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Learning to bend – not break on World Mental Health day

By Shauna Cathcart
IN thinking about the theme of Resilience for World Mental Health day 2018 I am reminded of an incident that happened to me the day storm Ali hit Fermanagh. 
I was pulling into the museum carpark when a man from the council came running towards me. He pointed to a huge tree that had fallen on two cars in the carpark and kindly advised me to seek alternative parking for my own safety.
The term resilience is about being able to negotiate the storms of life and remain standing. A person that is resilient is more like a bamboo tree in a storm. Although a single bamboo may look weak and frail, it has the ability to spring back after experiencing adversity. Its secret to survival lies in its ability to bend rather than break.
So how can young people adopt this ‘bend but don’t break’ approach to life? I love the title of the popular Dean Lewis song, ‘It’ll be alright’ that is currently climbing the charts globally. It highlights two very important keys to resilience.
The first is hope! No matter how difficult and painful things are (like a relationship breakup) the pain will ease and things will get better! When our emotions are in charge it is very easy to get hijacked or flooded by distressing feelings and loose perspective. 
Although our brain really wants to protect us, it has a tendency to catastrophise and jump to the wrong conclusions when we are stressed and can lead us into difficulty.
By just breathing to help our strong emotions subside, we can begin to catch our thoughts and ‘re-think’ the situation by asking ‘How else can I think about this?
When we reframe our thoughts ‘I can’t’ becomes ‘I can if..”
…If I get support, if I talk to someone, if I study more…
The second point the song highlights is the importance of surrounding ourselves with good people when we are struggling. Just talking with a trusted friend or professional can help us think about things in a more helpful and balanced way and find a way through.
With some flexible thinking and a friend to lean on, our young people have some important tools to stand tall and rooted when unexpected curve balls come along and although things may feel tough for a while they really will ‘be alright!’
 

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