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Long-term Resilience

I've written separately about how to identify your resilient resources. There's another important step on the read to managing your Wellbeing. That is anchoring yourself in your Resilient Resources.

Resilience isn't just about identifying your Resilient Resource.  It's about anchoring yourself in them.  Permanently. Keeping them with you at all times. Let me illustrate the point by mentioning a wonderful client of mine.

This particular client made a wonderful job of identifying her resilient conditions - through coaching, self-reflection, observation and maintaining a diary of good days and bad days, she was ultimately able to identify a really detailed list of the things that helped keep her healthy.

And, importantly, this wasn't just the big stuff - the big and obvious 'triggers'.  I find that the real importance across many of my clients is to also identify the micro-things that impact resilience. This might be things like background noise, lighting, temperature, taking regular short breaks, reading a book once or twice a day, going for a walk, eating regularly and so on.  This is on top of the big things that impact our resilience.

As I say, this particular client made a wonderful job of identifying her resilient conditions. And then she went to stay with family. And in this time away she kindly fitted in with their routine; doing things with them and for them in a very caring and giving way.  But, at the end of this period away, and even though she was away from the workplace (one of her bigger 'main' triggers) she ended up in a worse and more challenging state of mental health.

The reason for this?  Well, in her kindness and generosity, she had sacrificed her resilient conditions. She had put them to one side to fall in with the routine of the family.  This was a lovely act of selflessness; but not good for the self.

And this points to the lesson. Which is that identifying your resilient conditions isn't enough.  You need to anchor yourself in them and keep the with you at all times.

Let me illustrate this anchoring through another story.

Some time ago I had a rainy day with my two young children, Charlie & Oliver.  So we decided to stay indoors and make some papier-mache characters.  That's something I remembered doing in my childhood and hadn't done since. It was an exciting first for Charlie and Oliver.

Part-way through, I asked Oliver who he was making.  He said "Stuart". I said "Who's Stuart?", genuinely intrigued in a name that hadn't come up before.  And, with a look of disappointment at my general ignorance of all-things central to Oliver's world, he said: "Stuart, from The Minions".

So I turned to Charlie and asked who he was making.  He said "Tom".  And, in an attempt to be a slightly more confident, knowledgeable Dad, I enthusiastically said: "Tom . . . from the Minions!?".  And Charlie, exhibiting even more disappointment than Oliver, said with exasperation: "No.  Tom.  From my imagination"!

And while we were making Stuart and Tom, I realised that this venture could illustrate precisely the point I would like to make here about long-term resilience.  So I made a character of my own.

Humpty Dumpty has been around for over 600 years now. Ever since the nursery rhyme was first written down.  Judging by the number of times he has irreparably fallen off that wall, he has to be the least resilient guy in history.  And I use him to illustrate the meaning of long-term resilience.

Humpty Dumpty personifies the meaning of fragile, rather than resilient.  And this one is made out of balloon, paper, glue and a dab of paint.  And by its very shape it is utterly unstable, and far from resilient.  So, how on earth does this demonstrate resilience, let along long-term resilience.

Well it is because - if you anchor him in his resilient conditions, even Humpty Dumpty can remain grounded and regain composure in the face of set-backs.

In my speech, "The Mentally Healthy Conversation" I have a short video clip of Charlie and Oliver generally shoving and pushing Humpty Dumpty around.  And of course he topples and falls.

But then Charlie and Oliver drop some weights into Humpty Dumpty (his Resilient Conditions).  Once done, Humpty Dumpty is then stable.  He can regain composure and remain grounded, even in the face of the sort of set-backs that Charlie & Oliver can inflict upon him.

And this points to the meaning of anchoring long-term resilience.  Resilience isn't just about identifying your Resilient Conditions. It is about anchoring yourself in them.  Permanently.  Keeping them with you at all times, without compromise.

There's no point just knowing that your Resilient Condition is, say, to have a high level of control over your daily demands so that you can do things methodically and one-at-a-time; because this helps you manage your condition.  If your organisation knows this too, but then hits you with conflicting demands, different priorities, and invades your daily plans with interruptions & diversions, then you don't really have your Resilient Conditions.

Anchoring yourself in your Resilient Conditions is just that.  It is insisting on things that make you feel better, more resilient, and better able to perform and be effective.

Resilience isn't about being as hard as nails, so that we can avoid the set-backs in life. That way, we lose our humanity.  And resilience isn't about avoiding the things in life that cause set-backs.  Because that way we lose our ability to enjoy life.

Resilience is about living life.  Knowing that, because we are anchored in our resilient conditions, we can regain composure and remain grounded, despite life's set-backs.

The single greatest thing you can do for yourself, is to identify your resilient conditions, anchor yourself in them, keeping them with you at all times, and without compromise.

Then, you have long-term resilience.

I wish you well — Jonathan Phelan

About Jonathan Phelan

Jonathan is the author of “The Art of the Mentally Healthy Conversation” which tells the story of how Jonathan learned how to manage the challenge of a mental health condition following a child bereavement. The book helps the reader discover how to have mentally healthy conversations, which are more likely to result in support, rather than stigma. It also promotes the benefits of workplaces, universities and schools nurturing a culture in which it is normal for people to talk about their mental health and to offer mutual support for wellbeing and resilience.

Jonathan has held a senior leadership position in a large financial services organisation since 2004, with a long-term career in law, law enforcement and consumer protection. When he went through the trauma of a child bereavement he gained an insight into the obstacles people face when they have mental wellbeing challenges. More importantly he learned how to overcome those obstacles by improving the way we talk about our wellbeing and resilience.

Through his talks, workshops and book Jonathan shares his personal story. Using the drama of how mental health has been portrayed in film, and his own particular take on how our brains process information, Jonathan guides the listener to discover more effective ways to talk about mental wellbeing.

Jonathan also promotes the concept of mutual support for wellbeing; based on the belief that we should all aim to make it normal for people to talk about their mental wellbeing, just as we are already willing to talk about physical wellbeing.


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