Resilience - The most important trait you will ever develop

Resilience, in regards to psychology, is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences and this is a skill we all need to develop if we are to flourish in this life.

20 years ago I suffered a nervous breakdown and  endured a long period of severe depression. My self-esteem was at rock bottom, my confidence non-existent, my identity broken. The world was a dark and frightening place and my mind was my enemy, my emotions controlled me. Sometimes I thought I would never make it out, never feel whole again, never feel passion or happiness. But I did, step by tiny step I climbed out of the morass of despair and loneliness to become a strong, resilient and confident person. The road was a rocky one and full of pit holes but through developing a number of key techniques, attitudes and a strong support network as well as having my sport  as a focus I made it back to a happier brighter world. The most important attribute was a willingness to continually learn and grow, to search and reach out for help and to keep just putting one foot in front of the other and to see each failure and there have been many, as just another stepping stone to ultimate success and to look at the world through the lens of a hardworking, optimist. 

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Sir John Kirwan for my podcast “Pushing the limits” (https://itunes.apple.com/nz/podcast/pushing-the-limits/id1207975008) and during this in-depth interview we talked long and openly about our personal journeys to mental wellness. Sir John’s story is well known through his two books “All Blacks don’t cry” and “Stand by me” and he has long been an advocate for those suffering from depression.  We talked about how to deal with setbacks and failures. One of Sir John’s key messages was  to “take time every single day to enjoy the little things that give you pleasure”  He continued, saying it’s important to know your triggers, when you start spiralling downward in your thoughts and to take time for yourself when you need it, to be mindful and present, enjoying the moment. For him that means doing what he loves, getting in some physical training, cooking and  reading. That for him is his time out, pleasures that help him balance the busy and stressful life he often leads. 

He  also said we needed to understand that emotions would always pass and that they were temporary and that we should not give them too much weight they are just transient states we all experience and pass through and that self-awareness is your compass through life. Learning to understand yourself and what you need is crucial.

NZ has some of the worst mental health and suicide statistics on the planet.  One in six New Zealand adults  or 
582,000 had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives and last year 579 Kiwis took their own lives. That is appalling. 

We have to address these important issues and to teach our young people not only academic skills but also about the need to develop a strong mind, to learn to fail, to risk, to chase your dreams, to focus on things we can control not what we can’t, to learn coping skills.

Life is tough, it’s stressful and can be brutal, there will be set backs, health issues, tragedies and more to deal with, it’s part of the human condition but it’s not so much what happens to us that decides our fate but more how we react to the stressors that dictate how successful we will be in overcoming, surviving and flourishing. 
How you can become more resilient:
1. Find an outlet for your emotions. 
2. Get physical - being physically active in nature is the best way to balance out derailed emotions.
3. Seek out the help and support of others - 
4. Become more self aware -
5. Make time for the little things that make you happy. 
6. Understanding and accepting transient emotions and letting them pass.
7. Change your perspective. 
8. Avoid going off the deep end and letting your emotional responses to situations 
9. Surround yourself and fill your mind with positive influences and people.
10. Seek medical help if you feel your biochemistry is out of balance

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