Resilience – the black sheep of mental wellness

Resilience is a skill that is learned and practised. It does not come naturally and often has people screwing up their noses at the idea. What if I told you that you were already doing it…

Time To Read: 7 minutes

The word resilience often gets a bad rap, and for good reason to be honest. I know in my time in the military, it was used as a shaming and blaming word. I would hear phrases being used along the lines of ‘just be more resilient’, while not being shown how, and having real systemic oppressions discounted as a lack of mental toughness. This blame shifting leads to feelings of guilt and shame around ‘why is this bothering me?’ and ‘why can’t I get over this’. Once leaving the military and entering larger society, I found this was a similar experience for a lot of people. 

While resilience itself is not bad, some re-education is needed in society around what it actually is, why it’s useful and how it can benefit us.

Myths about resilience

  1. People are born resilient

Nope. Resilience is not something we are born with. Some people may be born with slightly healthier brain wiring than others which makes resilience easier, however, we still need to learn and practice it to become resilient. We are taught and modelled resilience skills by our caregivers, and with many of us breaking intergeneration traumas each day, this is possibly something that was not instilled in many of us. Resilience can be taught and learned, at any age, after any life experience. Resilience comes from practice and knowledge, not genes.

  1. I’m just not a resilient person

Wrong. Resilience can be developed at any point in life whenever you are ready. Resilience can also be measured and assessed to give you a starting point and so you can track your progress

  1. I have made it this far so I must be resilient 

Maybe, but there is a difference between surviving and thriving. True resilience is having the skills to feel confident you can overcome any hurdle. Resilience is being in control of your life and your emotions and not being ruled by internal feelings or external situations. Resilience is moving forward despite the challenges life throws at you. Alternatively, surviving is getting through but feeling overwhelmed, stressed and as though it is never-ending. There is an undertone of pessimism and defeat as opposed to hope and optimism. 

  1. Resilience and perseverance are the same

Nope, resilience and perseverance are two different skills. Perseverance is the sustained effort to do something despite challenges. It is more vision-focused and you are generally persevering in a set area or towards a set goal. Persistence is a feature of tenacity in resilience training.

The meaning of resilience is broader. There are many definitions for resilience, such as advancing despite adversity and thriving through challenges. What it boils down to is that resilience is a life skill, rather than pertaining to a specific challenge or goal like perseverance. Think of resilience as a pair of glasses you wear all day every day. They help you see life clearly and with a more confident lens. Resilience equips you to deal with anything that gets thrown your way with humility, composure and minimal disruption. 

What are your thoughts on the idea of resilience before we go any further? Take a moment to reflect on how you feel about the word.

Our biggest mistake is waiting

Similar to when people enter therapy, people wait to build resilience or resilience skills until they have a problem to face in the hopes of making it easier. In reality the best time to build resilience skills is before a hurdle arises. This is standard human behaviour – we have so much on our minds that we don’t think about preparing ourselves for hypothetical future problems, we simply don’t have time for that, right?!

What I can tell you is it is not hypothetical, there will be a challenge or hurdle in the future that you will have to face, and you are better off preparing yourself now than waiting for it to come up.

What are resilience skills? Resilience is built by brain training. Just like we train and condition our bodies for events or physical goals, our brain needs to be trained for the optimisation of today’s life. Our brain at its base level was made for life thousands of years ago. No technology, no chronic stress, simply eat, sleep and survive. That is what we are still wired to do. Our brain needs a bit of help to realise that many of the hurdles we face are not life-threatening, they do not require a physical response and hypervigilance. Resilience works by allowing you to feel confident in the face of crisis, reduce your physical body reactions to stress and bring your prefrontal cortex online longer, allowing you to think rationally and make wise, informed decisions. 

