Handling everything that comes your way without missing a beat often seems necessary if you want to advance your career. But has this idea gone too far? Here are some tips on dealing with adversity.
Resilience is the modern trait du jour. We are constantly told that we must be resilient – able to withstand whatever comes our way. We must build a mental Great Wall around our mind that negativity cannot penetrate.
But what about reality?
To be a successful parent, spouse, friend, business leader, colleague and client saviour simultaneously is almost impossible. Often, you will do one thing well at the expense of another. You need to balance these demands if you want to feel successful in life.
Our attachment system shapes how we relate emotionally to others, influencing whether we feel secure or anxious and avoidant. If someone you are attached to is hurt or hurts you, then you will probably feel upset.
If you practise mindfulness, rather than hiding your feelings behind the Great Wall, you will experience that upset, exploring and understanding it. You won’t be the person smiling happily at a loved one’s funeral. After all, how many people would consider that an example of good mental health?
Being mindful of challenges in your attachment system means acknowledging when you feel discomfort and accepting the situation for what it is. This is better than denying how you feel or thinking things are worse than they are.
When you face a challenge that you have no control over – such as a loved one’s health problem or a workplace restructure in which you are made redundant – you may feel helpless. No matter what you do, you can’t influence the outcome and you experience what is known as low self-efficacy. If you practise mindfulness, you will accept that you can’t change what happens next. You won’t think that you’re awesome – just that you need to awaken the giant within to overcome the challenge. It can also help to focus on something you’re good at.
A balancing act
It is important to understand that there are times when you feel “off” because your sensory needs are not being met. Fortunately, it is easy to fix with some sensory modulation.
During childhood, your brain changed and developed based on the stimulation it received. If you played on swings, merry-go-rounds or slippery dips, or went skiing, your vestibular system – which senses acceleration and orientation – developed in response.
Imagine you have a big client meeting or are due in court, but you’re not “in the zone”. It could be that you have a vestibular imbalance in your sensory system – and fixing it can be as easy as swivelling in a chair. If the imbalance is proprioceptive (the sense of where your body is in space when you close your eyes), you might need to lift weights. If it’s visual, try watching a movie.
By learning what sensory input your body needs, you will be able to respond effectively to the world. When you are feeling “off”, you can use the above tips to get back on your game. And, the more you are on your game, the fewer problems you will have.
It is important to understand that overcoming adversity is a balancing act and even with the help of mindfulness, sensory modulation and healthy attachments to others you will not function perfectly all the time.
But using these techniques will support you during your ebbs and flows – when you may feel less capable in one area while feeling quite capable in another – adding meaning to your life.