Every day as I drive down Mate’s Gully Road I am amazed by the resilience of the Australian bush. Just two months ago it was devastated by a bush fire, leaving a blackened wasteland of dead trees. Over this last couple of months we have had very little rain, but it was just enough to start the first signs of life in what looked like dead trees and blackened stumps. Sadly, the people I deal with rarely show that same ability to bounce back from the destruction of a fire, a flood, the breakdown of a relationship, loss of a loved one or loss of a dream through failure on course. Many people believe that “they just can’t do it” but it seems to me that we can all learn to be more resilient. So here are seven helpful hints on how to “bounce back” from the event that burnt you.
1. CHANGE ATTITUDE! Yes this thing happened, it is a fact and no amount of wishing that it didn’t happen will help. Accept the fact and recognise that from now on things will be different and that change is a normal, necessary part of life and growth. You cannot change the past but you can change your attitude to it. Look for the positives, it might mean that this gives you the opportunity for a fresh start.
2. CONNECT! When we are going through hard times many people cut themselves off from the very people that could help them through it. This disaster is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself but that cannot be done in isolation. When it all falls apart we need to be able to accept help and support from those around us who care.
3. COMPASSION! Resist the urge to think that you are the only person with problems, sometimes if you can get the focus off yourself you will find that others are doing it tougher than you. When you begin to empathise with them and help them, you may be amazed to find that you will cope with your own feelings and situation much better.
4. CREATIVITY! You have within you the capacity to visualise new possibilities, to create a whole new future that was not possible before this event. This disaster may free you to be the person you always wanted to be, to go in new directions and prove that you can grow and flourish through hard times. Now is the time to set some adventurous goals.
5. CARE FOR YOURSELF! This event has taken a heavy toll on your physical, mental and spiritual health, so make sure that you are allowing yourself time to recover, grieve your loss and find a new balance in life. Refuse the temptation to take short cuts to “feeling better” alcohol and other drugs may give short term relief, but they will not fix things. Self care is about finding ways to relax, laugh and begin enjoying life again.
6. CONCRETE ACTION!
There are many times when people are happy to wallow in their self pity, they talk about changing their attitudes, connecting, showing compassion for others, coming up with creative alternatives and caring for themselves but NEVER seem to get around to doing anything concrete. Each of the above requires action – don’t just talk about it do it!
7. CONFESSION! In some respects this is part of step one, but for me it always takes a little more time to accept the fact that I contributed to the situation. Therefore, to really move forward, I need to take responsibility for my actions and attitudes and do something. That might mean asking for forgiveness from others who may have been affected or confession before God.
Building resilience is not all that difficult, but when you get stuck you may need some help. Just talking to someone like a Priest or Minister may be all you need to bounce back. For the trees along Mate’s Gully Road all it took was some rain, some time and a desire to grow.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley