It’s OK not to be OK

Simone Biles Demonstrates Resilience

Hats off to Simone Biles. As my daughter (ex-competitive gymnast) and I (Nadia Comaneci fan from way back) watched in disappointment last night when Simone Biles chose to withdraw from the Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team final, the official word was that it was due to a medical issue.

We assumed physical injury. It turns out today it was a mental injury.

I think this is terrific. Why? Firstly because a high profile, elite, respected, tough cookie has publicly placed equal value on the human challenge of physical injury and psychological injury – a recognition that ‘just get on with it’ is not a useful prescription for valid psychological injury or illness.

But more importantly I believe Simone has beautifully demonstrated for us the ultimate in resilience.

She called it. Kudos to her and to, I assume, her Mindset Coach for ensuring that she felt she had permission to take control of her own experience and know and respond to her personal limits – regardless of the obvious and very public pressure. Such a great role model for us and our younger generations. This is a conversation I’ll be having with my 16 and 19 year old tonight who have both lost friends to self-harm when they felt they could not admit defeat.

We are not born with resilience. We have to learn it and we can only learn it by experiencing stress. The key is the level of understanding of the impact of stress on us physiologically and learning how to usefully process that stress and reframe or refocus it. It is certainly true that some of us are born with personalities that can handle stress more effectively – that’s just good luck (and genetics) – however everyone of us can learn about stress, how it works (in the brain and body) and develop strategies to build our resistance to it ie, to build resilience.

It’s universally understood that if you want to master something you need to understand it. Not all stress is bad. There are two kinds of stress – Eustress (good stress) –  the kind that enables you to get out of bed and go to school or work, and Distress (not so good stress) – the kind that leads to burnout, exhaustion and mental illness. Every human has a unique ‘tipping point’ where Eustress turns to Distress.  Being able to recognise that point and ‘calling it’ is vital not only to managing your mental well-being but to then using that recognition to continue to build and develop life-long resilience.

You can read more about Simone’s story here.

Take a moment to think about what it’s like when you reach your tipping point and how you choose to manage it.

Do you push through and eventually fall over?
Do you seek help or keep it suppressed?
Do you simply feel flat and confused and deflated?

Awareness and reflection is the starting point.

Developing your understanding and knowledge is next following by learning and employing self-regulation techniques.

Start today with the awareness and reflection.

Give yourself and others permission to ‘call it’, particularly if you are in a leadership position. Start notice this for yourself and others and open up the conversation. 


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