Resilience is a real buzz word these days. The funny thing about is that if you ask most people what it actually means they’re hard-pressed to give you a concrete answer or an example. Resilience can mean different things to different people. What fuels resilience will be different from one person to the next, too. I describe mental resilience as having access to a robust “toolbox”. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good analogy to help explain mental health, so here come a few related to the Resilience Toolbox!
Everybody’s toolbox looks different but you should know what’s in yours. Your toolbox should contain tools you know are effective for you – for reducing my stress when you’re overwhelmed, for boosting your mood when you’re feeling low and for making you feel re-connected when you feel isolated or like you’ve lost touch with people and things that are important to you. Your Resilience Toolkit should be filled with resources like your workplace’s EFAP, specific friends and family members you’d feel comfortable turning to if you needed help and local community resources (like 211 – check out this fantastic service, available in most Canadian provinces, HERE).
Imagine you’re building a house. If you’re going to work efficiently, the items in your toolbox are tools you’ve worked with for years; you know how to use each of them because you’ve built other things with them. If you’ve never so much as swung a hammer in your life and you’ve been tasked with building a house, it’s going to be much more difficult than if you’ve worked as a carpenter all of your life. If you go to Home Depot and stock your toolbox the night before you’re due to start work, there’s going to be a very steep learning curve on the job. You’d be taking out tools you’ve scarcely laid eyes on and trying to figure out how to use each of them. Being mentally resilient means consistently prioritizing our wellbeing and taking the time to get to know the tools that are in there. The tools you’ve purchased might be top-of-the-line, but if you don’t know how to use them they’re not much good to you on that house project. Don’t wait until you’re struggling to take a peek inside the box.
I’ve heard people speak about resilience as though one size fits all and that’s seldom the case in real life. I have a dog (my sweet Ruby, light of my life!) who plays a major role in maintaining my mental health. Would it make sense for me to recommend that everyone adopt a high-energy dog that requires a great deal of exercise and training? Of course not. Ruby fits well with my lifestyle because her need for exercise often gives me the boost I need to get outside for a hike when I might otherwise stay home and sit on the couch. Her higher-than-average energy level means diligent, time-consuming training, but for the most part I find it fun and rewarding. As much as Ruby positively contributes to my mental wellbeing, her high needs might be a major source of stress for someone else. This is why the tools in my own toolbox can and should be different than the ones in yours.
What tools are in your Resilience Toolbox? Are you well-versed in how to use them? Do they get the job done? Remember, having an assortment of different and well-broken-in tools to draw on as needed is the best way to start building a house but that might not be what a brand new carpenter’s toolbox looks like on their first day of work. Over time, they work on different projects building different things and see a need for investing in more tools to add to their collection. We all have to start somewhere. If you’ve never thought much about mental health, resilience or being strategic about the adoption of coping strategies, start where you are and expand from there. Over time, you’ll build up a hefty toolkit and be well prepared to handle anything that comes your way.
What’s in your Resilience Toolbox? We’d love to hear about it in the Comments Section below!
Thanks for reading and see you next time.
Elizabeth Eldridge is a Psychological Health & Safety Consultant based in southern New Brunswick, Canada. In addition to keynote speaking and corporate training on workplace mental health she is the owner/operator of Arpeggio Health Services, Atlantic Canada’s largest provider of public mental health trainings. Learn more at elizabetheldridge.com, summitcorporatewellness.com and arpeggiohealthservices.com.