Friday, 28 March 2014

Bouncing Back

Bouncing back

I believe resilience is vital to wellbeing and have been really interested in this for a long time so thought I'd share some thoughts today. 
Andrew Fuller ( describes resilience as the “happy knack of being able to bungy jump through the pitfalls of life. I quite like this description for a number of reasons, and not only because I enjoy Andrew Fuller’s work. Three key phrases from this statement are:  

Happy knack- implies a positive sense of self efficacy, a can-do-ness vibe (I know that isn’t a real word but I think it should be)
Bungy jump- is about bouncing back but I think we are often changed in some way as we know experience changes brain circuitry 
Pitfalls of life- without the ups and downs of life we would be flatlined (a.k.a. dead) so highs and lows are not always a bad thing, they can help us to grow and learn and keep life interesting 

Resilience is not something that can be given to people, it can't be taught per se, there isn't a one size fits all and it is not a constant. Our resilience levels shift and change depending on our experience, circumstances, our own health and the events happening around us at a given time.
Resilience to me is about having tools or options for when times are tough or things go wrong.  
If we see resilience as a bit of a toolbox or kete (basket) then the greater variety of tools we have access to then we are better able to be resilient. As an example, my father passed away four years ago, through the grief process I have realised there were times when I would naturally go to dad for support, he was part of my toolbox, and now that he wasn't there I had to find other ways to help myself bounce back. This impacted on my sense of resilience as I needed to develop new strategies at the same time as coping with a major loss.  

The pitfalls of life are not always something to be avoided. In fact through adversity our sense of resiliency can sometimes be strengthened, if we get through a tough time we may be able to breed a stronger sense of can-do-ness, an “I can cope” mentality.
A little aside about pitfalls is that what my 40+ years worth of experience calls adversity will be different to my 3 year old’s perspective and it will also be different to my 40+ year old friends and colleagues as well. So, as a teacher, if I have a 5 year old who has lost a pencil and is upset I need to acknowledge that I don’t know what his/her experience of loss is. We now have an opportunity to help him/her identify or develop tools so in future s/he may be better prepared to cope with a similar loss. 
Also the tools that work for me may well be different to those that work for someone else and tools used in the past may not work as well for future adversity or alternatively may provide a platform to build from depending on the circumstance. As I said earlier, it is not a one-size-fits-all thing.

So what does your toolbox look like?

If we were a builder we wouldn’t turn up to a job with only a hammer, we would have a range of tools available, just in case. Like the builder I think that we need to have a range of tools to help us in times of stress and it is best that the majority of these tools are packed before we are faced with a serious situation so pretending/role play, rehearsing, discussing what ifs, reading about things and establishing positive healthy habits may all help. There is also the role of prior experience e.g. having changed roles in the past I am more aware of the impact of this sort of significant change and am better able to cope this time round.
We know that the brain works better when stress is handled well, our can-do-ness will come in to play when we are able to access our brain’s higher functions (see my previous post re brain and stress)  so it makes sense that those things that help to open the doors could be good tools for a starter:
  • ·         Balanced diet – think about fresh fruit and veg and minimising takeaways and sweet treats
  • ·         Exercise and stretching
  • ·         Adequate sleep
  • ·         Love/kindness
  • ·         Positive relationships
  • ·         Sense of belonging/connectedness  
  • ·         Sense of purpose
  • ·         Doing something to help someone else
  • ·         Ensuring you are hydrated (water is best by the way!)
  • ·         Breathing
  • ·         Practicing gratitude
  • ·         Time out
  • ·         Positive self talk/affirmations
  • ·         Connecting with nature
  • ·         The things that you do that fill your soul…

What other items would you add to this list?

Please note: I believe those tools that are used regularly are more likely to be those that we use when we need them, so the more we practice every day the better prepared we are for those tough times.  

Just as a little parting thought as I know I have talked a lot about us as individuals in this post... if our default attitude with others is one of kindness then I believe we have the power to potentially have a positive impact on someone's resiliency, especially if they are in one of those pitfalls. Stay aware because we never know who we might be influencing.   

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