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Why Hope is Helpful in Hurtful Situations.

20 Jul
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that hostility and adversity are creeping into our collective culture more and more. 

When other humans dump either of those on our doorstep, it’s such an unwelcome package. Being the recipient of threatening, thoughtless, hurtful or selfish behaviour wrapped up with string is a good time to think about Marcus Aurelius, Philosopher and Roman Emperor (121—180 C.E.) and what he wrote in Meditations about the pitfalls of human behaviour; “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.”

To be fair, in the practice of positive psychology, where both the good and bad parts of life are equally genuine, it’s also good to remind ourselves that although people can be horrible and the news media hardly ever reports on goodness and social media might not leave us feeling content, in our real life there’s usually an abundance of good deeds, good behaviour and lovely people who display and offer honesty, justice, loyalty, decency, trustworthiness, kindness, charity, reliability, appropriateness and warmth. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for them.

How though, can we best move through any suffering that others have caused us? Put less emphasis on why they did it, and like Marcus Aurelius, accept they do it because they can, because it’s in their nature, it’s their way of getting what they want. Working out whether they’re acting out of envy, exclusion, competitiveness or powerlessness, isn’t going to change our disappointment.

The goal is to balance out the darkness with as much light as we can, and hope helps with that. Hope moves us out of difficulty and despair. It gives us a glimmer of a better future, and begins to give us the courage and confidence to implement coping strategies that will help us find creative solutions to rise above and out of dark or difficult places.

No matter how painful our thoughts are or how distressing our emotions feel, it is imperative that we don’t react or respond, impulsively.

  • This is a good time to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. STOP stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully.
  • It’s possible to find better ways to manage stress and discomfort. 
  • It’s about finding ways to cope that aren’t harmful or ineffective.
  • Breathe.
  • Feel the feelings.
  • Talk it over with someone safe.

We mustn’t allow the intensity of our feelings to stop us from doing what we can to move through the situation and over the obstacle. Getting into “wise mind” is much more helpful. Knowing what doesn’t and isn’t going to work actually allows us think of alternatives that might work. 

It can take a bit of practise to reorganize our perspective and reframe our experience.

Remember the key is being able to choose how we respond to difficult situations.

  • Rather than “this should never happen to me,” stay realistic about what others are capable of doing, and be prepared for possible consequences.
  • Meet “it” exactly as it is, with curiosity.
  • Practise paced breathing to decrease emotional arousal.
  • Focus on what we can control.
  • Draw upon resilience.
  • Get the right kind of expert advice.
  • Reach out for social support.
  • And even in the midst of processing it all, we need to do pleasurable things to make ourselves feel better, calmer and relaxed.

Hope reduces feelings of helplessness, reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. The good news is that building hope into our perspective uplifts us enough to move us out of any shock, helps us search for a helpful instruction manual and motivates us to calmly find the right path forward. Rest assured, resolution can also include a return to sender, or an instant or eventual retreat from those who tamper with your boundaries and nervous system once too often!

Reaching For Booze & Food in Lockdown?

1 Sep
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Usually we know deep within ourselves if what we are reaching for is either good for us or less good! 

Do the usual rules and routines feel a bit like they’ve flown out the window in lockdown? And, who is around to hold us accountable? Just because we might be able to wear pyjamas or elastic waist pants, probably doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider how many calories, and how much fat and sugar might be hiding in tempting treats.

Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Maybe it’s a better idea to limit or be more conscious of what we’re consuming and be kinder to our immune systems at a time they really need support?

Whether we’re in lockdown or not, it’s always a good idea to be more aware of what we reach for to cope, self soothe, relax and relieve stress.

  • It pays to be less impulsive.
  • To have supplies on hand that support healthier choices.
  • It’s very much about swapping out the harmful choices. Like choosing to vape as a pathway to quitting cigarettes. Like trying an alcohol free product.
  • It’s about sticking to the types of limits and routines that are closer to what we usually did pre-lockdown.

Of course not everyone has a problem. A treat here and there is joy inducing. But if you’re putting Baileys on your porridge in the morning you might want to reconsider your choices! Same if you’re baking and eating a whole cake a day. If you’re treating everyday like a treat filled weekend day, or if you’re in recovery leaning closer into relapsing, you’ll definitely want to search a bit deeper and find out what lies beneath your choices.

In that case you could ask, Why am I doing it?

What am I hoping to gain from doing it?

Universally, the answers are to seek relief and to feel better. Luckily there’s a ton of other ways to self soothe, relax and reduce stress.

If you’re not sure your intake is ok, reach out to an expert to check whether what you’re doing might have negative consequences on your emotional wellbeing, your health, finances and whether it impacts others. 

All addictive substances neurologically hijack our brains pleasure and reward centre. They’re all short lasting and then need repeating. That’s how dependence can occur. 

Instead of reaching for something we kind of know we shouldn’t, we could ask ourselves, What do I really need right now. And then do that instead.

Whether we’re over indulging or not, these are pretty stressful times which put our nervous systems on high alert, so it never hurts to explore and name feelings, and then think about what else we could do with those feelings rather than stuff them, or ignore them.

We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors, even if it’s only our backyard. We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors. It all helps.

  • We need to remember to connect in with uplifting people, posts and things.
  • To give our full attention to tasks.
  • To make sure those tasks feel fulfilling and feed our souls.
  • To have rituals that restore us.
  • To do more deep breathing.
  • To laugh more.
  • To feel gratitude.
  • And to sleep well, because it’s so crucial in helping us cope better emotionally.

What’s really key in making healthy choices, is to work out other alternative sources, that still feel satisfying and soothing. 

Let’s remember we aren’t aiming to come out of lockdown as a Masterchef or an addict so it’s ok to take it a little easy. Sending love and strength to all who may need it. I’d love to hear how you relax, reduce stress and soothe yourself.

Same Storm. Different Boat.

22 Apr

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While Mahatma Gandhi once said Dignity of human nature requires that we must face the storms of life, this present storm, the way we face it and the impact it will have on each and every one of us, will be incredibly diverse. 

In the midst of disruption, there are commonalities. Heightened reactions, moments of confusion and clarity, and concern for safety and security. Human nature dictates we do what we can to save ourselves and then look around to offer a (socially distanced) helping hand. 

We react in a thousand different ways because how we think, feel, act, need, want, hate, love and believe, stem from a huge variety of factors from our past experience, our resilience, the extent of support we have available, the size of our bank account, to where we’re positioned physically, socially, economically and emotionally.

While some may have anchored calmly, and others adjusted their sails towards rainbows and pots of gold, we cannot underestimate the emotional gale and financial swirl that this storm has brought upon many. Continue reading

Stay Strong & Trust The Wait.

19 Apr

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The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Martin Luther King Jr.

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The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open. –Arnold Glasow.

 

Just Ride it Out.

13 Apr

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When the waves of life crash down on you, pick yourself up, get ready for the next one, and ride it like you own it!

 

Hang in There.

7 Apr

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Most of us have had a time or two or three in our lives where a situation bought us crashing to our knees, and everything changed in an instant.

When we couldn’t calm the storm, it passed. When we thought the fear and the flow of tears would never stop, they actually did. When our castles crumbled, they got rebuilt. When our scars healed, they were stronger than skin.

Events may differ, but those that hold the potential to disrupt life as we know it, need acceptance and require us to control the parts we can and let go of what we can’t. 

Hanging in requires time to pass. For patience and co-operation. For feelings to be Continue reading