Resilience Training: Why It’s Important to Invest in Your Mental Health

It is possible to reach a level of resilience that both protects you against developing mental illness and also reduces symptoms of existing mental health challenges. This level of resilience is measurable and attainable – this is what Mindspace’s entire goal is

Some stats and facts

  • Only 1 in 10 people have a level of resilience that is protective
  • The earlier we begin strengthening our resilience, the better the outcomes for our mental health
  • People so far have seen up to a 52% improvement in assessable scores through using our app for brain training – this is not a limit, only what has been observed so far, feel free to break this record
  • Resilient people are less likely to suffer from physical ailments, including disease and illness in older age such as Alzheimer’s 
  • Resilient people are less likely to be obese and suffer from heart conditions
  • Resilient people report more life satisfaction 
  • Resilient people experience reward and happiness more than people with lower resilience scores
  • Resilience children are less likely to develop mental illness later in life 

It is crucial we invest in our resilience and mental health from an early age and never stop.  This includes modelling it for our children to give them the skills needed early. 

Resilience Assessments

Do you want to know how you score in resilience? Our resilience assessments are a short 3-minute quiz that will allow us to assess how resilient you are, all in the comfort of your own home. 

This resilience assessment and report allows us to show you the characteristics of resilience (known as domains) and how you score in each of them, you can read more about the PR6 assessment here

Mental illness is hard to talk about

Stigma around mental health is still rife in society. Fear of judgement, discrimination, and stereotyping can keep people from seeking treatment for their mental illness, but it also stops us from talking about it early and catching it before it is an issue. The stigma surrounding mental illness can also make it hard for family members and friends to provide support or raise the issue with someone they know who has a mental illness.

A flow-on effect of not talking about mental illness, is we don’t talk explicitly about mental wellness either. We don’t talk about why sleep, exercise, light and connection with others is so important. We don’t talk about how our goals keep us mentally on track and the self-care strategies that stop us from falling into a heap. We don’t know the recipe to staying well, we are often simply surviving. This means we cannot support each other to stay well either if we are still trying to figure it out ourselves. All these facets of mental wellness are resilience. 

The recipe of resilience and mental wellness at Mindspace Training

If you’re wanting to work on your resilience, then you’re in the right place. We have done all the hard work for you in researching and building the brain training app so all you have to do is commit to doing the work. See more here. It is based on the 6 domains of resilience. 

As separate components, most people are aware of these skills and their value. However, for some reason when we piece them all together and call it resilience, there is a negative association. Mental wellness, mental toughness, mental strength, call it whatever you want, it works. Have a look and see what components you are familiar with – 

  1. Composure – teaching you self-regulation and enabling you to make decisions from a calm, regulated and informed place, not from fear or emotion
  2. Vision – this resilience training helps you set or maintain goals and ensure your life has purpose and meaning. We are at our best when we are working towards something, what is your why?
  3. Collaboration – building your confidence and trust in your support network, where to find help, use resources appropriately and the importance of maintaining relationships for brain health. This ensures you feel confident that you can overcome any challenge you are faced with
  4. Tenacity – teaching you how to bounce-through hard times, learning and strengthening for the next challenge. Minimise disruption and stay determined to continue from a place of optimism and hope, rather than because you have no choice
  5. Health – we all know how important physical health is to the brain – the difference is we want to teach you why. This way it will not only stick but hopefully give you a reason to invest in it, as well as encourage others to do the same
  6. Reasoning – make some safeguards for how you can be protected against future challenges now, rather than waiting until it’s too late. 

All of these things might sound out of reach when put together in one overwhelming list, however, this brain training makes building resilience achievable and accessible. If you start today, in 4 months you will have no idea how you did without these skills! Building resilience is not woo-woo or magic, it is science. The result? Watch your quality of life and happiness skyrocket. 

There is no doubt we will face challenges in life, what varies is how much they affect us. We are in charge of this – make a change

One final note on resilience

The word resilience gets a bad rap. Call it what you like, mental wellness, mental toughness, mental strength, coping skills, it is all the same. Resilience has never been this achievable accessible and affordable. The most important thing you can do for your mental health is invest in it. 

About the author

Angela Harrisonis the founder of Mindspace Training and has been working in the mental health industry for over 7 years. She is a resiliency specialist and is passionate about changing the way society approaches mental health. Her mission is to move from reaction to prevention; giving people back the power to create wellness for themselves.

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