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I was thinking of what I could write to give to those that read this blog this Christmas. In reflecting on 2013, I think the main driver to my own resilience has been my ability to flip my mindset when I’m in a difficult situation. Although things are still hard, having a positive mindset in my everyday has made my ability to ‘Bounce Back’ and ‘Bounce Higher’ from difficult circumstances a lot easier.

Whether we are resilient or not, it is a human trait that we can improve. Resilience is definitely needed to tackle any hurdles in our future and knowing that we have a good ability to ‘bounce back’ and can keep bouncing’ amidst failure, is reassuring. Knowing that we are resilient makes the ‘unknown’ in our futures less daunting. Most of us are so fearful of the unknown and any change, that we become negative and bitter about our past and fear whatever may take place in the future. We are paralyzed in the present, thus starving ourselves of fun and enjoyment.

To be resilient, we have to become very mindful of our thoughts. Each of our actions is inspired by our thoughts. Therefore, if we can focus on changing the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take.

The following are twelve resilience steps that we can choose to employ this Christmas and into 2014. So, during this festive season, choose to get rid of your negative internal conversations and instead, replace them with positive and empowering thoughts.

1. Become Aware of Negative Self-Talk

The first step to resilience is awareness. We cannot begin to change our thoughts and subsequent actions without firstly being aware of our thinking. So, become aware of the negative dialogue that’s running through your mind. Whether it’s about yourself or another, choose to be mindful of the pessimistic thoughts you are letting fill up your mind.

Unfortunately, a lot of our negative self-talk has come from our past experiences. Perhaps a person from your past may have told you that “you are too loud” or “stupid” and you have let these labels subconsciously negatively impact your paths. These may be issues that seem real or are reinforced by your negative self-talk. Personally, I found that when I first began my stroke recovery, a lot of my inner chatter would often be filled with talk of “I am so slow”. I constantly told myself that I was slow and therefore my mind had ruled out the opportunity to try and perform faster. I learnt that (whether or not I would one-day be speedy or not) I was constantly telling myself such negative stories, and this was only going to negatively shape my future actions and ability to move forward. Another thing I often catch myself saying is, “I can’t” or finding negative excuses for not completing the task. In this mindset I’m already resisting the possibility of succeeding or performing well in that task.

So, when you catch yourself saying “I can’t…” flip that negative thought to, “Why not?” – challenge yourself to put a positive thought or outcome in its place.

2. List Positive Affirmations

Choose to fill your mind with positive statements or affirmations about a desired outcome. In mustering up positive possibilities that may arise in the future you are already opening up new pathways in your thought processing and imagining positive outcomes of choosing to bounce back and bounce higher. However, for me it wasn’t until I made these statements more meaningful, that I was more likely too put them into practice and reach my full potential. Considering how my affirmations would shape not just mine, but others’ lives around me was instrumental in deciding what my next goal was. I also find that these affirmations need to be said aloud and known to others around you to make them genuine and in a way make you accountable for your actions and intentions.

3. Devise Positive Stories and Outcomes.
It’s so easy to forecast a negative story for how each event in our life will pan out. Negative thought spurs negative thoughts and we become so trapped by this pessimistic mind-chat and limited in our lives. In fact, a bad story and outcome that has definitely entered my mind, is that my stroke-affected body will stop me from doing things I love. “I wont get work or married!” and “I’ll never have kids and all my supporters will move on with their ‘normal’ lives and I’ll end up in a nursing home”. However, all this script does is limit and trap and isolate me.

Choose to depict a good outcome in the script of your life. The more we focus on ‘the bad things’ that could eventuate from performing a certain task we are automatically generating new fears, obstacles and excuses to not continue.

4. Accept your Spot
Before we can move forward, accepting where we are in life and thinking about both the positive and negative aspects of our situation are paramount. Often this takes time and is also influenced by other external factors. For example, often it isn’t until those around you have accepted what has happened to you, that we can begin to fully accept how that event has changed us. I found that for many years after my stroke, although I had begun to accept the changes in me, many around me struggled to accept that the ‘old Em’ wasn’t coming back. This only hindered the relationships I was in and the ability for us all to move forward in life. The power of feeling included and accepted by those around us, often leads to us feeling supported to really accept our spots and begin to move forward. Other factors like time are also important in helping us process what we have endured before we can begin to see beyond the obstacle.

Although there are many factors that clearly can influence our ability to accept, how can you help this process for yourself or another? Perhaps consider that in not accepting another’s situation you may be preventing them from really moving forward – “Accept what you can’t change and change what you can”

5. Identify hurdles and problem-solve
Without being paralysed by them it’s good to identify possible hurdles in our paths, as these can each be perceived as a way of problem solving how we can tackle such situations, should they occur in the future. For example, I often go on trams and the vehicle often takes off before I’m safely seated. The first time this happened to me I was reluctant to get up and try it again. However, by experiencing the incident, I learnt that I could brainstorm and implement things in the task that would prevent this happening again. Then, I felt prepared if I was suddenly thrown (literally) into a bad situation.

So in order for us to go about our days with positivity, it is important that we identify external negative hurdles in our lives and find ways that we can problem-solve these potential traps.

6. Identify Strengths
How often do we focus on our own weaknesses? We become so aware of what we can’t do, or what we aren’t good at, that our self-esteem plummets. Often we become aware of what other people’s negative attributes are too and become so focused on them as a reason that the partnership or task at hand has failed.

Choose to focus on their strengths, what they can bring to your relationship with them and watch their performance and self-esteem skyrocket!

