Resilience Alphabet – W is for Walk and Woodland

Today’s action is to post a photo! Whether you walk in the woods, in your garden, or round your house (!), let’s amuse each other today by posting a photo of our daily walk. I took this photo yesterday.

It’s been interesting to watch the development of the Daily Walk for many people. We are seeing people on a regular basis around the village that we’ve never seen before as the habit of daily walking kicks in with of course appropriate social distancing. About six months ago I took part in 5K for 50 days, and I tell you the number of people walking 5K every day at the moment is probably higher than it has ever been.

Walking is more natural to us than sitting bent over a desk. There is something both rhythmic and soothing about the motion, that leaves us feeling good and relaxed. We are so fortunate to have the lovely woodland photographed in this picture at the end of our village. There are many walks and paths we can take giving us variety if we want it, and we have enjoyed watching the development of different flowers and adding to our list of what we’ve seen. We have also been hearing and seeing a wide variety of birds and were delighted to watch a tree-creeper yesterday, whilst at the same time listening to a spotted woodpecker with its unmistakable knocking. Walking has given us time to appreciate the variety of nature on our doorstep.

What are you seeing and hearing on your daily walk? And, of course, if you are not having one now is a great opportunity to set a time each day to get out and have your daily exercise. Of course, some will be physically unable to do that due to either isolating on account of COVID or being unable to walk for other health reasons. Perhaps you could google ‘woodland’; follow a few outdoors lovers on social media; download one of the relaxation apps and go listen to woodland birds; get paints or colouring pens out and draw a woodland.

I woke up this morning to a post written by David Simpson Photography on his Facebook page about an overnight trip complete with beautiful photos. Banff Mountain Film Festival is also screening selections of films right now. So go walk, or enjoy someone else’s walk, and don’t forget to post us a picture today no matter where you go.

Resilience Alphabet – V is for Vulnerability and Vitality

It’s 10 years since Brene Brown delivered her Ted Talk on Vulnerability and shared her wisdom around the importance of feeling and acknowledging our emotions, and not seeking to numb them. You will easily find this if you search her name and the term vulnerability and it is still worth a listen 10 years later.

There is perhaps no time in your own life when you have felt more vulnerable and your very existence threatened more acutely than you have in the last few weeks. You may be surprised at this introduction to a Blog on personal resilience! However, it is an important part of our mental health and response to what is happening, to have the courage to own our vulnerability and at the same time recognise the importance of the vitality which is life and embracing all that means within the current context.

She concludes her Ted Talk by encouraging us “To let ourselves be seen in all our vulnerability, to love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee, to practise gratitude and joy when we have doubts, and to belief that we are enough to get through this together.” (I have summarised)

That brings me to vitality. If you are reading this – you are alive. How are you going to use your vitality today? What are you going to use it for? And when we look back on April 202, will you feel content that you were wise in its use?

Today embrace your vulnerability, for some of us it is a feeling we are uncomfortable with. In essence it is vitality stripped bare and the very thing that enables us to embrace life.

Resiliense Alphabet – U is for Uncertainty

Last year as part of my CPD I studied with neuroscientist Dr. Sarah MacKay, an Oxford Graduate, who has a passion for the widest group of people to understand Brain Health. My interest in neuroscience has grown over the last six years or so and started with my studying Conversational Intelligence®. All that I know and have read about uncertainty was confirmed. There is a bucket load of research that tells us that the brain does not like uncertainty.

And yet here we are in the midst of high levels of uncertainty about work, health, families, our future life etc. So how can we build our own resilience in times like these? The answer is both simply and profound – give your brain as much sense of certainty as possible.

I was touched by a colleague’s early post on social media written whilst sitting in an airport just as it was becoming obvious that flights would be grounded and travel would be grinding to a stop. As she sat there with all the uncertainties of future life, she decided to write a list of what she remained certain of. It was a very moving list and included things like, “I am certain I am loved”, “I am certain of my faith”, “I am certain this will pass”, and so the list went on.

There are two things I would suggest you do today for your own personal resilience and well-being. One of them has already been highlighted at an early stage of this Resilience Alphabet blog. If you haven’t already established a routine or pattern for your days, do so now. You will give yourself (and your brain) the sense of rhythm which it craves. And secondly, get pen and paper, find a quiet place and write down your personal “I remain certain…” list.

Take care and stay safe.

