How do you keep going when things turn to shit?
Excuse a personal reflection.
I’ve been told I’m a resilient person, in previous blogs I’ve spoken about a few of the things that have happened in the last couple of years (chronic pain, depression, separation – all the good stuff). So how have I kept on keeping on? Well sometimes I haven’t, last year I had 6 weeks off work with depression, this year I’ve had a week off but I’m still keeping on trucking nevertheless.
I’m going to share with you some things that have worked for me and some of the things that contribute to sending me down into a deep pit of despair. If you’re interested in learning more about developing your own resilience you should take a look at these guys The Resilience Development Company – they’re doing some amazing work.
I talk about your “brand” of resilience because you need to know what works for you and also what threatens your resilience too as for different people its different things.
How to recognize when you’re en route to stress: for me, I know I’m struggling with my resilience when I start to more and more resemble Basil Fawlty. By this I mean that things at work that I normally would let go (people talking over me being the main one here) I am no longer able to stay silent about. I also lose my gameface and when someone says something ridiculous to me my thoughts are now all over my face. I start to interpret things personally too (they cancelled a meeting with me to have one with someone else, I must be less important to them etc). So what do I do about this? Firstly, I recognise it is happening. There will always be some people who push your buttons more than others and when I’m in Basil Fawlty mode (which only ever happens in the office and never when I’m out at conferences or delivering programmes) I tell my boss and then I go and work on Introvert tasks on my own in a spare office. I know that I never want to be the person that snaps at a colleague, or upsets someone because I’m feeling low or I’ve lost perspective so I make sure to take myself out of any situation that might end up with that result.
I also ask for help. This is a tough one for me for a number of reasons. 1) I’m proud. 2) I’m a perfectionist. 3) After 4 years of asking the NHS for back surgery and being constantly told no by just about everyone (except a surgeon, go figure), I now have a real fear of asking for help from anyone as my subconscious assumption is that I will be told no, and I’m scared of the emotions that I know that situation will evoke in me. I still quite often ask for help about 3 weeks after I should have, but I’m getting much better at it. Slowly, slowly.
My resilience always takes a hit by a low mood. Depression often involves peaks and troughs, mine is sometimes related to my levels of pain, and sometimes it isn’t apparently related to anything at all. There are some tried and tested ways of boosting my mood. Firstly, exercise. Hitting the gym on an evening or weekend, or spinning will make my mood so much more manageable both at home and at work. However, if my mood is low because my back is in spasm then there is no exercise to be done until my back eases off, so that’s a problem. Delivering programmes boosts my mood. I LOVE being out of the office, meeting new people, running programmes or even attending conferences. I love the buzz, the energy and I love showing off my expertise (definitely one of life’s showboats). But, that all depends on my work calendar, sometimes you’re out of the office for weeks on end and sometimes you’re in the office for weeks on end, alas, it’s the nature of the beast. The point is that my low mood is boosted by doing something I’m good at. I know that praise always improves my mood, my confidence and also my brand of resilience. Find something you’re good at and do it, be it something work related like delivery is for me, or the gym, a sport, writing a blog – anything!
When I’m in the office, here are the things that help:
- People asking for my advice. One of my colleagues, Janet, is great at doing this. She loves bouncing ideas around, talking about the big picture, she gets me feeling really energised and buzzy and she makes me feel like an expert whose opinion she values. So, Janet – thank you!
- Leaving the office for lunch/ break. This one is really easy and really important. Again, I have a fantastic colleague, Emma who is always up for grabbing lunch and letting me either sit in silence (but with company) if I need it or letting me vent about something that’s been getting me down. Thanks, Em!
- Not asking how I am. I know this one probably sounds a little counterintuitive but what I mean is, if you think there is a chance I’m going to feel the need to say “I’m fine” when you ask me, because we’re not in private, or we don’t have that kind of relationship, or because I’ve just come back from sick leave for depression (dur of course I’m not fine), then don’t ask! By all means talk to me, ask me about my plans or how my day is going or tell me things but don’t ask that.
- Listening to inspiring podcasts or TedTalks while I work.
- Biscuits. Obviously.
I don’t know if these things will work for you, they certainly can’t hurt though. In the same way as I believe there isn’t one representative experience of depression or of any mental illness, I don’t think there is one type of resilience either. You’ve got to know your brand, how to boost it, and what works for you when it’s lowered. I would love to hear any tips you might have for boosting your mood or your resilience.