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Regardless of whatever problems people bring to me, one thing I try to do with everyone is to build their individual resilience, their ability to bounce back from negative experiences, to minimise their chance of further psychological problems or of relapse post-treatment.
In some respects, it’s a little idealistic because our individual level of vulnerability varies. While some may breeze through a major life change, such as a house move or a relationship breakup, others will struggle. For some people, building resilience can be extremely hard work.
An interesting project has been launched in the Sydney Metropolitan Area to promote resilience and targeted specifically towards mental health consumers. The Seasons for Growth project, offered by the Mental Health Association of NSW in conjunction with Good Grief Ltd, is a peer education program to develop resilience, knowledge, skills and strategies to manage emotional responses to change and grief that can follow a number of life-changing experiences. The program follows the change process of the four seasons to describe the journey from identifying and naming the experience(s) to developing skills to cope and accept the changes and how to move on. The peer aspect of the program promotes the value of the life experience and the sharing of recovery journeys. If you’re interested in participating in this project, please see here.
However, if such a program is not available to you, there are a number of things you can do to build your own personal resilience. These include:
Building good, supportive relationships. This may be with family, close friends or through social interaction as appropriate for you. The important thing is to get connected, to join with others, to talk to people, to feel comfortable asking for help and allowing people to help where possible.
Build good problem-solving skills Think about how you can solve problems? Reflect on the past. What have you overcome and how did you do it? What resources are available to you? Who has been able to help you in the past?
Improve your communication skills Effective communication increases our chance of being heard and improves our confidence in asking for what we need.
Have realistic and achievable goals. Sometimes the goals we set ourselves can be overwhelming, with the consequence that we may become disheartened or even give up. Make sure your goals are realistic and increase your sense of mastery or achievement by breaking the bigger goals down into smaller manageable steps.
Maintain a sense of humour. Granted, this can be particularly difficult sometimes.
Look after yourself Both physically and mentally. Relaxation techniques can be useful but some people find them hard to implement. As with anything, the key is commitment and practice. Exercise is a good alternative, even a regular walk outside in nature.
Most importantly, learn to trust yourself. Your personal skills and instincts are very valuable.