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.