Do you have an attitude for ‘how will I get through this?’ To summon determination so that you keep going until you get to the other side of something stressful.
That’s resilience. It’s training your brain to push through adversity rather than fold into helplessness when the going gets tough.
I consider myself pretty resilient and I’m tenacious in finding new ways to thrive, but I want to share with you a time when I was really tested to think out of the box and rapidly come up with a brand-new coping strategy. I was lying in the MRI scanner about to have my head and neck scanned.
“Soothing music?” they asked.
“Of course,” I replied, knowing how such music positively affects brainwaves.
“Here’s the panic button. Press it and we’ll get you out as quickly as possible”
“Oh, I won’t need that, I’m an accomplished meditator” my Hubris responded, after all I was making clear pictures of myself lying flat and relaxed.
And so, it began. I lay still, calm, and ready to remain relaxed.
But no sooner than the machine began its vibrating sound, my reptilian brain immediately shifted into a primitive fight/flight reaction.
No problem I thought, understanding that I just needed to adjust my autonomic nervous system reaction. So I aimed all attention on soothing basal brain through a calming breathing technique. But as visceral fear surged through me I panicked, pressed the button and they brought me out. I was unable to override a fearful amygdala.
Truly bemused, I tried again a few moments later. This time, I decided to activate my brain’s creative centres through visualisation of my happy place with full sensory association – an excellent way to switch on calm. But no, as cortisol and adrenaline misdirected my body, reptilian brain pressed the button again…
Damn it. Now I was cross and somewhat shocked at how my body and mind had stopped talking to each other.
Last chance. I could either validate the fear reaction and retreat into failure, or find a new solution. “This is your brain, drive it on purpose” I thought calmly and clearly.
“How else can you drive your brain through fear and get to beyond?”
I made a mental checklist of what hadn’t worked and searched for something different. Numbers! Maths! My sure way to zone out!
And so I began counting back from 500, out loud while visualising each number. It required intense concentration and I frequently had to start again whenever I lost that focus. But it worked, the strategy worked! I had pushed through adversity and discovered a new strategy. Learning through doing something different.
Balance Body and Mind – how to do it!
Take ONE minute to bring yourself into physiological balance by sitting or standing as straight and tall as you can.
Straighten up through your mid-line and let your attention start at the top of your head and gently melt down through your spine to your tailbone. Are both shoulders as level as they can be? Look in a mirror to check the symmetry across your shoulders and collarbones.
Shift your body a little to bring balance to either side of your spine. Notice how it feels to tilt one shoulder or hip, and then re-balance.
Scan through your body for areas of softness and comfort, and rest in there for some moments.
Now shift attention to each of the following body parts in this order: head, shoulders, arms, hands, ribcage, spine, hips, thighs, knees, lower legs, ankles, feet.
Once balanced, your whole body and mind will work better.
Balancing your body helps you improve your emotional state, learning capability, and energy levels.
According to a social media thread, a high school in America was faced with an unusual problem after a particular trend had formed amongst teenage girls. Each day a group of girls would visit the bathroom and decorate the large mirror with ‘kiss marks’ after putting on strong coloured lipstick and then pressing their lips to the mirror. It is said that every night, the janitor would remove the lipstick marks, only to find them replaced the next day!
The teachers tried all manner of interventions to stop the behaviour, to no avail. The girls were cautioned and scolded, pleaded with, and politely asked to stop. Nothing changed their behaviour.
Finally, the principal decided that something had to be done.
She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the janitor. She explained that the lip prints were causing a major problem for the poor guy who had to clean the mirrors every night, and to illustrate how difficult the mirror cleaning task was for him, she asked the janitor to demonstrate his efforts.
He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror!
It just goes to show that learning is expedited when the same language is spoken, and that behavioural change can happen in a heartbeat.
Top Tip! When you hear someone say change is hard/takes a long time/is difficult, share this story!
September brought us the Equinox, marking a moment of ‘balance’ in our yearly calendar, with day and night available to us, in equal measure.
I guess you know when you’re (metaphorically) tipping out of balance, right? When it seems all that’s left is to give up or give over to some external authority on your wellbeing?
Balance is one of our key themes when working with the next generation, we want them to trust that they can always find it, know how to achieve it, and don’t need to rely on an external authority to do the re-balancing for them. We call this RESILIENCE.
We must teach resilience as an ‘inside job’ so the next generation learns how to self-adjust their personal wellbeing rather than defaulting to the notion that the solution, or the blame, lies elsewhere.
Sometimes in our work, we find parents and teachers don’t believe it is possible for young people to self-manage wayward thoughts and emotions and make it their priority to step in at the first hint of challenge. Fast forward to a generation of teenagers who never learned to hardwire the skills of ‘doing’ resilience i.e., falling over, picking self-up, reflecting on what to do differently next time, taking responsibility for the results in life and adjusting mindset/behaviours to meet new needs. Simply put, this is the process of learning and a far cry from our ‘woke’ generation who want to blame or change others. How have we forgotten our nature as exquisite learners?
And those parents and teachers who DO believe it is possible for young people to self-manage wayward thoughts and emotions, often just don’t know how to teach these skills. Thankfully we do.
This month’s Resilience Tip is to help children imagine their future self as buoyant and able to respond to and rebalance after any of life’s whirlwinds. Imagineering (as we call it) is nature’s way of formatting neural pathways into codes of possibility. That’s how we landed on the moon – someone had the idea first … It was an imagined possibility that eventually became tangible actions.
I vote for more seeding of great ideas inside the minds of our next generation. Imaginings of a flourishing future. We cannot thrive as a species if we continue to fill young people’s imaginations with fear and helplessness.
We all become what we repeatedly do, so why not help your child habituate resilience inside their mind’s eye and set a clear direction for their brains and bodies to follow?
We all deserve a thriving next generation, don’t we?