that perhaps you didn’t even know you needed!
Begin with your definition
Before we go any further, my first tip is for you to set a healthy understanding of what resilience really is.
Here’s what it’s not…
- The ability to fight fires without breaking a sweat
- The readiness to take on everybody else’s drama
- Never needing to ask for help
You get the idea! Being resilient isn’t being a superhero. In my definition, resilience is knowing what you need, where your boundaries are, and being sensible enough to ask for help.
It’s also about thriving (not merely surviving, scraping through each day) and feeling joy in the little things. A resilient person doesn’t get their resilience from casting a wish into the sky. This resilience comes from being strategic with your energy, for it is not infinite. It’s taking a moment to smell the flowers, planning for the best, but not allowing the worst case scenario to overwhelm you. It’s using your network of family and friends, delegating and asking for support, and accepting help when it’s offered.
Don’t be a hero. Be sensible; keep things balanced, remembering to enjoy life too.
Stop giving too many ducks 😉
Ducks are symbolic for me when it comes to talking about life strategy and resilience, and this is for two reasons.
Firstly, there’s the cute autocorrect substitute for the ‘f word’. When we give too many ducks we are overly stressed about what people think of us, or we are trying too hard to help or fix others.
Then there is the metaphor of having all your ducks in a row. In this scenario I know many people who give away control of their metaphorical ‘ducks’, in other words, the essential building blocks of their life. It could be your finances (i.e. letting a partner have too much control), your personal space (allowing a friend or relative to outstay their welcome), or it could be a career-based duck.
Whatever it is for you, remember you can’t keep that nice feeling of having your ducks in a row when you are allowing others to control your ducks. Stay resilient by keeping your ducks within your boundaries.
Remember the mind-body connection
People tend to consider the mind and the body quite separate. Most of us in the western world were raised with this belief, and so when something is wrong physically we tend to focus on physical causes and symptoms. And of course the same applies when we feel something wrong mentally.
However, when our resilience is low and we are getting worn down, remembering how connected the mind and body truly are will give you more tools in your belt to fight your symptoms with.
Chronic fatigue is a great example of this. Although it is still poorly understood by the medical community, what most sufferers will tell you is that their problems began with mental anguish, stress, trauma, or even grief. There comes a point where this dis-ease (a clever way of thinking about disease) crosses over into the body and manifests as a whole host of physical symptoms.
Without going too far into the topic of this particular illness, as I know even less than the doctors do, I think this example gives you a new lens to view the mind-body connection through.
What I want you to think about is looking after both your mind and body, even if one is screaming louder for your attention. I think it can be a mistake to focus solely on the physical recovery from a physical illness, without looking after your mental health too. The mental stress needs to take a hike just as much as the physical stress does.
When you are healthy and supported in both body and mind, then you have resilience.
Cute metaphors about ducks aside, when all is said and done, you are the only person who can work on your resilience. You can glean other things from the people around you; support, encouragement and so on. But resilience is an inside job.
Be brave enough to ask for what you need in terms of support, and to be clear about what you don’t need in terms of setting your boundaries (protect those ducks of yours), and you will be off to a good start.
Download a PDF summary here to keep on your desktop, or to print out and keep in your journal.