Tag Archives: #resilience

The past 756 days….

Deliberately, I’ve mentioned very little about Covid 19 on this blog as I felt for the past two years it was dominating all other avenues of life and I wanted to keep my blog as a “safe” space.

However, today seems like a good moment to pause and reflect.

I took the above photo at about 7:10am on 23 March 2020, roughly twelve hours before the UK went into its first lockdown.

For the previous few weeks, news of this virus from China had dominated conversation. I mean, who had heard of Wuhan before February 2020? Not me. There were anxious conversations, scary news stories, sensational headlines in the press and then, like a scene from 1984, the TV broadcast that the nation will recall for decades as we were all told, like naughty children, to “stay at home”.

I remember having coffee with a friend a few days beforehand during our lunchbreak at work. They asked me if I thought this virus was something to worry about and how long did I think it would last for. Both of us were growing slightly concerned; both of us a little unsure of where this situation was headed and neither of us were able to answer those simple questions.

It’s a conversation I’ve revisited in my mind many times since. If only we had known then what we know now….

Today the last of the Covid 19 laws were lifted with the Scottish “mask laws” becoming “mask guidance” so it feels like a fitting moment to pause for breath and to reflect on the past 756 days of a life lived under various lockdowns and Covid restrictions.

It feels like an appropriate moment to take stock and to think back on all the challenges we faced and survived; the emotions surrounding the impact of the various levels of restrictions that have been forced onto our everyday existence; the impact on our mental health (as Ruby Wax said, and I paraphrase – we all have mental health but some of us are in better shape than others, just like with our physical health); the impact on our relationships with friends and family; the effects that these past 756 days have had on children ( a friend posted just yesterday about how proud she is of her son for rediscovering his mojo after two tough years – yes kids have been feeling it too!); the changes that have altered the way we do our jobs on a day-to-day basis (how did we get through the working day pre-2020 without half a dozen zoom meetings a day?)…

You get the hint…so I’ll leave you to take a moment or two to reflect on the impact the past 756 days have had on you personally. Everyone’s journey from then until now is unique and there’s been no one straight road to follow.

I took this photo today from the same spot. The sun is shining. The sky’s blue. The trees are in bud. The landscape looks the same.

But I don’t think any of us are the same people we were on the morning of 23 March 2020. Do you?

These past two years have touched our lives in so many ways that they’ve left their mark and I suspect it’s a mark that will remain for many years to come.

I know personally speaking, life will never be the same.

To quote from an Alter Bridge song though-

Cause the sun always sets, the moon always falls
It feels like the end, just pay no mind at all
And keep on rolling, rolling, life must go on
It must go on

And it does.

A gentle reminder…..

Yes, you can.

Resilience (an acrostic poem)

resilience

Response to the current situation

Expectations blown apart

Shattered plan lie like glass shards on the floor

In denial…….

Light at the end of the tunnel

Inspiration to go on

Eagerly awaiting the daily updates

News flash – no deaths today

Celebration of a step towards normal life

Expectations gradually pieced back together once more

 

 

 

 

The One Star Review…..

Resilience-Quotes-and-Sayings

So there it sat in all it’s horrific glory- a one star review on Amazon.com.

Well, to be fair, it had to happen one day. You’re never going to please everyone all of the time.

Then I re-read it…. and I re-read it again…. and then I burst into tears.

Ever since I first posted on this blog, way back in December 2013, I have been working on building my psychological resilience. Sharing the words that I write with people still scares me half to death. FACT! It’s a fear I’ve worked hard to overcome over the past six or seven years. To see my book baby described like that was heart breaking for me.

There are three ways that folk react when faced with an adverse situation. It’s known as the Cycle of Resilience. When faced with an adverse situation, folk might:

  • Erupt with anger
  • Implode with overwhelming emotions, go numb and then become unable to react.
  • Simply become upset about the situation.

Only option 3 promotes well-being. This is the approach taken by resilient people.  This is the approach I took. Options 1 and 2 lead to people playing the victim by blaming other people and to rejecting their usual coping mechanisms when faced with a difficult or challenging situation.

There have been numerous studies into psychological resilience and how to develop and sustain your own resilience. Long story short and  grossly simplified, there are four key factors to this:

  • The ability to make realistic plans and being capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them.
  • Confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Communication and problem solving skills
  • The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings.

 

I walked away from the laptop until I had regained control of my emotions then calmly sat back down at the desk and re-read the review again, contemplating what to do.

The review in question was of Shattered Hearts and, to be truthful, it was vile. It was peppered with expletives. It was inaccurate in its description of the storyline. It misrepresented the book. It was offensive.

