This year Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 8-14 May on the theme of surviving or thriving, and I am delighted to have been asked to talk on the topic of Emotional Resilience for a client.
18 years ago my life changed. I was admitted to a well known West London hospital! It was March 8th 1999 and I was merely surviving - emotionally and physically. Outwardly I had a successful career, was on a fast-track programme, had a great social life in London and I was about to get married. Nobody would have known that I wasn't thriving (apart from a few close friends) and I certainly didn't see the warning signs that led me to burnout. My employers at the time were amazing and gave me timeout to help me recover. I spent over a month in hospital before returning to the workplace. I am still friends with the HR Director who supported me on that journey (you know who you are). I am very grateful that I had such a positive experience when I confided in her and the MD of the business. Whilst they were surprised they supported me whole heartedly and gave me the time I needed to get well.
I have never shared my story publicly probably through fear of being judged by others - although I often share with clients or on an individual basis. Ironically though I know that the more vulnerable I am, the greater connection and support I have from others and the more others connect with me. It gives others permission to be honest. The work I do around resilience today has been shaped by my past experiences. So why wouldn't I share this - by not sharing I am just aligning myself with the stigma that already exists around Mental Health. The more we share about it, the less of a stigma it becomes. We learn from each other and teach each other. Connecting with others is one aspect of resilience and has been such a fundamental part of my own journey.
So what is resilience?
Resilience is about an individual’s capacity to effectively manage their energy, bounce back from stressful situations and adapt positively to adversity, pressure and change. A person’s resilience will be shaped by their beliefs, values, experiences and environment. We face challenges and get knocked back all the time; it’s how you let it affect you and how you deal with it that matters. Resilience is a process that can be developed through life - for myself Emotional Resilience has been about learning to live with uncomfortable emotions - the positive and negative ones. I spent years believing that negative emotions were to be avoided and I chased positive ones. Today I don't judge them as positive or negative but I use them as information to help me make choices and steer my life in the right direction for me.
My experience 18 years ago gave me a catalyst for change. I have spent the last 18 years developing my own resilience from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. I have learnt techniques that help me to THRIVE most of the time. I know what emotions I am experiencing when I start to move to a survival state and I know what to do to bring myself back to a more balanced place. I am so grateful that I am able to use the tools I have learnt to help others be more emotionally aware and fit.
Mental Health issues affect more than 1 in 4 people.
The Mental Organisation this year is exploring why too few of us are thriving with good mental health. I have some observational evidence in the work that I do today to support this. One of the self awareness exercises that I facilitate is to get people to explore what percentage of their time they spend in Surviving or Thriving. I have observed that more and more people are spending over 50% of their time in Survival and it is only by creating space for them to explore this that they are able to see it.
So how do you know if you are Thriving?
I know I am thriving when I am feeling energised, balanced, motivated and positive. I am enthusiastic and realistic. I have a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I have the right blend in terms of my professional and personal activities. I have a sense of humour and perspective.
I have many top tips that I teach as part of Emotionally-i-Fit resilience programmes. If I was to prioritise these through my own experience it would be to lean into your feelings more rather than try to avoid them. I do this today by practicing mindfulness and trying to sit with the discomfort. I did 10 minutes earlier today and was really restless. I found focusing for this amount of time difficult. I sat through the discomfort and at the end of it I noticed some strong negative emotions that I had been trying to suppress. I connected with them and then let them go. For me that is emotional resilience.
If you want to know more about how you can develop your own resilience or emotional intelligence please contact Amanda Wildman on 07815 743045 or visit www.emotionally-i-fit.com.