A few weeks ago, I woke up one Sunday morning feeling a little light-headed. I decided it was probably nothing, so I got up and carried on with the day. By 10:00am I was back in bed. The room was spinning and I couldn’t get my balance. A few days later I managed to get an appointment with the doctor who, by a process of elimination, informed me that I had an inner ear infection. This area of the body, whilst small, is in fact responsible for your balance. The infection had me knocked off balance and it took a few weeks for me to get it back.
It seems to be the smallest things that knock you off balance. But it is rarely that small thing in isolation that causes you to over balance. It is likely that it has been building for some time and this one small thing has pushed you over the edge. If you are to build resilience in your life, you have to learn to pay attention to the warning signs that indicate things are out of alignment in your life.
When warning lights come on in an aircraft cockpit they could be an indication of a faulty connection or a real problem. As far as the pilot is concerned there is no room for error; they must act as if there is a problem. If they are still on the ground and can’t be cleared, they must head back to the stand. Safety is paramount.
Prolonged stress, like the continuous uncertainties introduced by the lockdown, will have an impact on our mental and physical health. During these times your body is likely to provide you with indicators that things are not what they should be. Things you might normally consider to be a 1-3 out of 10 in terms of significance (e.g. getting stuck at a red light for the 3rd time on a journey) cause a 7-9 scale emotional reaction and things which are 7-9 in terms of life significance (e.g. the loss of a friend) gain a muted 2-4 out of 10 type emotional response.
These things are not to be ignored. They mean that in some way you are depleted. You need to look to see how you can recharge and bring proper perspective back into your thinking before a small thing comes in and tips you over into something more serious.
The first step is to realise that something is wrong. Often those around you will be aware of that before you are. You need to listen to what they are saying, so you can take action. The way it was described to me is to imagine you are a boat on a river, the river representing your energy. If the river is full, then whatever rocks and obstacles are on the riverbed, are fully submerged and you are unaware of them. If the river is half full then the boat starts to hit the rocks and obstacles that were previously submerged. When you are depleted, you are encountering more of those things that can knock you off balance. The thing to realise is that you have to do significantly more of what energises you in order to get the river back up to full strength.
You may not be aware of it, but being depleted will start to have an effect on you. It will affect the way you interact with others, the way you make decisions and how you lead yourself and others.
Definitions have evolved over time but fundamentally resilience is understood as referring to positive adaptation, or the ability to maintain or regain mental health, despite experiencing adversity.
Helen Herrman et al. (2011)
Resilience can be developed, but it does require us to take action. Paradoxically we need resilience in the storms of life and it is those very storms that help build it. Ignoring your depletion is not an option. It may only be small changes like getting outside more, making sure you get enough sleep, and getting exercise. Whatever you need to do to recharge make those changes and don’t ignore it. Restoring balance doesn’t happen by accident. Once you are aware of it take action.
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