World Mental Health 2023 – What Does Resilience Mean?
In this blog, Divorce Consultant and Relationship Therapist Andrew Pearce talks about resilience and what it actually means for separating couples.
This is a particularly interesting topic of discussion in the context of World Mental Health Day (10 October 2023) as so often the capacity to withstand has knock on effects to our mental health.
There’s a lot of talk about resilience but what does it mean?
Well, it’s definitely not “stiff upper lip”, “manning up”, “sucking it up” etc!
More likely it’s learning to acknowledge the unpleasant feelings/emotions and vulnerability and contain them and function well. Many people manage to do this most of the time. It doesn’t take much to wobble us and at times of high stress it’s very easy for us to start to struggle.
Imagine a water level that, when we are coping well with life is around our belly button. There’s a lot of space between surface of water and nose and mouth. We can tolerate turbulence on the surface of the water without it feeling too threatening.
If we are not paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves the water level begins to rise. Once at chest level life feels quite uncomfortable. Then it doesn’t take a great deal (perhaps something relatively minor which we would normally take in our stride) for the water level to rise above our nose and mouth.
At that point we feel overwhelmed…and it’s impossible to feel overwhelmed about anything less than everything!
The part of our brain that manages fight and flight (Amygdala) is very primal and doesn’t differentiate between real life-threatening water and the imaginary one I have described.
It is hard wired to heart, lungs, adrenal glands, bladder/bowel etc. All the equipment that is getting us ready for action. So, we are flooded with all the chemicals that would be useful if life were in danger, but not so useful at work/driving the car/at home with family etc!
We are also pre-programmed for attention to be scanning for incoming threats. It is very difficult to be “present”/concentrate, so we are much more likely to make mistakes and struggle with detail etc.
The bad news is we cannot control what is going on on the surface of the water (external events).
People often try and invariably create a wheelspin situation which requires more and more effort to control events with decreasing effectiveness.
The good news is we can actively work to reduce the water level itself thus creating more space between it and our nose and mouth. This perhaps is a helpful way to understand resilience.
Self care is the key:
- Talking to/connecting with friends
- Connecting with nature
- Focus on what you can actually control and let the rest go (often easier said than done!)
- Be selective about how/where you spend your energy and attention (if it drains your batteries minimise or avoid it).
Sometimes when the chips are really down external support is necessary. At FLiP we know how tough separation and divorce can be. It’s way better to talk to someone before you reach the point of being overwhelmed.
So, if you feel the water is rising too much, consider an appointment with me or my colleague Jo Harrison. We are both very experienced at helping people reduce and manage water levels.