A letter to CPPD students from an old hand
(well 9 months on from graduating if that counts!)
I can clearly remember the first day of the Diploma course, feeling like a rabbit caught in the headlights as I was handed the student handbook, which I called the “Tome of Doom.” And whilst at the time I thought I would barely be able to read through all of it, never mind follow it for a year, it was on reflection, a life-saving bible that really did help me get through the course.
As we all looked at the tome, there was a palpable energy in the air, a mix of anxiety and anticipation bouncing around the room, like atoms colliding with each other. But our tutor, cool as a cucumber and slightly bemused, confidently told us not to panic, and that we would be alright, and nine months later, on the day we all got our Diploma, she was proved right. But in that moment, as fear seeped into our being, or for some people a sense of numbness, I realised later that the fear had caused my rational, logical thinking brain to close down, and my reptilian, primal brain to kick in and I wanted to go into flight mode and run for the hills. Luckily, I decided that I wasn’t ready yet for the others to see the vulnerable me (they certainly would as the year progressed) and I tried to look as if I was in control, and calm, feeling neither but pretending to be both.
As the year progressed I remember waking up one morning at 4am worrying that I wouldn’t get my counselling hours in by July, then I had another 3am panic about all the essays and competencies I had to complete, and that was without the recordings which I think was a 5am alarm call. But I realised that unless I stayed positive, resilient and determined my fear and self-doubt would hijack my optimism and confidence; and I would be on that slippery slope that leads to fear and a loss of self- esteem.
And thank goodness I stayed with it, even during the times I thought it was too much and I was no good at this counselling lark. I mean really, who takes themselves out of their comfort zone, and puts themselves into a new and scary and demanding world? I guess, in hindsight, only those people who are willing to grow, to learn, to evolve and become more self-aware and reflective. And thank you to God or alchemy, or whoever was watching over me, that I did stay the course, because the 2 years I spent at CPPD were the most rewarding, nurturing, interesting, empowering and confidence boosting I have ever had. They were bloody fantastic. And I learned that sometimes the hardest experiences are the ones that teach us the most. Which is why when all the time the tutors talk about self-care you should listen carefully and really take the message on board.
And the people I met and studied with, well 6 of us still meet every month, for support and advice and a lovingly cooked hot meal! And we will be friends for life because we shared so much during our time together that we are now embedded in each other’s emotional lives.
And before I finish talking about me and go on to talk about resilience, I wanted to quote a paragraph from Oprah Winfrey’s new book, “What I Know For Sure,” because what she writes is so compelling, heartfelt and true that I want to share it with you.
“We all have stand-down moments, that require us to stand up, in the centre of ourselves, and know who we are. When your marriage falls apart, when that job that defined you has gone, when the people you’d counted on turn their backs on you, there’s no question that changing the way you think about your situation is the key to improving it. I know for sure that all our hurdles have meaning. And being open to learning from those challenges is the difference between succeeding and getting stuck”
So, the true measure of your courage is not what you achieve but it’s how many times you get up after being knocked down, it’s how many times you try again after failing. And resilience is about how you stay positive in the face of adversity.
“Resilience is a process, not a trait” (Padesky and Mooney). It is the ability to cope and adapt in the face of adversity and to bounce back and restore positive functioning.
People who are more resilient are better able to deal with difficult and challenging circumstances and events, basically the crap that life can sometimes throw at you. Resilience is a protective shield, call it a buffer to protect our physical and psychological health during adverse circumstances and periods of high stress and pressure.
So being resilient means we can deal with, and if necessary adapt to, stressful situations, even chaos and trauma. It’s being more aware of the feelings you have so you can process and understand them in a more healthy, positive way; It’s about using your personal strengths and resources to help you cope during difficult times.
But it’s also important to look at what resilience isn’t. It’s not putting on a brave face and toughening it out, and it’s not ignoring the problems you encounter or the feelings you have. It’s not being strong, unemotional and tough, and it’s certainly not being embarrassed about asking for support and help when you need it. Being resilient is about being vulnerable.
“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
– Joshua J. Marine
So here are some useful hints and tips on how to become more resilient:
- Stay connected to others. Having strong relationships with friends and family will give you a great support network in challenging times. Strong and nurturing relationships are the bedrock of good emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Anticipate and accept change. Change is part of life so learning to be flexible and adaptable will help you to cope with the unexpected or new. Life is a journey so be prepared for some road blocks or diversions.
- Always try and see both sides of the situation or argument. Resilient people are more adept at seeing things from another person’s point of view. When we empathize with others, we feel less alone and less entrenched in our pain. As a result, we recover faster.
- See obstacles as challenges and a way for you to learn something new. Think how you can turn the situation around. Ask yourself how you can grow from the experience.
- Be curious, be playful, get in touch with your inner child and nurture that part of yourself.
- Stay positive. Be optimistic. Expect things to work out ok. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan for things to go wrong but use this thought process in a positive way to think ahead so you have a contingency plan. This will give you confidence that if things don’t go your way you can cope because you have other options or choices.
- Express how you feel and be true to yourself. Supressing feelings will not make you resilient, it’s more likely to make you angry or worse depressed. Listen to what your body is telling you and trust your gut!
- Give and accept affection, love, praise and compliments – we all deserve them, we just often don’t know how to accept them, and we therefore cut ourselves off from a huge source of happiness and joy.
- Take charge of your life, have goals to work towards so you have a sense of accomplishment when you do achieve. Achievements will build your self- confidence and self- confidence will help build your resilience.
- Look after yourself. Sounds so simple but it really makes a difference. Eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise your body and your mind. Carve out a safe place where you can relax and be calm so you can recharge. Take up deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, kick boxing, whatever works for you.
I hope my essay and the hints and tips help you to become more resilient and of course good luck with the course!!!
And on a final note
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”
- Dr. Steve Maraboli