“No matter how bleak or menacing a situation may appear, it does not entirely own us. It can’t take away our freedom to respond, our power to take action.”
― Ryder Carroll
I come from a family of naturally stressed people. Sounds like hell, right?
Taking myself as a representative example, it can be tricky for those around me; I sometimes behave as if there’s a major crisis underway when all that’s happening is we are 5 minutes late for having a coffee with friends.
I believe my psychological profile is that of an “away” person – i.e., I’m motivated by avoiding problems and loss – rather than a “towards” person, who is more motivated by the great things that could happen. Thankfully, my wife redresses this balance.
As with everything in life, that is the key word: balance.
My general pessimism becomes very useful when the pressure is really on as it’s the situation I’ve been constantly mentally rehearsing for. But to balance this, my wife’s exuberant optimism opens the door to the more optimistic possibilities that I wouldn’t normally consider.
Now that we’re in the grip of a devastating pandemic, there is not a lot of good news. However, we are seeing humans reacting in the most creative and positive ways: people singing on the balconies in Italy, orchestras playing together online in the Netherlands, and the Sofa Singers bringing together 500 people from all over the world to sing together on Skype. Furthermore, beyond creativity, we are also seeing huge community spirit and kindness: people keeping in touch, offering to shop for the elderly, and taking time to call those alone in isolation just to talk.
To continue the Hamlet theme from my last blog, Hamlet agrees with me – in what is one of the most evocative passages in Shakespeare:
What a piece of work is a man,
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty,
In form and moving how express and admirable,
In action how like an Angel,
In apprehension how like a god,
The beauty of the world,
The paragon of animals.
But perhaps we only see this wonderful picture when the pressure is really on?
I’m thinking about all of this as I convert our Resilience Programme for online delivery. I’m struck by how relevant, but also how absolutely essential it is, to tap into some simple principles that help us stay positive, focussed, and mentally – as well as physically – well. So many of these are the things we ignore, or don’t have time for, when we are not under real pressure.
Routines and rituals
My great friend and superb facilitator Toby Scott taught me that I could take all of those good intentions I have always had – the things that I know would be good for me, but I don’t do because I see them as a bit of a chore, and the scary stuff I can’t bear to try because the learning process is too torturous (that ukulele is still in the case) – and take this time to work at making them pleasurable, nourishing and even a regular “ritual”. If I can do this, I believe I will be a healthier, happier and more resilient person. It may even mean the balance between my pessimism and my wife’s “life is beautiful” optimism begins to redress.
To increase my own resilience, I’m working on a new routine. I started this morning with a 10-minute yoga warm up, followed by a healthy bowl of cereal and tea with oatmilk. I will work through the morning standing, and take regular screen breaks. At lunchtime, I will go for a 45-minute brisk walk in the park, and this evening I’m taking out the bongo drums and – after I’ve given them a good dusting – will crack into Sympathy for the Devil.
Hmm… maybe I haven’t thought this through!
Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training