Rachel Kelly
Writer, Mental Health Campaigner, Public Speaker

Resilient and equipped by Andy Walton


Andy Walton is a community mental health nurse based in the North of England, working with military veterans. 

He also writes a blog www.nowandafterwards.com focusing on anxiety in modern times from a personal and professional perspective.


“Happiness can be overrated: I don’t think that’s something we can have all the time. I’m not sure people want to feel happy so much as resilient and equipped. People enjoy watching sad movies for a reason.”
Alanis Morissette, The Guardian Newspaper, 9.1.16

For some­one who has often over­analysed situa­tions and struggled with rumina­tion, I have found self-help rea­d­ing a power­ful and em­power­ing co­p­ing strategy. Often this comes in the form of The Guar­dian’s pro­gres­sive re­port­ing on the area of ment­al health and it was the above quote by Al­anis Mor­risset­te with­in the paper which hel­ped tie every­th­ing togeth­er. Re­plac­ing the word hap­pi­ness, with re­sili­ence, has led to a dif­fer­ence way of approach­ing wor­ry­ing thoughts.

The idea of focus­ing on re­sili­ence has wor­ked two fold, first­ly it has in­spired a sense of con­trol over one’s wellbe­ing and second­ly it has en­couraged a no­tion of ac­ceptan­ce, being at peace with how th­ings are rath­er than focus­ing on how I think they should be based on the high ex­pec­ta­tions of how I think hap­pi­ness should look as is pre­sen­ted on our de­vices.

Being resilient and proactively equipped for the challenges modern life imposes on our wellbeing allows for us be there for others, achieve goals, experience basic sensations and be present for the moment. 

Feel­ing happy hap­pens in these mo­ments, mo­ments that come and go and happ­en be­cause we are re­silient and ex­perienc­ing th­ings as they are in­stead of what we think they should be. As a com­mun­ity ment­al health nurse, this les­son was not some­th­ing you neces­sari­ly learn in train­ing but it’s the theme which flows through my writ­ing on my blog nowan­dafter­wards.com.

Inspiring debate 

I strive to be a bet­t­er prac­tition­er every day and enjoy rea­d­ing pro­gres­sive writ­ing from in­dividu­als li­ber­al and will­ing to share their sto­ries. Such as Rac­hel Kelly, who I am privileged has asked me to write this blog for her page. As well as in­spir­ing my pract­ise, I am also in­spired to write.

Whilst acknow­ledges dif­ferent strateg­ies work for dif­ferent peo­ple, this post is not an at­tempt to be an all-encompassing approach to treat­ing ones struggle with ment­al health but hopeful­ly it will work to in­spire de­bate and the shar­ing of ideas. Its con­tents is an ac­cumula­tion of ad­vice re­ceived as a past ser­vice user of the NHS and private therapy through to the ac­quired know­ledge from train­ing and prac­tis­ing as a ment­al health nurse.

Let me start by point­ing out that we are all im­per­fect, cap­able of mak­ing good & bad de­cis­ions in fast paced, de­mand­ing and dis­tract­ing modern lives. We all need to appreciate this, ease up, and start cutt­ing our­selves some slack. This can be dif­ficult when a society fuel­led by the growth of soci­al media is con­stant­ly com­par­ing their self-critical in­sides to oth­ers out­sides.

We are li­v­ing with raised ex­pec­ta­tions and creat­ing a jud­gement­al approach to peo­ple and ex­peri­ence which simp­ly acts to loc­ate hap­pi­ness in the fu­ture de­pen­dant on meet­ing a cer­tain criteria. We should re­cogn­ise this, keep th­ings sim­ple, dis­cip­lined and out­ward look­ing. We must be more pro­ac­tive in de­velop­ing re­sili­ence through equipp­ing our­selves with con­trol­led approac­hes for man­ag­ing worry & rumina­tion, de­velop­ing self aware­ness and or­ganis­ing and im­plement­ing a positive li­fes­tyle.

As the stig­ma sur­round­ing ment­al health re­duces we are start­ing to acknow­ledge that every­one has their own is­sues and a struggle with ment­al wellbe­ing is not only com­mon but norm­al. A norm­al and un­derstand­able rea­c­tion to past ex­peri­ences and cur­rent situa­tions made worse by un­help­ful co­p­ing met­hods and habits. We can look at mak­ing sense of our ex­peri­ences by de­velop­ing in­sight about our­selves as in­dividu­als. Is the way of think­ing about self and oth­ers af­fected by early life ex­peri­ence? Are we being over­ly rea­ctive? Negative? Nar­row min­ded? We need to look for al­ter­native ways of think­ing, share with friends and fami­ly and don’t let it fuel furth­er wor­ries.

Resilience 

Our negative thoughts play a key role with re­gards to our ment­al wellbe­ing. Re­sili­ence re­l­ies on our ab­il­ity to con­trol it. We therefore need to re­cogn­ise troubl­ing thoughts and stress be­com­ing a rumina­tion. Ruminat­ing and fixat­ing on un­wel­come thoughts and feel­ings about oneself, oth­ers and ex­peri­ences creates tun­nel vis­ion, look­ing for evi­d­ence to fit in with these be­liefs.

Un­help­ful be­haviours of avoidan­ce, es­cape, hyper-vigilance and worry can offer short term re­lief and are easy and often in­stinctive ways of han­dl­ing areas of life we struggle with. But it also ex­plains the very rea­son pro­blems per­s­ist, get worse and make peo­ple feel as if they are stuck. These be­haviours are not pro­gres­sive in na­ture and work to main­tain the pro­blem. Re­cogn­ise this, and approach th­ings in a more positive and roun­ded way by putt­ing en­er­gy into generat­ing positive sol­u­tions to is­sues or al­ter­natives to iden­tified think­ing er­rors. De­cide what to do next, is it a worry you can ac­tion plan and do some­th­ing about positive­ly and in a con­trol­led man­n­er? If not, let it be, label the thought as just a thought, focus on your breath and then do some­th­ing ab­sorb­ing that makes you feel bet­t­er.

Focus­ing your en­er­gy on a hobby can help you for­get and chan­ge your mood in the pro­cess. From im­mers­ing our­selves in ac­tiv­ity to the qual­ity of our sleep, diet and ab­il­ity to relax, it is our daily habits that have the most ef­fect on wellbe­ing