Resilience Alphabet – T is for Talk

Have you ever lived close enough to a baby to track the many achievements required in simply learning to talk, from these first one syllable sounds, testing out the musical range of babbling, through learning the word ‘no’, to telling you fantastic tales about the adventures about various toys. It is a complex and effortful process accessing many parts of the brain. To produce a phrase, about 100 muscles of the chest, neck, jaw, tongue and lips must work together. That any of us can talk is one of life’s miracles.

I love this photo. It symbolises all that is wonderful about being able to talk. Getting lost in the moment with friends over a cup of tea, oblivious for a time to what is happening around, or the challenges we might face.

Early in this period I heard of virtual kitchens being set up at lunch time; various versions of quizzes being organised by families; Tea and Cake sessions; the list goes on. These are a great way to connect and share the day with colleagues, friends and family. What we are perhaps missing right now is the simple act of having someone to talk to; particularly if we live alone.

Today, I’m inviting you to add a new habit to your day whilst you are staying safe at home. Get out your Christmas Card list and call one of your friends or colleagues every day for a one to one chat. Offer someone else the gift of just talking today as you catch up, listen to connect, and build personal resilience together. After all, it’s what phones were originally designed for… and a great way to Stay Safe.

Resilience Alphabet – S is for Senses

If I live to be 100 and look back on my life, one of my moments of wonder will be sitting alone on Kaikoura beach at 5.30am in the morning waiting for the sun to rise. I left the campsite in darkness with camera and crossed over the railway to find a place to sit on the sand and wait.

I could see as the light started to come up a fisherman way along the other side of the beach, and apart from that nothing but the everchanging lightshow that lasted about 30 minutes. I have about 30 photos. I particularly love this one because of the contrast of the darkness of the sea, and that ball of light turning the sky to orange.

All was silent, except the rhythmic sound of the waves, entrancing and soothing, constant and re-assuring. I could feel the cool sand, and feel the gentle morning breeze, and internally I can still remember that feeling of wonder at being part of this amazing natural phenomenon that happens every morning and was happening in that place whilst my friends back home would be sound asleep. The smell and taste of the salty air completed the experience, and I simply sat and absorbed it all.

All of life is experienced through our senses… yes all of life. As we continue through this personal journey of COVID-19, and seek to maintain our own resilience, take 5 minutes today, or more if you can manage it and loose yourself in your senses. Be conscious of your ability to see, hear, feel, smell and taste as you look out of your window, go for your daily exercise, walk round your garden, look at a magazine or whatever opportunity you get today to simply stop, and wonder.

This sunrise photo reminds me that the sun rises at a different time around the world. Wherever you are reading this today, Stay Safe.

Resilience Alphabet – R is for Remember and Rainbow

I decided a couple of days ago to look out my two Passports (of the electronic kind) and have a look at the photos I have stored on them, some of which go back to 1979! As we’ve looked at them some have made us laugh, some are pretty awful, and many of them have been reminders of days out and family holidays, significant events and people, and times of much fun and laughter.

In terms of your personal resilience today I recommend you go and pull out some random photos or a photo album from some previous year, and revisit some of the times that you thought were significant enough to capture. Go laugh at what’s fun, remember important moments, and revisit happy times. It’s interesting that in the last 10 years the subject matter of photos has changed significantly with the development of mobile phones… go back before the pre-selfie age!

And if you are of the activist persuasion, write down 10 places you have been on holiday that you would like to revisit and create a bucket list; or write down 10 people you have photos of that you haven’t spoken to in a while and track them down. You have a vast store of happy memories – what a resource to revisit at this time.

It would have been odd to go through the Alphabet right now and not include Rainbow. The Rainbow has been a symbol of hope and promise to many from earliest times: a visible sign of hope beyond the storm, giving us reassurance that the storm will have an end point. Remember the Rainbow today, and as you do Remember too those who are not having a holiday today because they are working on our behalf.

Resilience Alphabet – Q is for Questions and Quote

On this weekend, when many will celebrate Easter, I wonder what questions are bubbling around for you. As we continue to think about personal resilience, I would encourage you to adopt the sentiment of this Quote. We have so many questions bombarding us at this time, fuelled perhaps by the media, or by our own concerns about our health and the safety of those we love, the security of our work, cancelled holidays, questions of faith, questions about the well-being of our children, and so the list goes on.

Quotes that work for me become something I return to, and ponder, and reflect on, and think about from different perspectives. During a particularly difficult period of time for me, I used the following quote as a touchstone: “All will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” (Julian of Norwich). It is a statement of belief, beyond the circumstances of life. I frequently remind myself of these words in times of uncertainty or challenge around the big topics of life.

