Hi guys, how are you handling February? I always find it one of the dark months…you know, along with the end of November, then December and March. Have I mentioned how much I dislike February and March? They’re just months, but for some reason they always seem dreary, dull and empty. It’s a time when my mental illness usually took a turn for the worse, incidentally. It’s probably also the exhaustion that comes from that part of the year…Summer is gorgeous and the light is motivating, Autumn can be super productive and beautifully cozy and colourful, then it’s the stress of the Holidays and a strange lethargy that follows. It also seems to coincide with a period of heavier work, school-wise at least. And for a time when things will soon be rejuvinating and the daylight starting to last longer, it’s surprisingly depressing. I’m trying to change that for myself as I fairly successfully improved my ‘peak of winter’ period.
I don’t know about you but the idea of certain months / seasons / weather patterns ‘blowing me around’, is discomforting. I want to make my OWN inner weather, haha. Actually…that’s more than just tongue in cheek as I originally thought. What an excellent metaphor, and not just on this topic, but for mental wellness in general! Replace exterior weather which we have no control over, with our invading thoughts and bad feelings which we may find as unchangeable. When it’s freezing cold and snowing outside we can’t stop doing what we have to do, so where is our control? In the warm winter jacket, boots and hat that we choose to wear. When it rains, we bring out a raincoat and/or umbrella. Sure we could walk into the snow or rain without the appropriate gear, but that’s really unpleasant isn’t it? Now let’s go back to the bad feelings. Bad stuff happens, and when we’re under the weather (please stop me) with mental illness or just the blues, that’s like the rain or snow. In this case it might be more appropriate to compare the feelings with a hurricane and our recourse being to huddle in a safe bunker. Do you see where I’m going – is a picture starting to form?
Maybe this all seems overly simplified and I suppose it is, but why cause extra confusion? The ideology holds true despite it being FAR from easy. There’s a huge difference between simple and easy. Moving forward, how do we create our own inner weather to shield us from the inevitable unpredictability of the outside world as well as the nasty side of our minds? ——————- No one? Oh no, I was hoping someone could tell me. I have trouble with this…however I do believe that resilience plays a large role role. In fact, I’ve come across and am trying to apply the 7 c’s of resilience. Bearing in mind that these are my own views and interpretations of it but I’m not claiming anything as my own, let’s explore it together. (If you’re interested I read a few sources such as here and here. Resilience is key to mental health because it largely determines how we react and interact in an unpredictable world.
The 7 C’s of Building Resilience
As I mentioned earlier, a sense of control in our lives is essential. Feeling on ‘runaway’ is scary and harmful, so taking back the steering wheel is a key component to self-mastery and equilibrium. Part of control of course involves knowing that some things truly are unpredictable and out of our hands, but our control comes in the form of how we react to the circumstances. Accepting what cannot be controlled and viewing it as a learning opportunity is a very good start. At other times though something really bad happens and it’s exceptionally difficult to process, especially when you feel powerless. I wish I knew how to handle that better and I’m far from succeeding here, but I think it involves ‘controlled powerlessness’. I just came up with this and it might not make much sense, but what I’m trying to say is that in dealing with something not influenceable, it’s less painful to view it with calm observation. This is in contrast to resistance and energy expending efforts that cause stress, distress and exhaustion. Logically, if we spend all our energy trying to forcibly change the unchangeable we have less energy to change what we CAN influence and direct. It might seem like a no-brainer but letting go of the wheel when you have to can be the toughest aspect of control. Otherwise, sound decision making, decisiveness and following through are key components to directing your own course.
Everyone wants to feel like they know what they’re doing, right? The 7 C’s include both competence and confidence and I truly find that they go hand in hand. It’s difficult to have confidence when you feel incompetent. And the only way to feel confident, is to actually go out and try. This can be scary because we have self-doubt, self-criticism and the idea of failure is daunting. However perhaps half of competence IS experiencing less favourable outcomes, knowing when you’re incompetent and then learning how to become competent. Here’s a great personal example: I hate being bad at something and I hate being average. So what happens? I get into something new and of course there’s no sudden stroke of genius or capability that allows me to do exceptionally well. Take skateboarding for example…I was so excited and really wanted to excel at it. I could barely put one foot on the board without feeling like I was going to flip backwards! Good start, huh? Once I could push and ride, it was time for tricks. (In my mind anyway.) At least until I fell on my derrière a few times and the realization struck that I’d sooner break my neck than look like a pro. I am super impatient. And when I don’t see vast improvement I get quickly discouraged and sometimes give up entirely. (Thankfully this didn’t happen with skateboarding.) It’s hard to build competence when you insist on running before you walk.