7. Surround yourself with Positive People
Are there people in your life who make you quite negative? Whilst it’s important to whine or vent about things that you have or are experiencing, it’s detrimental to spend the entire conversation complaining. In fact, when we spend our time focusing on something negative we only feed the issue. What’s more, we walk away usually feeling more overwhelmed by that issue and drained. For example, initially I found myself so engrossed in my pain and found myself discussing with my friend over coffee about how debilitating it was. I found that the conversation became about ‘my pain’ and I would only feel worse, more restricted by this and would leave my friend feeling helpless. Although, it was important to mention, this dominating the conversation is not healthy.
Be mindful of your thinking during the conversation. Are you talking about problems over and over again? Perhaps this is tainting our experience, other’s perception, our relationships and overall, how high we bounce?

Choose to surround yourself with thoughts and actions from people who will empower you. In this positive environment, it’s likely that you will feel encouraged, challenged and supported to achieve. The positive energy that this environment will afford will start affecting the self-talk that you engage in as well.

8. Live in the ‘NOW’
I find that by simply altering what I say internally and to others into a more present, optimistic tone, things automatically seem more optimistic and possible. Often I change what I say – “I might” or “One day” to “I will” or “Now” or “When I” really positively changes my outlook. By changing my statements to being more present, future worries seem easy to tackle and less daunting. For example, rather than say, “One day I might write a book and get it published,” I try and say ‘When I write & publish my book…”

Things always seem less daunting in my day if I focus on, “What can I do right now?” Feelings of being stuck and not challenged seem to automatically make my future so overwhelming. Instead, I know that my anxieties about what might occur are out of my control. It’s the positive steps I can take today, in the ‘NOW” which are going to positively shape the outcome.

So often we become so regretful about our past actions and so anxious about our future endeavors, that we don’t enjoy the present. It’s tough to clear our mind of these thoughts and simply ‘be’. One strategy that I have incorporated into my day is using my breath as an anchor to the present. By simply focusing on my breath I become mindful of the incoming and outcoming air and hence, thoughts of past or future worry are not in my mind.

9. “Face your Fears”
Throughout my life I admit to being fearful of any change. In fact my sister often said, ‘Face your Fears Em!”At the time I just felt bullied to take risks in life and admired how courageous she was. However, with hindsight, I definitely see that her words are so true in order to grow and develop. Often it’s fear that holds us back from entering into the ‘unknown’. We resist change, as we become terrified of the outcome. Hence, we opt to stay in our comfort zones. There are so many times in my life where a fear has stopped me from achieving. So many times I have (& still do) justify my decision to stay wrapped in cotton wool, claiming to others and myself that I’m content with where I am. However, it’s human nature to keep striving and we need to identify our fears and take on changes to step up! At the moment I am writing a book but my fear of it not being great, has stopped me from writing any further. I have found so many excuses (often legitimate) to stay in my comfort zone.

“It’s the expected that keeps us safe, but still, it’s the unexpected that challenges us and pushes us forward to achieve”.
So ask yourself, “What are you afraid of?” and “What is the worst thing that could happen?“ Choose to confront your fears and picture a more positive outcome.

10. Be Grateful

Research has shown that resentment and gratefulness cannot co-exist. Therefore, by choosing to be more grateful for things that take place in your day, you are minimizing feelings of resentment. A year ago, I found that I was becoming increasingly resentful. I blamed my current spot on anything or anyone around me. I didn’t enjoy my everyday and found myself being bitter and viewed others’ words and actions negatively. I decided to try and look for things in my day that I was thankful for and began the 365 Grateful Project. Every day in 2013 I have stated on my Facebook status what I am grateful for. Initially this was difficult and throughout the year there have been days where generating things I’m appreciative of is extremely tough, but after a while it has become automatic. Over time, I have definitely become so much more aware of all that I am thankful for. Particularly during difficult days, continuing this project has forced me to focus on positive things in my day.

What is it in your day that you are grateful for? Choose to elicit the positive things!

11. Focus on Enjoyable Moments
It is definitively easier to sustain a positive mindset if you focus on the fun times in life. Of course each of us has huge setbacks in our lives and encounter difficult times. However, we have a choice of whether we focus on those obstacles. Despite having had a stroke at an early age and the ongoing physically and emotional challenges it has brought to mine and others lives, I try hard to focus on all that I have achieved, the amazing support that I have and the opportunities I have. It is definitely a positive, open mindset that really helps in the inevitable ‘downs’ that occur in life.

12. Engage in meaningful tasks
Consider how you perform in tasks that you enjoy doing and those things that you hate. Am I right in saying that you’re better at those tasks that you practise and don’t mind doing often? Therefore, it’s the tasks that we love to do that we are going to practise more often and perform better in. Meaningful tasks also bring about our passion and distract us from our past, keep us engaged in the present and enable us to hope and dream in the future. We are more likely to ‘bounce back’ and keep trying if it’s a task we enjoy doing. and we find has meaningful.

The above twelve Steps to Resilience I’ve briefly looked at are things that you can consider and incorporate in your day to develop your positivity. Hopefully, these steps will lead to an improvement both in your own ability to ‘bounce’ back and ultimately your quality of life. Each of the steps I’ve rambled about takes time and effort to implement. However, we can choose to continually practise these and heighten our positivity and resilience in the future. I hope that you will then feel more positive, more empowered to take on change, and reach your highest potential in life.

I wish you all a happy (and resilient) Christmas and 2014!

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