Right now there are many things that remain unsolved in our hearts. The invitation in the quote above to “Live in the Question” rather than to seek to resolve all the uncertainties of this time is wise advice.

If I have a tip for today in terms of your personal resilience, go and find a quote from your faith or life’s philosophy that resonates for you right now and put it up in your kitchen or somewhere you will see as you pass through the day. And at least for the holiday weekend, go and simply live in the midst of all the questions you may have right now, there will be time for answers on another day. This too will pass… and as always Stay Safe.

Resilience Alphabet – P is for Pause and Praise

All over the country last night, as has become a national habit, people were clapping for those who are seeking to look after us in many ways during this time. As in all times of crisis, there are many hidden heroes and in your own way you may be one of them, quietly getting on with something important, and something that needs to be done.

Today in terms of personal resilience I want to encourage you to Pause for a different reason: to take the time to consider how you have fared over the last three weeks; to recognise those things you have done that have strengthened your resilience and to recommit to making some of them a daily habit. In times of high stress, we need to practise habits of high self-care, as there are so many possibilities for having our energy and resources zapped! So pause and form a new commitment to what you know enables you to take a break from all that is happening.

And turning to the second word, I wonder how readily you give praise, and how readily you receive praise. Today’s mission is to find or better still create opportunities to say thank you to the many people who are making your life brighter during these times when we are all adjusting to new ways of living our life. Maybe you can even set yourself a target of 5 or 10 people you want to acknowledge and thank for how they are making a difference to you during this time.

So as you Pause and set good habits for your self-care, and seek opportunities to praise and thank people for a jobs large and small, be kind to your too and as always Stay Safe.

Resilience Alphabet – O is for Openness

If I had been asked to write an article called “A week in the life of an Executive Coach” a few weeks ago, I imagine it would have been very different to the one I would write if I were to focus on the last three weeks. The scale of the challenges clients are facing, the speed of change, and the need to make critical decisions with wide-ranging consequences have never been experienced by most of us in our lifetime.

Some of you will know that I am accredited in Conversational Intelligence®, the work of Judith Glaser, which looks amongst other things at how we build trust as human beings through the openness and transparency of our conversations. That work has never been more relevant than it is today.

In terms of personal resilience one of the best things we can do right now from a well-being point of view is be open about (1) how we are today, (2) what we are feeling, and (3) what our hopes and plans are for going forward. This degree of openness comes more naturally to some than others. Some will immediately go into thoughts when we ask them how they are feeling. The answer to the feeling question is best described in one word. If we spent just a fraction of the time we spend on media input on being open with each other and ourselves we would release some of the personal pressure we are all feeling.

In my work with clients I often say of difficult thoughts and feelings that “it is better out than in”, that is, it is better to be expressed. Whether that is releasing these thoughts and feelings through talking it out, writing it out, exercising it out or whatever. Letting the steam out a little at a time is way more helpful than holding it in until it explodes.

It is not brave to ignore the elephant of fear and threat that is in the room. Courage is acknowledging it and working together to navigate the current situation in spite of it. Take care today to ensure that as you listen to the feelings of others, you are open about what you feel too. Be open, and as always stay safe.

Resilience Alphabet – N is for ‘No’

There is a well known saying “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” The last few weeks have created an interesting phenomenon in the workplace, and perhaps elsewhere. Some people are working 16 hour days and have done so for the last 16 or so days in order to give us our best chance of a good health outcome from COVID-19 aka known as staying alive. At the same time others are feeling stir crazy because of the guidance to stay at home, work from home, have the kids at home, and only exercise once a day.

One of the keys to personal resilience right now is the ability to know when to say No! That takes me to a question I haven’t answered in these posts. “What’s so important about personal resilience?”. Our bodies are designed to respond to crisis. What they are not designed for is to deal with high levels of stress over a prolonged period of time. At the very least we’re looking at being in this state for a few months rather than a few weeks.

A long time ago I was asked a question: “What is your ‘Yes’ worth if you don’t say ‘No’?” It is, and always has been, important to say ‘No’ to some things in order to say ‘Yes’ to what’s important. If we fail to make this distinction, we will simply arrive at overload, particularly in times of high stress.

This morning I said ‘No’ to something I would ordinarily have said a resounding ‘Yes’ to. In terms of personal resilience, what may you need to say ‘no’ to at this time, in order to ensure you have time and energy for the ‘Yes’ that only you can provide. Take time to re-evaluate your current priorities this morning, and when you say ‘no’ know that it is for a more impactful ‘yes’.