May 22, 2015

A Definition of Resilience

I started writing this post the other day. Usually I write posts in a few minutes in one go. If ever I don't finish a post it's because I know it's not working and I trash it.

But this post just sounded.... too depressing. And it's not meant to be a depressing post. It's an insight into something I've been thinking about a great deal: what it actually means to be resilient.

So I'm trying again, whilst I'm in a cheerful mood (coincidentally after a cup of tea and a slice of cheesecake).

To me, resilience is the effort it takes to keep pushing through when times are tough. It is the ability to get up and keep going instead of letting the difficulties beat me. I don't need to be resilient when things are going well. Right now I feel happy and relaxed and am not consciously calling on any coping mechanisms or willpower (other than resisting another slice of cheesecake).

I need to be resilient when I am sad or anxious or scared or exhausted, when I don't think I can cope but I don't have a choice.

And I don't have a choice. Very few of us do. There are days when I'd dearly love to just get back into bed and stay there, and days when I actually do hop into bed for an hour or two. But I always get up. I have to.

I'm sure you have to, too.

But as I said, resilience is an effort. It requires great energy. And anything that requires great energy is exhausting. Running a marathon is exhausting. Cleaning the house from top to toe is exhausting. And pushing through when times are tough is exhausting. Sometimes just getting through my regular routine on a day I feel particularly lonely or burdened takes a huge amount out of me. I collapse into bed feeling like I've competed in the Resilience Olympics, where the challenges are emotional rather than physical, and the only prizes are getting through the day.

I've been depressed in the past and, to me, being depressed is to lack the energy it takes to be resilient. When I've been depressed, I can't compete in that Olympics. I can't push through. I can't get through my tasks and win that prize.

A lot of us need to have a great deal of resilience. People all around you are pushing through their days instead of sailing through. Life is tough, and that's just the way it is. But let's all remember that being resilient takes a huge amount of effort, and to understand their exhaustion and to nurture them that little bit more.

And if they struggle, be there to help them through. Because no-one can compete in an Olympics without a support team, especially an Olympics of the soul.


  1. Resilience is a term used in the emergency management field. Resilient communities plan before an event, as preparedness helps to lessen the impact of an event. Resilient communities also come together and help each other immediately after a disaster, or adopt survival mechanisms to help themselves until formal emergency services can help them (eg using the BBQ for cooking until the power is restored.

    Following on from your post, I think you can apply the same concept to your own personal resilience. It's not about how quickly you return to 'normal' (whatever that is). It's how you plan before the bumps of life & how you look after yourself during & after the dark times, both on your own and with your support network (besties, spouse, family etc).

    Being resilient doesn't mean you won't have hard days, you know that. But I also don't think resilience means you ignore your heart and walk around smiling like everything is unicorns & rainbows when that's the total opposite of how you feel. Resilience is saying 'stuff it, today is a doona & cheesecake day & I'll be kind to myself' until the sun peaks out and you are ready to rock the world again. xx

  2. VirtuallyNonsenseMay 22, 2015 at 10:04 PM

    Just what I needed to read. So glad you didn't trash this post :)

  3. I love your metaphor, an Olympics of the soul. I just read another metaphor about how we trip over in life and keep getting up but sometimes it's better to find a different gait. I liked that too.

  4. Me too, this spoke to me
    This has been a hard year and I have to just keep wading through
    Thank you Kerri

  5. You know what, I have started to write exactly this post so many times (well perhaps not as well put as yours).

    Last year tested my resilience (the sadness of losing 6 awesome people to cancer/suicide/tragic accident mixed in with the challenges of daily life/business owning/managing a stressed out husband/being a good mum/wife/person etc). By the end of the year I just had no coping mechanisms left. Then this year happened! And really, I just wanted to go lie down in the traffic by the start of March. I just didn't feel I had the resilience to keep showing up everyday. And I just got tired of needing resilience!! The Resilience Olympics is exactly the perfect way to describe it!

    Then at that conference I went to a couple of weeks ago I heard something that kind of felt it could help with the whole resilience thing. One of the speakers mentioned he had a 'courage moment'. A moment in his life where he was so low he didn't think he could come back from it (he was a soldier in Irag so you can imagine). But he did. And now, whenever he is faced with a resilience challenging time, he refers back to that time. I'm going to give this one a go a see how it works for me!

  6. I love the idea of the 'courage moment'. My great-grandfather wrote about a similar thing (via a fishing/bee/honey metaphor!)

    "It’s a great art, this human angling, and needs infinite tact, and infinite subtilty and infinite patience. And above all, it needs a resolute determination never on any account whatever to be soured by disappointment. When I am tempted to wind up my line, and give the whole thing up in despair, I revive my flagging enthusiasm by recalling the rapture of my earlier catches… In the long and tedious hours when the waiting is weary and the nibblings vexatious and the bites disappointing, let him live on these wealthy memories as the bees live in the winter on the honey that they gathered in the summer-time.

    FW Boreham – Such A Lovely Bite – from Mushrooms On The Moor

  7. Remember the honey! Remember the bees!!!

  8. Loved reading this post and the comments from your beautiful community. Pass the cheesecake (I'm already under the doona) xx

  9. "...a resolute determination never on any account whatever to be soured by disappointment" - you come from good people, Pip Lincolne. x

  10. I think a lot of people have this notion that resilience is about 'sailing through' life's miseries, but as you so rightly point out, it's not really about that at all. Resilience isn't some happiness guarantor, rather it's a determination to keep going. It's about digging in and knowing that get up we must. That's resilience to me - the preparation of KNOWING what is needed to push through. That's the bit we can equip our kids with. I'm glad you have it. I'm glad you push through. x

  11. And thank you for sharing that, Sherry. Sending love to you and your family at such a difficult time xxx

  12. Thank you darling. And you are so right xxx

  13. I am as grateful for the community as I am for the cheesecake. MORE xxx

  14. Just so you know, I have thought of that courage moment many times in the past couple of days. I really love it. Thank you. X

  15. You are so fucking awesome Pip xxx

  16. Just keep on pushing through. Sending love x

  17. So glad xxxx (although hopefully you haven't had to CALL on that courage moment too many times in the last few days!)


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