It's OK to not feel resilient and feel overwhelmed
As NLP (neuro-linguistic programmer) practitioners, we are taught to focus on the positives, to use language that focuses on what we want more of rather than what we don't want.
There are many reasons for this; our brain cannot process a negative want, we already seem to be very capable of focusing on the negatives and we seem to have the ability to be negatively biased and edit out the good times and reflect on the bad times.
But sometimes there is a time and a place to recognise that things are tough, we're not bouncing back as quickly as we used to or perhaps that we're feeling entirely sunk.
I'm sure there are plenty of articles about the recent uncertainty and challenges that a global pandemic brings so I won't dwell on these too much. However what I will say is that as human beings, we are ill-equipped to deal with prolonged stressors.
Imagine a bridge across a river, whether it be the Forth Bridge in Scotland, the Pearl Bridge in Japan, the Golden Gate Bridge CA or the Severn Bridge in England/Wales. These bridges were designed to take a finite amount of stress. They've been built to withstand the stressors of weight and weather. But what happens if they're not maintained? What happens if a fault occurs and it isn't rectified? That bridge becomes less capable of enduring the very stressors it was designed to and eventually, without remedial action being taken, will eventually fail and break.
We are a bit like bridges - if we are well-maintained, if we take action to repair any faults that occur, then we can endure many stressors of life. There is a finite amount of stress that we can cope with, and each person has their own individual maximum load before the cracks appear.
That is when our resilience is affected, that is when we can easily become overwhelmed and unable to deal with the simplest of everyday tasks.
So what does this have to do with it being OK to be overwhelmed and not feel resilient? Over the last two years or so (at the time of writing) there have been multiple unexpected additional stressors that have impacted our ability to be resilient and able. Add to that the reduction in access to maintain our wellbeing and be able to fix 'faults' that have arisen, we are now beginning to see the cracks appearing.
What has added to our stressors are:
- isolation from friends and family.
- lack of structure and routine.
- uncertainty about finances and jobs
- reduction in access to health services
- restrictions on movement and freedom
- lack of basic provisions such as food and fuel
- the invisible and unpredictable threat of Covid-19
- loss of loved ones
I'm sure that there are more and forgive me for any oversight, especially if it has been a major stressor in your life.
What can happen, when layer upon layer of stress occurs, is that things mount up. The pressure becomes too great and we can't seem to shed the increasing burden, so we bow down, we sink a little, and the things we used to be able to deal with suddenly become a struggle. This then adds to the stressors as we begin to feel out of control of ourselves. The worry mounts up and adds to the weight even more.
If this sounds like you, if you are feeling like this and it resonates with you then please be reassured that this time will pass. It is easy to get caught up in the notion that the way that you feel now has some kind of permanency - it hasn't. Like all the other stressors you've already dealt with and survived, this too shall pass.
So, when the cracks have started to appear and you can no longer bear the weight you once could, what do you do?
Go back to basics. One step at a time. One small achievement at a time.
- Make a list of all the things that are stressing you out.
- Highlight those that you are in control of and can change (apply the Serenity Prayer*).
- Choose one, preferably one that is fairly easy, that you are bound to be able to resolve.
- Make a plan to put those changes into place to resolve it.
- Think about how you will feel once you have already achieved it.
- Reflect on your progress and make any necessary adjustments to stay on track.
- Once you have resolved that one stressor, start on the next.
- If you need help, ask.
For example, if you are worried that your job is not secure, part of that is beyond your control. You don't get to decide the business strategy of the organisation you work for. What you could do is either have that difficult conversation with your manager and ask if your job is secure to put your mind at rest or validate your worries. Or you can start preparing yourself to look for alternative employment by updating your CV and looking at your skill set and what is available to apply for. A mind with a plan is a mind that feels in control and a mind that feels in control also has a sense of empowerment.
The next step is to start to boost your own sense of wellbeing. We all have coping strategies that we turn to in times of stress. They may be exercise, reading, music, hobbies, socialising. If you've been unable to do these or you only have one coping strategy then you've effectively put all your eggs in one basket and they've cracked.
It's time to re-evaluate and find other coping strategies that you can do that help you feel a sense of wellness. There are several ways you can do this:
- Look at what other people do that seems like fun and give it a go, join in.
- Research what is available to do locally (or further afield) and try something new.
- Ask for help (yes it appears twice as we are notoriously bad at asking).
- Prioritise yourself regularly, set aside time for 3-5 things a week that you enjoy doing.
- Make those three to five things varied, easy to achieve and meaningful to you.
For further insights into what makes something meaningful to you, you can take the 5 Love Languages Quiz. This is a useful insight as to what we find meaningful in relationships to love for others and ourselves. Well-being, resilience and love start from within.
Life can be full of ups and downs, if you don't look after yourself then the cracks will appear, maybe not this week or next, but they will appear. In order to be resilient to the turbulence of life, you must put your own oxygen mask on first!
* The Serenity Prayer - short version
God grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
change the things I can;
and the Wisdom to
know the difference.
It goes on to include
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time.