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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Flexing your resilience

I enjoyed a recent article by Shawn Achor, author of the Happiness Advantage exploring his view on the Importance of resilience and building this up as a skill as I have long believed that developing skills that improve resilience are incredibly important life skills. In it he talks about how taking breaks and giving yourself cognitive time out is becoming more and more important to increasing resilience.

Coming from a point of view of having had to relearn how to do things and think things I know only too well the invisible effort and toll that is placed on our brains and how it is only increased in today's social society which sees us bombarded with constant demands and attention. I have to schedule regular quiet times, without it I experience a cognitive fallout which means I am very incentivised to keep my own time outs. It's a bit like putting myself on the naughty step, I take myself out of conversation , out of a room and just switch off for a while. Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I practise my mindfulness but often I just do absolutely nothing, I give  my brain some' white space' or alone time.

Now I can extol the merits for me of doing that and I know that it helps me keep my slightly damaged grey matter limping along better if I do that plus drink lots of water but I think technology and popular thinking is catching up that actually we all need that space and room to switch thoughts and just let the mind be still wiout asking it to 'work' on something else. We can't be switched on all the time.

But what exactly is resilience and can it even be learned? Modern research says yes and that we all can, you just have to take the time to become more aware of your reactions and emotions.

Having a brain injury in some respects has actually assisted my resilience a little in that it has put an enforced level of retrospective thinking and also managing the pace and capacity at which I enter into things now. This means that when I fail at something or get knocked off my feet as I still often do I can usually see it in the context that it will pass. Now please don't think that I'm sitting here all smug with it all sorted, nothing could be further from the truth, I get scared, I get panicked and I get cross just like everyone but I can see that it will pass given enough time, the challenge is to let it and give it that time despite fears or pain and always ask for help when times are at their toughest.

Things don't always go to plan and I am often known now for saying I don't have a plan, and I don't most days, I just look at what I can do this day, this moment and take that. Some of the best things you will ever do are actually endless, there is no finish line , no completion target and it's a never ending effort but that doesn't mean it's not worth the time or engaging with it. Hard doesn't have to be feared just engaged with. Other life moments might feel like the hardest or most painful time of your life but it will be in the rear view mirrors eventually.  Our life story is forever a work in progress and so resilience I tend to think of as the level of bounce factor that you develop over time and  use that rubber ball quality to take the knocks and falls that inevitably come to all of us.

In the today of broad social media, unlimited consumer choice , immediate access for most services it sometimes feels that we have lost sight that often things that are really hard or take time or require learning of personal risk and investment are the experiences that bring the greatest reward and I think that can negatively affect our resilience levels. If we think everything is too easy to get, or easily solved then it makes sense that we will find it much harder when problems or tough times aren't solved by a like or swipe. It's something we could all think about a bit more maybe especially how are we preparing the next generation to weather their storms which will inevitably come their way as no one sails their life unscathed. Are we teaching them perseverance, self kindness and hope. Something to ponder as we enter a new year.

The delightfully outspoken Carrie Fisher passed away recently but one of the things I liked about her attitude was that she wasn't bashful about her challenges , they didn't define her but she knew she had to live with them and hiding them away and pretending they didn't exist wasn't for her she just got on and lived as best she could, warts and all.

So a happy healthy new year to you. I hope that this is the year that you continue to be resilient and that within the days to come  we get all the spikes of fun, frivolity and laughter that make the troughs of life so much easier to navigate. My annual MRI beckons for me early Jan and others also  embark on a challenge but we will all face it I'm sure with as much bounce as we can muster. As Carrie Fisher is apparently quoted as saying , "stay afraid but do it anyway" so lean in and just get on as best you can, that's all we all can ever do!

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