Resilience has been a buzz word in education and the wider mental health community for a good 6-7 years now. I don’t know how long this will continue but long after the buzz dies down we need to continue to focus on helping people to become more resilient. When we lack resilience, we can almost be certain that we will struggle with mental health and general health and well-being for the rest of our lives as resilience is all about dealing with problems – and we will always be facing problems. Out of the 30 topics that I speak to students in Primary and Secondary schools, and the 5 topics I speak to parents about – Resilience remains the number 1 booked session today and has been since I started speaking on it 4 years ago. Out of all the topics, I have spoken on in the 20 years I have been speaking in schools – this to me remains the most important.
I think I suffered from depression throughout my entire 5 years at high school. Some people love school and some people HATE school. I hated school. It was a terrible experience for me. I was bullied every day of my high school life, my parents divorced in year 8 and things only got worse from there. I had a plan in place to take my own life in year 10 because I couldn’t handle the pain I was experiencing anymore, and I had no resilience. I had no ability to deal with problems, I would fall apart as soon as I came face to face with a problem, and I had about as low a self-esteem as you can have. All of this explains why I am so passionate about helping kids and teenagers as they go through school, to change their behavior in order to change how they deal with problems.
So how do we develop resilience; we work at putting shields in place to lessen the pain we feel when we experience a problem and we practice responding to problems, not reacting. Much the same as physical pain will stop us from getting up after we have been knocked down, the emotional pain we encounter after being hit by a problem stops us from responding to problems well. The shields I talk about in schools to lessen the emotional pain we feel are:
- Healthy Relationships
- Removing Negative Thoughts
And these are all things that we can start working on now, and all 3 shields individually make a remarkable large impact on lessening emotional pain from problems. Once we lessen the pain we can focus on responding to the problem. People that react automatically out of how they feel when encountering a problem will never be resilient as they will constantly be controlled by how they feel. That is why a person that has an anger issue will always struggle with resilience. Someone that can respond to a problem will be able to follow 3 steps:
- Stay Calm
- Problem Solve
- Choose the Right Thing
These steps sound simple enough, but when we are angry or at the moment struggling with how we feel – they can be difficult to follow.
As we put the shields in place and practice responding to problems and choosing not to react we actually develop resilience over time and get better at dealing with the problems we face, and become healthier as individuals.