During our lifetime we are told to fight for what we want in life. That we should help our neighbours and be kind always. If you have faith, all will be ok…
But life isn’t that simple
You won’t always win and despite all hope you won’t be able to fix everything and help everyone that crosses your path. This is one of life’s hardest lesson.
So how do bounce back when life has pushed you down? How can you see the blue skies when black clouds are surrounding you? How do you cope when you can’t save someone’s life?
When I first launched the Birch Hoven Project, I promised to have an honest relationship with those that followed me and I have spent an uncomfortable two months debating how to approach this sensitive subject that is close to my heart. Even now as I write these words, I keep pausing with uncertainty, worried about the consequences of me opening up a little more.
You see, two months ago my father was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly the medical teams haven’t been quick enough to keep up with the disease and now he’s in the later stages, suffering and getting more frail each day. It’s torturous to watch him fight and it’s even worst knowing there is nothing I can do to help. It’s hard to accept that I can’t fight this battle for him or take his place…ultimately I know I can’t save him.
During this time, I have reserved all my spare energy to process what is unfolding whilst trying to build up my emotional resilience so I won’t fall apart when he takes his final breath to make his way home.
To those who felt I suddenly disappeared from their lives and to those that didn’t know, I’m truly sorry I was unable to share the details of my situation. This initially was a process I needed to work out for myself and truth be told, I didn’t want to burden you on your path. I hope you will understand and always know that your happiness is at the forefront of my mind.
I hope by sharing my experience now it will help those of you out there struggling to steer through your life crisis. More importantly I want you to understand what being resilient really means and the damage caused by trying to resist changes you may have no control over.
What does it mean to be resilient?
To be resilient is to able to recover quickly from trauma without it causing life long damage.
Very often you will hear resilient people compared to bamboo for their abilities to be flexible without breaking. Personally I think this Japanese proverb explains the concept of being resilient perfectly.
‘The Bamboo that bends is stronger than the Oak that resists’ -Japanese proverb
So let’s talk about how YOU can build up your emotional resilience so you can take on anything that is thrown your way.
5 tips to build up Emotional Resilience
• Seperate fact from fiction.
When something terrible happens, we initially let our feelings dictate our actions and the majority of the time, we either end up falling into ‘poor me’ syndrome or regretting our actions at a later time.
To avoid this, gather your facts carefully and contemplate all angles before taking any action. A good tip is to try to see the point of view of others involved. Try as hard as you can to focus on those cold hard facts first to get clear perspective of your situation.
• Be Self Aware.
Once you can see the reality of your predicament, you can focus on how you feel. Those that practice mindfulness on a regular basis will not find the concept of ‘feeling’ the moment new, but for those that don’t, I would suggest you try to find a natural spot and try still you mind.
Hopefully this will allow your inner voice to be heard above the roar of the ego that will act as a self protective mechanism to stop you feeling the pain you are meant to feel.
It is important to remember that feelings are abstract and like the clouds in the sky, they will come and go. It’s better to acknowledge all your feelings and let them go peacefully than it is to hold on and beat yourself up over having that one negative feeling that leads self loathing and destructive behaviour.
Over the years I have seen many people struggle with their feelings and go down the road of self-destruction rather than face the fear head on. Don’t give in to the fear, you are not alone.
Many people think they’re fine if they are rely ‘just a little bit’ on drink, drugs, sex and even food to get them through the worst. You are not ok, and that IS actually ok. Be hurt, cry even scream if it helps. Just don’t bottle up those emotions, because if you do, I guarantee you will pop like a champagne cork when you least expect it.
• Recruit your support team carefully…Do not disconnect.
You are not alone in your despair but it is important you select the right team of people to see you through. Very often, it’s not your nearest and dearest that will get you through the dark times; it will be those that are emphatically bound to your situation and have been through it themselves.
Sometimes when you reach out you may find that those you thought would be there for you are nowhere to be seen. Or worst, they’re not as supportive as you expected them to be. Sound familiar? I bet you were hurt and unable to fathom why they were so thoughtless and cold. The reason is quite simple, they were unable to help you. You must respect this, as what you’re going through is part of your journey not theirs. You mustn’t get bitter remembering all the times you helped them out, it’s a waste of energy. Focus on finding those that can and will want to help you. You may be pleasantly surprised who you let into your life.
If you’re more like me and prefer to brood on your own, I would strongly suggest you don’t completely disconnect from the world. It can be dangerous to stay in your own head and trust me when I say the black void I always talk about; is very welcoming to those that seek solitude. Maybe select a few trusted individuals to tell and be clear how you want them to support you. This is want I have done and I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am to have the support I have. To those trusted few, thank you!
• It’s all about balance.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the importance of having a healthy work/life balance right? Well when you’re going through crisis, taking up a new (healthy) hobby can actually help you see beyond your problem and the black clouds overhead. But be careful not to use this new hobby to distract you from your problems altogether. As hard as it might be, you must give yourself time to adjust to your changing circumstances otherwise it will come back and haunt you for the rest of your life.
• Don’t let what happened dictate who you are.
Finally, don’t let what has happened to you completely define who you are as a person. You are so much more than that and have so much to give. When something life changing occurs, it can shatter your life into tiny pieces.
Obviously what has happened will permanently mark you; but instead of trying to piece your old life together try creating something more beautiful from the pieces left behind. Spend time getting to know yourself again; go out, explore and see what the world has to offer.
Always remember, beyond the black clouds the blue skies are always there…
By Chrystal Wanstall
Founder of The Birch Hoven Project
Note: Two months after writing this article my father sadly passed away 28th of August 2016. I did debate whether to reframe the message of this article to reflect the loss but decided to keep it as it was originally written out of respect of the journey I was on as it’s one I’m sure many of you are now on; be it personal loss, career crisis or simply that you are on a path you wish to change. Stay strong people!