I slept on the issue then, the following morning, I reported it to Amazon. I did not request that it be removed. I merely reported it as being inappropriate and offensive due to the language used. If the review had been an honest reflection of the book I’d have left it where it was and taken the feedback on the chin.

Amazon removed it within a few hours. Whew!

But…. I know it was there. (I’ve no idea how many other people around the world read it but that’s not a point I dare contemplate for too long and I feel I should apologise if it offended anyone who had the misfortune to read it)

In all honesty it’s bothered my conscience that it was removed almost as much as it distressed me in the first instance when I read it. People are entitled to express their opinions  but it was the right thing to do  to report it to Amazon before it risked offending any prospective readers.

I’d be lying if I said that was an end to the matter. The whole thing has niggled for a few weeks now. It dented my self-confidence. It made me doubt my storytelling ability then I got it all back into perspective. I drew on my psychological resilience. I drew on my coping strategies.

I picked up my pen and went back to doing what I’d like to think I do quite well- I went back to writing and resumed work on Book Baby 6.

 

 

 

 

World Mental Health Day 2018 – it’s ok not to be ok….

 

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Research shows that 1 in 4 of us will experience some form of mental health issue in our lives.
That’s quite a scary statistic.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), health is defined as follows–
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
WHO define mental health as –
“A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution or his or her community.”
Sometimes the stresses and strains of 21st Century life take its toll on our general mental well-being.
So, how is mental well-being viewed?
I checked the NHS website and found the following explanation-

“Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick and a wellbeing expert, says: “Feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it’s far from the whole.
“Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.
“So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.
“Of course, good mental wellbeing does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult,” says Professor Stewart-Brown. “But it does mean that you feel you have the resilience to cope when times are tougher than usual.”
It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are. The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out.
“No-one can give wellbeing to you. It’s you who has to take action,” says Professor Stewart-Brown.”

Perhaps, if you’ve experienced a time when it’s been difficult to cope, you’ve described yourself as being “stressed.” I’m sure most of us have said it and experienced it at some level.
So, where does stress fit into the jigsaw of mental health and well-being?
According to http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk stress is described as follows-
“At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup. Some common features of things that can make us feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation.
When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system 2. This response helps us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.
Sometimes, this stress response can be an appropriate, or even beneficial reaction. The resulting feeling of ‘pressure’ can help us to push through situations that can be nerve-wracking or intense, like running a marathon, or giving a speech to a large crowd. We can quickly return to a resting state without any negative effects on our health if what is stressing us is short-lived 3, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting effects.
However, there can be times when stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. If our stress response is activated repeatedly, or it persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body and can cause us to feel permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’. Rather than helping us push through, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Feeling this overwhelming stress for a long period of time is often called chronic, or long-term stress, and it can impact on both physical and mental health.
Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, whereas anxiety is a reaction to the stress.”
Allow me to be open and honest for a few moments here.

I’ve written before about being stressed and the effects it had on me so I am not about to repeat myself. However, I’m human (no, I am, honestly!) and, despite my best endeavours at looking after both my physical health and mental well-being, there have been times lately that have left me in a state of “fight or flight”.
I’ve no intention of revealing the details of the various factors that contributed to these feelings. This isn’t that kind of blog….at least that’s not my intention. Suffice to say, I could see the cracks beginning to open up. I began to recognise the signs and the emotions surrounding them. These were threatening not just to overwhelm me but to swallow me whole.
Like everything that’s put under enormous pressure or strain, I had a bit of a meltdown.

I imploded.

It didn’t last long, a few hours probably, although at the time it felt like forever. Those few hours were at a point in the day when I had to paint on the “Disney smile” and keep going, while inside I was in bits. (To the friends who helped pick up the pieces that afternoon, thank you. To the one friend that I broke down in front of…. sorry, but thank you for being there at the right time and place.)
As I drove home that day feeling miserable and defeated, I reflected on the events of the day and the previous few weeks and months. I dug deep and retrieved my “pot” of resilience and, to echo my friend’s philosophy, thought, “Fuck it, life’s too short. Life’s too short to take all this shit so seriously. It’s not worth letting it have such an effect on me.”Fortunately, the “pot” of resilience wasn’t empty.
I  banished “flight” and reconnected with “fight” (not literally, you’ll be relieved to hear. I’m not a violent person.)
But how to subtly show the world that life was too short to take things so seriously? How to carry a reminder with me not to let things impact me to my physical and mental detriment? The answer was simple…….

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So, if you happened to see me that day or meet me on some future day when I need a reminder, I’ve not lost the plot. In fact, I’ll have actually found it again.