I had intended to write an article this week about the importance of practicing mindfulness and meditation as a way of improving one’s resilience. However, something happened last Friday night that motivated me to postpone it in favour of writing about my experience instead.
I was at a friend’s place in their backyard for a socially distanced drink (thanks COVID). Normally, with my guy friends, the deepest the conversation gets is about which beer is better, which rum is better, which hockey team is better – you know the drill. No feelings and certainly nothing specific about our mental health. However, a strange thing happened – one of my friends mentioned the articles that I have been posting on LinkedIn about resiliency. The talk then turned to resiliency, and to some of the things we do to become resilient.
During our conversation, my mind flashed back to another conversation that I had with another guy friend just a couple of weeks earlier. During that conversation, my friend mentioned my LinkedIn articles on resiliency and the conversation turned to some of the anxieties that we both had experienced over the years. I can tell you that despite knowing these friends for many years, we had never raised the topic of resiliency, nor discussed any of our anxieties. Maybe it’s a guy thing – you know, if we talk about this kind of thing we might seem weak, and no guy, thanks to societal conditioning, wants to be seen as being weak.
What did I get out of each conversation? When the conversations initially turned to my articles, I could feel the tension rising in my shoulders as it normally does when I am under stress. Being a classically socialized male, speaking about my emotions and mental state is still new, and showing vulnerability to others, especially men, is still a little scary. However, by the time the conversations were done, the tension was gone. In the end, these conversations left me feeling like I was not alone, and this gave me a strong sense of relief.
There is no doubt in my mind that talking about resiliency or any mental health issues with others is a great way of building our own resilience. Knowing that others are going through the same things as you are, helps relieve the stress of thinking that there must be something wrong with you. I know for me that having at least one less thing to worry about – that there is something wrong with me – is better for my mental health.
In addition, talking about resiliency allows us to trade ideas with others – ideas that might help each other. One conversation I had with friends this past week related to the difficulties that some were having with falling asleep at night. We shared tricks and techniques that we had each tried and what was working. Not only did I leave those conversations with renewed motivation for my own resilience practices, I also left with that positive rush we feel when we act in service of others.
Another gift, and maybe the greatest gift of these conversations for me, was it further deepened my connection with my friends. Human connection is an innate desire, and when we have meaningful connections with our friends, there is no doubt in my mind that those connections make us more resilient.
Now to my last point. When we think of bravery, we think of the many acts of bravery of first responders and front-line workers, especially during COVID. Certainly, they are all well deserving of the credit that they receive for their acts of bravery. However, there are other people who also deserve due credit for their acts of bravery – those people who fearlessly come out and talk about their struggles with resilience and mental health. Such an act shows the mental and moral strength to face criticism and judgment, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. To those who have come out and shared their stories, I tip my hat to you. Please know that your acts of bravery are helping countless others who are also struggling with their resiliency and mental health.