More than Resilience

By Lisa Read

When my friend Jenna went through the pain of having her husband walk out on her and their eighteen-month-old son, she felt devastated. The emotional pain of losing the relationship and all her hopes for it, combined with the practical worries of how she was going to manage, were hard to bear.

Feeling ashamed and like a burden, Jenna reached out to her closest friends and family, including me. Whilst she often tells us that our support was invaluable, Jenna admits that she still cried in bed most nights, and at times she felt like she couldn’t go on.

And yet she did go on.

“I’ve just got to get on with it. He’s not coming back. I just need to be resilient,” became Jenna’s catchphrase.

Jenna, like so many people, showed amazing resilience. Whilst she felt like crumbling in a heap, she just kept picking herself back up and working through it.  A couple of years later, she discovered that many of her colleagues at the school where she worked as a teaching assistant, hadn’t even realised anything was wrong. She looks back on that time with pride.

Resilience is a powerful skillset that we can develop and use, just like Jenna did. The Covid19 pandemic has been a true test of it. It’s a great skillset to have, and we certainly worry when we feel it’s lacking in ourselves or others.

But…Resilience is often about coping, and there’s more to life than that.

Think for a moment; what are you like when you’re at your best? Really do this!

What did you notice?

Maybe you described yourself as focused, positive, kind, thoughtful, able to achieve at a high level, active, fun, creative… or something else.

None of these words really fit with what we’ve come to think of as resilience. So, whilst it’s very important, let’s fit resilience into a bigger conversation about mental fitness. In mental fitness we explore other components, such as creativity, mental agility and growth mindset, as well as empathy, social skills and more.

Imagine two people who want to catch a bus. They’re walking towards the bus stop when they see there’s one about to leave. They sprint to the bus and just about make it. One of these people is a ‘couch potato’, the other an Olympic sprinter. Now imagine how differently each person would respond. The couch potato might be out of breath, exhausted and feel stressed by the experience; the Olympian would recover much quicker physically but may even have enjoyed the opportunity to have a short sprint. To them it’s not a problem.

The fitter we are the more we thrive in life, and this is as true for mental (and emotional) fitness as it is for physical.

We are still facing the pandemic and all that challenges that brings, but I want to get people to both recognise their mental fitness strengths and find ways to build theirs up so we shift from getting to ‘ok’, to really enjoying life and feeling great, I know it’s possible!