College psychologist, Mrs Teresa Yell has a message to share with us for #WELLNESSWEDNESDAY today on resilience. Whether it’s for yourself or your child, see the suggestions below on boosting your resilience and grit.
A friend of mine called me feeling very distraught because she had had her umpteenth “explosion” for the day. The Wifi was intermittent, her son was distracted, she couldn’t understand the maths she was supposed to teach him and her husband wanted breakfast. It was only 8am. Whilst calming her down I remembered something I had recently read “ An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour” (Victor Frankl, Man’s search for meaning, 1946). My friend was angry with the situation and angry with her reaction to it.
This triggered memories of a talk I gave on Resilience at a school in Cape Town, which piggy backed on a talk given By Dr Colleen Vassiliou at our school last year. Resilience is largely regarded as an “ability to adapt in a positive way in the presence of adversity” (Chamorro-Premuzic, April 2020). Being resilient, we are told, will help us overcome, reduce and manage stress. It’s about being buoyant and bouncing back from setbacks and negative challenges. So where do emotional meltdowns fit into resilience?
Enter Professor Angela Duckworth. In her Ted Talk “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance”, she spoke about perseverance, passion and remaining motivated for the long run. This Ted Talk was a key feature of Colleen’s talk and mine in 2019 and so I wondered what Professor Duckworth’s take on resilience in the face of COVID-19 would be. In an interview aptly entitled “Finding your Grit in a crisis” she explains that resilience is the also the “body and mind dealing with adversity”. She added that feeling stressed under the current circumstances is not a “bad response”, it is an appropriate one. She however, cautions us to steer clear of secondary responses i.e feeling bad about feeling bad or reacting badly. We need to, she says, banish “I shouldn’t feel this way” thoughts as these can only add to our anxiety.
Getting back to the meltdowns, take courage my friends, these are, according to Prof Duckworth, “not a failure of resilience”. She goes on to explain that because grit is needed to achieve goals, we also need to constantly evaluate the goals we set for ourselves. So melting down and refusing to continue with one may be because we have a higher goal in mind. An example of this is when we temporarily “quit” doing maths with our children because we are becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient, the higher goal is to protect the parent-child relationship. She clarifies that being resilient gives us “permission to disengage from goals not serving a higher-level goal”. In other words, we need focus on what really matters thereby maintaining our resilience.
No one knows when COVID-19 will end so we are all in this for the long run. As Prof Duckworth says this will shape our generation as we are living through history. Each one of us will have a story to tell.
To help you create your narrative try the following suggestions made by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic:
- Find meaning: Remember “life is never made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack of meaning and purpose” (Frankl, 1946)
- Mentorship: Sharing is caring and chatting to a colleague, partner, relative or friend can provide reassurance and guidance. You are not alone.
- Be mindful: Please see one of my previous musings
- Embracing optimism – determination + will+ motivation= hopefulness. Adopt mantras like “this too shall pass” because it will and things will get better.
- Cultivate a sense of gratitude: think counterfactually. Imagine other realities to realise how grateful you are for your actual reality (Chupaska, April 2020)
- Foster positive relationships
- Look for the funny side of things – I would love to have been a fly on the wall when my friend’s husband asked for his breakfast.
- In terms of resilience meet the grittiest mouse ever
WHO IS TERESA YELL?
Ms Teresa Yell is Kingswood College’s Educational Psychologist and has practiced in the field for 15 years. She completed her postgraduate studies at RAU (Rand Afrikaans University) and her undergraduate degree at the UND (University of Natal, Durban). She is mother to two children, a daughter and son. She was the resident psychologist at both Dainfern College and Christ Church College in Johannesburg for nine years and ran a busy private practice from her home. They moved to Makhanda (Grahamstown) in 2016, and live on a small farm outside of town.