A few years ago, I was going through several challenges that culminated into what I’ll describe as a mental car crash moment. The day of the crash, I was a complete mess, stuck in my head ruminating, admonishing and feeling sorry for myself.
The next day, not feeling much better for it, I got up, grabbed my paddle board and headed into the ocean for some salty air and sun.
That day, three Humpback whales (two adults and a juvenile) ended up splashing about in Manly. It was the most magical experience being in the water with those three gorgeous creatures. I paddled closer and soaked up the opportunity to watch them (my husband instead took the opportunity to have the waves to himself while everyone else was occupied).
I still remember the distinct feeling of leaving the water with the serene sense of being ok.
As nice as it was to see the whales, it wasn’t the reason I was able to snap out of the mental funk I was in. I had been preparing for the car crash moment for a long time.
To use exercise as a metaphor, none of us would expect to feel fit and strong if we’d only do something for our fitness once a week, once a month, let alone once a quarter. But unfortunately, this is a common approach when building our resilience.
What I see a lot is someone that lets their resilience cup drain completely empty before taking action. I see them wait for the mental car crash moment to arrive and then the initial thought is to take a big, sweeping action to fill their cup.
You might recognise yourself here. Going on a yoga retreat for the weekend, booking a quick getaway to tropical Queensland, or spending a fortune getting pampered at a spa for the day. Then returning to the usual bustle of life, shoving the resilience cup to the side. Until the next mental car crash.
I am not saying that these big, sweeping actions won’t make you feel great. It is relaxing to switch off for a day or two.
It will fill your cup of resilience. And sometimes when you’ve been ignoring your resiliency for a long time, it might be necessary to temporarily remove yourself from the demanding noise of life.
Yet, relaxing weekends away rarely solve the ongoing struggles with mental exhaustion. Regardless of how much money or time you spend on one go to fill your resilience cup, the cup won’t get any bigger. It’ll get full, and then it’ll overflow.
Unfortunately, you can’t carry that overflowing resilience with you. The best way, the only way, to keep your cup from getting empty is to take small daily actions.
Topping your cup daily allows you to snap out of the mental funk quicker.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do weekends away, go on yoga retreats or splurge on a spa treatment. They can be part of your resiliency plan, but they shouldn’t be the only plan.
We can’t stop stress from coming at us, but we get to decide how we respond. With something big, our initial response will be governed by our Sympathetic Nervous System (our fight,flight, or freeze response). When we’ve built up our resilience, we can move to a Parasympathetic response (our rest and digest response) quickly. And from there, we can make the more clear headed decisions around how to move forward.
With my car crash moment, I was ready for it. I’d done the work, and invested the time so that when the day arrived, I knew I’d be able to handle it to my best ability. I knew I could move on relatively quickly without having to resort to a big, sweeping action. And you can do the same.
Have a winning day,
Ps. In case you need a reminder of the activities that can fill your resilience cup, Here's my previous blog!