Would you like to explore what resilience means and discover how to strengthen it?
Try this story about Trevor.
Start by using your imagination to picture the most resilient animal that you can think of.
You might choose an elephant, a lion, a whale, a shark, a crocodile, an eagle or one of many other resilient creatures. This is your imagination, so you have the freedom to go wherever you like with it; you could choose a dinosaur or make-up a resilient animal of your own.
I'll choose a chunky-looking silver-backed gorilla, like this one, who I'll call Trevor.
What I'd like you to do next is to start to draw a wider picture in your mind. Think about the environment that your resilient creature lives in.
Does it inhabit the rich ocean, a warm savanna, a lush jungle, a well-stocked and well-proportioned zone in a wildlife safari park?
Again, use your imagination to the fullest extent to give your resilient animal a wonderful environment to to live in.
I imagine that Trevor lives in a lush jungle, like this one.
The next thing I want you to do is to imagine taking your resilient animal out of that home and instead place it somewhere entirely different.
I'm going to take Trevor and dump him, rather unkindly, in the Antarctic. He’ll no longer reside in the comfortable warmth and humidity of the lush jungle, with plentiful food and like-minded company, with few threats to life.
Instead, he’ll be in the freezing cold with very limited supplies of food (and none that Trevor is used to eating), the threat of the hostile environment and the company of penguins with which he has little in common.
I imagine that Trevor would feel far from resilient in this environment. He would probably be scared, hungry, cold and fearful.
Imagine how your animal would feel in its new, hostile environment. How would it feel after a day; a week; a month; a year?
What I would like you to do next is to use your imagination a little more. Imagine that you have the ability to intervene and support your animal. You have the creative power to evolve your animal in any way you like to support it in its changed home. You can alter its physical appearance, its biology, its bodily chemistry and its capabilities in any creative way you like - to help it adapt to this different environment.
For Trevor we could perhaps choose to support him by giving him a thicker coat, layers of fat, more claw like hands to catch food to eat and so on.
For your resilient animal, you may need to change the way its biology works so that it can get the right nutrients from the different foods that exist in its new environment. You may need to change how it protects itself from new threats. Supporting your animal in its new environment will take a lot of scientific know-how and intervention.
What do we learn from this exercise for our wellbeing and resilience?
The first thing we learn is that resilience is not absolute. There are very few animals that can exist in a wide range of extreme environments.
Likewise, people are not absolutely resilient. You will find that your wellbeing & resilience varies, depending on the environment that you are in.
In some situations, your wellbeing might be very positive indeed; in others it might be more neutral; in others still you might struggle with your wellbeing.
Another thing that we learn is this: there were two ways that you could have intervened to support your imaginary animal. One was by using your expertise and creative powers to evolve and adapt the animal to cope with its new surroundings.
But there is another much easier way of helping your animal.
Without any specialist powers or science-based skills at all, you could have simply moved your animal from the challenging environment and helped it live in conditions that suit it better.
There’s an important lesson in that for your wellbeing & resilience.
When we feel that our wellbeing is not good, there are two types of support we can get. The first is the well-trained medical and therapeutic support that comes from the health services. Support from therapy and medicine can be a particularly important and an absolutely necessary part of improving our wellbeing, particularly if we suffer from a mental illness.
There is also support that we can get from others around us. They don’t have specialist skills; so they can’t give us the complex medical or therapeutic support that might help us. But they can offer a different kind of support.
We can talk to people about the situations we face in our daily environments. We can tell them about the sort of situations we find challenging and the sort of situations we find helpful for our wellbeing.
We can then ask them to support us. That support might be by helping us avoid a challenging environment. Or it might be by helping us to mainly or only experience the environments that we feel better in and that help our wellbeing.
There are no qualifications required for this support. All it takes is an ability to listen and a willingness to offer support.
Here at Evenhood I don't explore how wellbeing and resilience can be supported by science – medical support, therapy and other interventions. I do not look at what each mental illness means, how to spot the signs & symptoms and how to refer for specialist help. I do not explore cures, medication and so on. That is, quite properly, the role of suitably qualified medical professionals.
Here at Evenhood I aim to take a different approach - to help you discover how to find the right environment that best suits you. I aim to help you thrive as best you can in that environment with positive wellbeing & resilience. And I aim to help you secure the support of others and to offer your support to them, so that we provide each other with mutual support for wellbeing & resilience.
I wish you all the v best