Another thing; I fall into the trap of wanting to be very competent, if not perfect, at a wide array of things. Yes, I’m delusional and obsessed with the pursuit of perfection even though I’m aware that it doesn’t exist. My advice: (That I should really listen to…) Decide what is most important for you to become highly skilled at. Aspiring to greatness in everything is just another unrealistic ideal and an expenditure of energy that we often can’t afford. Conclusion? Be patient with yourself and remember that experience, consistent effort and concentrated energy are what builds true competence. There are no real shortcuts and when you hear of one, it’s likely to be too good to be true.
Ah yes. This seems familiar! Coping, self-care, self-compassion, understanding… the necessary foundation to handle the lemons that life will throw at you! (And good news, if you don’t like lemonade there are plenty of other recipes. – I may have had a few strong espressos if you’re wondering.) I won’t get into detail about this one because I have other posts for that.
This is a big one for me. There’s a frequent debate in my therapy sessions about how I need to develop confidence and faith in myself, regardless of circumstances. My argument has always been that I’ll be confident and believe in myself only once I’ve done enough to prove that it’s warranted and deserved. I guess this also includes self-respect. While I stand by my view, I don’t endorse it for others. There must be some in between where one has a base level of confidence and self-respect despite what they have done / do, and then it can be built upon. I suppose that’s the more rational view; that we deserve a foundation of self-possession. It’s very much a work in progress for me, but I encourage us all to see that even if there are no mind-blowing achievements that prove our self-worth to ourselves, we have done enough to respect ourselves and believe in our capabilities. We’ve made it this far, right? Besides, if we don’t begin building confidence, some of us who strive for the unattainable will never feel good enough to deserve a sense of confidence!
It’s very difficult to be resilient when you don’t have interpersonal relationships to help you when you’re caught in a storm. It can be a strain to ask for or accept help, but as I’ve mentioned in other articles everyone deserves support and just as it can be you needing support on one occasion, it’ll be someone else’s turn in a matter of time. We’re social and when we work together that’s when the best truly emerges from us. Connections with family and friends also imbue the important feelings of security, belonging and the comforting knowledge that you do have a safety net – you’re not alone. Please don’t reject a part of our own human nature; it’s there for a reason and I’m trying to remember that as well!
Character. That sounds like a pretty broad category doesn’t it? To keep it simple, though it’s far from it, I’ll share my understanding in a reasonable number of words. What aspects of character help resilience? Developing a healthy attitude in life isn’t easy, but I think a key part is following your own inner compass. Instead of answers, I think this category is more about personal questions. Who are you as a person? What do you value and how do you view yourself as well as others? Are you really hard on yourself and unforgiving when you make mistakes? Or do you embrace the imperfections with understanding and compassion, willing to work on yourself? Do you take stock and inventory of your life, its direction, and whether or not you’re following the path that’s true to your goals? What are your goals? Are you open to them being changed and modified as you grow? Are you open-minded to new opportunities and ready to take intelligent risks? How do you cope with setbacks and obstacles? There are innumerable factors here, and I can barely scratch the surface!
I strongly believe that contribution is an important aspect in everyone’s mental well-being. It’s a Global win-win that I believe it could change the world if we could expand upon it! Speaking on a personal level though, being mutually connected with webs of support, compassion, understanding, giving, caring, kindness and so much more, can foster an unexplainable feeling of warmth. As mentioned earlier, reaching out for support is natural and healthy…and giving back is the other end of this cycle that keeps us going. It’s easier to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness when one is implicated in society and the well-being of others as well as their own. It’s meaningful and imbues purpose. In fact there were times when one of the few things keeping me going was volunteering at a Veteran’s hospital and being a Listener on 7 Cups of Tea. It’s difficult to explain how it feels to be needed, but it truly is a meaningful reminder that we’re each very powerful in our own unique way. It’s more than a cliché; even the smallest thing can make someone’s day.
I’m sorry for the long post, I’ll end it here until next time. I hope my interpretation of the 7 C’s of Resilience can help you. Remember; mental flexibility and resilience allows us to bend, while rigidity and force results in breakage.