Part 1 – how to build your resilience muscle amidst the chaos of personal life drama
Toddlers are ridiculously resilient. It’s rare to see a small human quit in the middle of learning to walk. They fall down, they cut their heads open, they cry like lunatics and then they get right back up and continue wobbling around until they master the mobility they crave. Even though taking those first few steps can take months to get right, fundamentally they believe their destiny involves being upright, so they keep on keeping on until they reach their goal. Tenacious little buggers. So why aren’t we all motoring through life like these miniature winners?
It’s because, life, I have found, has an infinite variety of weaponary (for the sake of this metaphor, I’m going to use wooden chairs) with which it uses to mercilessly dish out beatings from time to time. Each beating we take makes it more difficult to regain the necessary composure to keep moving forwards.
Here’s the divorce chair, perhaps lobbed at you from an upstairs window, “ka-pow”, how about the business failure chair left outside your repossessed office building, “wha-cha”, oh wait, here’s the burnout bench thrown from a moving vehicle, “doink”. I’m sure you have your own three piece suite of disasters, what matters is how you choose to respond.
Resilience building, a step by step process:
- Acknowledge how you feel and take the time to process through it
This step is often missed by the positive thinking brigade, but it’s really important. If sh*t has gone sideways and you feel massively disappointed, that’s ok, acknowledge it. When you sit with difficult feelings and allow them to come up, they tend to dissipate. When you try to stuff them in a mental box and padlock the lid, they keep fighting to get out.
- Get help from your support network
This might include friends, family, a psychologist, a coach or all of the above. You know the old adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? It’s true. Toddlers don’t bandage their own bleeding foreheads and neither should you.
- Look after your mental & physical health
Stress takes a huge toll on our bodies. The best antidote is to learn to calm your stress response (I have a 5 minute stress reset tool for you here) and to look after your physical health. Eat well as in lots of fresh veg, not lots of bags of crisps and get plenty of sleep. Resilience is easier to tap into when you’re well rested. You might also consider doing some exercise, even a quick walk around the block will help you feel better.
- Reflect on what went wrong and what you can learn from it
Objectively evaluating the circumstances and events that led up to a ‘failure’ is an essential part of moving on. Not the easiest part, I’ll give you that, but helpful in the long run. What can you do differently going forwards to avoid repeating the same mistakes? There’s always an opportunity to learn from past failures. This is where a good coach or mentor can be invaluable.
- Set a new goal
Give yourself something to look forward to. Having a new goal to work towards gives you something to focus on and it’ll keep you occupied and sidetrack you from negative mind loops. Make it manageable and achievable, especially if you’re in a fragile state, this is an opportunity to help yourself up off the floor, not punish yourself more. After my divorce was finalised, I took great pleasure in redecorating the lounge. I literally tippexed out the misery of my divorce with a coat of paint and a new carpet, it felt wonderful and helped me to start piecing my life back together again.
- Practice gratitude
When you’re in a crumpled heap on the floor it can be hard to find something to be grateful for. However, I encourage you to try. Gratitude is a superb mindset shifting tool to help you feel better, even if it’s only slightly and only for a moment. Perhaps you own the floor you’re sitting on (bonus), maybe you have a fabulous friend who’s joined you on said floor or possibly you hated the floor anyway and you’re looking forward to changing it. Finding just a small spark of positivity takes you one step closer to getting back up again.
- Turn off, tune out, leave the building
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for yourself in the face of adversity is get away from it all. A break from your usual surroundings and space to process, think and get new perspectives might be just the thing you need.
Like learning to walk, developing your resilience muscle takes time and persistence. The more frequently you scrape yourself up off the floor after a set back, the stronger your resilience skills become. It’s also worth noting that the harder you fall, the longer it takes to recover and that’s ok. All that matters is that you tune into your inner tenacious toddler and get back up one more time.