How to build resilience when everything around you is falling apart
At certain times in the past, when things were quite literally falling apart in front of me, I did what every strong, enlightened woman does and I avoided dealing with it. I slipped into full blown planning mode and organised everything and everyone around me, whilst studiously avoiding the very large elephant close-by.
I convinced myself that I was doing this in order to regain control but I know now that what I was really doing was doing anything possible that would prevent me having to stare my fear in the eye. Put another way, I took the very rational approach of ‘pretend it didn’t happen and it didn’t’, and I closed myself off to feeling the pain.
I knew to do this, because it was what I had always done. It was what my mother did before me. It was just how always we did things in my family. Even for those of us who are emotionally responsive and pretty self-aware, real-life struggles can still take us by surprise. The coping skills we have can go out the window as we flounder and hide from the reality of what’s happening all around us? But what we are really missing are the resilience skills needed to pull us through.
WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
The dictionary tells us resilience is “the ability to be knocked down by the hardships of life and come back at least as strong as before, being able to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving towards your goal”. For me, resilience is also about learning how to cope with the bad stuff, dealing with it, learning from it and getting back out there – in spite of it. It’s about accepting your new reality even when it looks a lot worse than what was there before. Whichever definition resonates with you, the outcome should be to ensure you can cope when things go wrong.
To help I’ve identified some quick tips on how to increase your own personal resilience.
SHOW YOURSELF MORE COMPASSION
I know this has the potential to be an eye-roll moment, but you really do need to be a lot more compassionate with how you speak to yourself, think of yourself and treat yourself. If you struggle with this, then can I recommend that you ask yourself ‘What would I say to a close friend right now? What would I tell her to do? How would I help her?” Often, this perspective reveals some observations that can genuinely surprise you. “Why are you so mean to yourself, and what would happen if you weren’t?”
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Having someone to share your challenges with, inevitably will lighten your load. Whether it’s a family member, a professional or a close friend; being able to articulate your pain and worries truly makes a marked difference. You might not necessarily want advice but you will always feel that desire to be heard. Finding your support team ensures that you always have access to this. We can all easily identify those who are only there when times are good, but it’s locating those who remain during the darker times that will add real value to your life. None of us were meant to do this business of life alone, so find your people and when you find them, hang on to them!
ACCEPT WHAT’S HAPPENING
I mentioned earlier that my way of coping in the past was to plough on ahead and avoid the fact that everything was falling down around me. This did not serve me well; the truth is it just doesn’t work as we can only avoid things for so long.
These days I let it all in. When something happens that I don’t like, I sit with it. My first reaction is to journal endlessly, as I find that expressing just how I feel on paper, really helps connect with exactly how I feel about what has happened. It also stops me from catastrophising! Then I’m ready to speak to someone about it and the final stage is when I start to plan my pathway out of it.
It’s worth noting that when I fully acknowledge what’s going in is usually the same time that the healing begins. Resilience is evident when we can exist in the chaos and pain of life and trust that, in time, it too will pass.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE MORE
Doing anything you love makes you feel better. Fact. Granted, it won’t make your problems go away, but it will bring some joy into your life when let’s face it, you need it most. Now, this clearly isn’t permission to dive into an endless supply of wine but it is permission to cut yourself some slack.
If you love the sound of the ocean, take yourself to somewhere that reminds you of it, if you love your furry friends then take your dog out for a long walk and if you don’t have a dog, borrow one! Think about what it is that makes you feel better when you do it, it could be going for a massage, ordering your favourite food, hiding away with a good book or setting off on a hike. You know what that is for you. This might sound simple but it’s incredibly effective for shifting your energy.
Remember that you are not born resilient. It’s a skill you must develop. Be very aware of what works best for you, especially at times of difficulty and always listen to what your heart needs. Your mind lies to you often, but your heart never does. It knows the way.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach, Author and Coach for the IMAGE Business Club. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. She best represents Strategy meets Spirituality and has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make real Changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.