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How to be resilient: This practical guide to dealing with setbacks is essential reading


Life might be getting back to normal but many of us are still feeling the effect of the pandemic on our mental health. In fact, you might not even realise the full impact the past year has had on your mental health until you’re back in ‘the real world’. Indeed, recent ONS figures show cases of depression are on the rise despite lockdown lifting. From the period of 27th January to 7th March 2021, around 1 in 5 (21%) adults in the UK experienced some form of depression, an increase since November 2020 (when the figure stood at 19%) and more than double that observed before the Coronavirus pandemic (10%).

That’s why it’s so important to take heed of your own mental health and ensure you’re making practical self-care steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the ‘new normal’.

“Mental health is a huge part of all of our lives and for too many of us it’s a mystery, but if we understand our minds we can put ourselves in control so we can really live,” says Daniel Howell, a mental health activist and author of You Will Get Through This Night.

Inspired by Dan’s own mental health journey shared with millions of his fans on stage and screen, along with his work as an ambassador for mental health charity Young Minds, his new book promises to be a practical guide to understanding and taking control of your mental health, written in an entertaining and personal way from someone who has been through it all.

Written in consultation with psychologist Dr. Heather Bolton and spilt over three sections; This Night, Tomorrow and The Day After, the book provides a refreshing, realistic approach to looking after your mental wellbeing the way we all experience it – whether you are in a crisis, just looking to make a change or want to know how to look after yourself every day.

One key aspect of his book is how to be resilient and deal with setbacks, which we are adamant will prove extremely useful for anyone struggling as we come out of lockdown….

“We all know that life can throw a curveball when we least expect it, so it’s important to know how to cope with these surprises, and not let them throw you off your positive momentum.

Life is a rollercoaster, or more like the graph shape of a llama rolling down a hill and climbing up again. We can’t predict the chaos. Despite our best efforts and intentions, it’s normal to have ups and downs. Remember that mental health is not a straight line, we can do what we can to raise the floor level, but it will always wave with the happenings of the world.

It doesn’t have to be a sudden shocking event, such as a… lightning strike! (sorry?) Life is naturally full of moments of change that we need to be able to handle. Breakups, moving, changing jobs – things that are very common can throw us off our track and we should all know how to keep ourselves on the rails.

Resilience

Training your resilience can help you to keep going in the face of adversity. It’s more than just bouncing back, it’s the act of moving forward as we grow from our experiences. Being resilient can look like:

  • Viewing challenges as opportunities
  • Focusing on the things you can control
  • Adapting your response to challenging situations
  • Maintaining a sense of purpose and drive
  • Asking for support when needed

Training your resilience can help you to keep going in the face of adversity.

Resilience is about being realistically optimistic. It’s not wishful thinking, it’s just being aware of what you can actually achieve and allowing yourself to be hopeful that you will succeed. Don’t be cynical about your own abilities, planting a seed of doubt that can self-sabotage. If you second guess yourself, it could be a self- fulfilling prophecy. Be realistic, but be fair to yourself and go into situations wanting to win!

It’s not something that’s fixed, it fluctuates through life and is something we can develop. It’s partly about our mindset, but also about how we respond in the face of stressful situations.

Most importantly, it’s not about pushing through the pain, telling yourself you’re being brave (don’t hide the pain, Harold), it’s about honestly accepting what you can handle and being practical.

Don’t overwork or exhaust yourself; it’s unrealistic to expect to cope with literally everything all the time!

Think about the attitude you have when you approach situations. Let’s imagine two different people being rejected after a particularly awkward first date:

They both have similar first thoughts: ‘Well that’s disappointing’ and ‘will I ever love again?’

But then how they make sense of that situation is different:
– Akachi starts to accept that not everyone will love her, their date wasn’t right for her anyway, and decides to take control by getting back out there and finding another fish in the sea.

– Fernando doesn’t accept it, but gets stuck on the idea that they’ll always be rejected, they’ll never meet anyone and be lonely forever to live as a spectre haunting the local lighthouse.

Both people are in the same situation but approach it with very different attitudes, which affects how they respond. To build up your own resilience to setbacks, it’s important to understand ‘adaptive coping’ (see opposite).

Self-care service station

During stressful and challenging times, self-care is essential to maintain your overall resilience, so don’t forget the basics – eating, sleep and hygiene, and staying hydrated.

It may sound simple, but if you let these slip it can chip away at your hard work and your mindset.

Try to keep your positive routine and stay on top of necessary stuff – having routine and structure gives you a strong foundation for coping.
Take time for yourself – literally remember to breathe, be mindful if you need a moment and take time to do things you enjoy to recover.

Protect your boundaries and don’t take on more than you can handle. Don’t agree to too much work, emotional responsibility, or cave in to demands you know you might not have energy for.

Reading the signals right

Psychological theory says we tend to see stressful situations in one of three broad ways: a challenge, a threat, or a loss.

Seeing it as a challenge → having hope, a fighting spirit and putting energy into finding a solution.

Seeing it as a threat → assuming the worst, feeling anxious and deflated.

Seeing it as a loss → acting like the damage has already been done, there’s nothing you can do, and feeling helpless.

Try to look for aspects of your situation that you can see as a challenge to overcome – this will help you adopt a positive approach and channel your energy into solving the problem, known as adaptive coping. Of course, this might not always be possible and you can’t keep fighting forever, but there will always be an opportunity for learning from the situation.
Feeling threatened is absolutely normal, but try to notice whether you’re getting caught up with catastrophic thinking. Break the problem down and focus on what you can control, even if it’s a small piece of the 10,000 piece 1-colour jigsaw.

If you’re feeling helpless because of things you’ve lost, allow yourself to feel that – resilience involves connecting honestly with feelings, not shutting them off. It’s a healthy part of processing what’s going on for you. The key is balance.

  • Channel your energy into what you can change.
  • Evaluate any aspects bringing up anxiety.
  • Allow time to deal with your feelings.
  • Being flexible between these three approaches will help you deal with the fun of life’s many suddenly surprising challenges.”

You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell is available now in hardback, eBook and audio download (HQ)

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