I once owned a book called ‘SAS. Are You Tough Enough?’ Latterly there have been times that I think I am. 2020 has thrown everything at me from every direction and yet I am here, I am resolute, and I have a new business called The Visuals Advisor.
I am sure there are many people who would say that starting up a business in the middle of a pandemic was a crazy idea. However, from the onset of the first lockdown, I knew that once I had come to terms with losing my liberty and adapted to my concerns about my emotional health, that creativity would surely follow. If anyone is qualified to be confined and released repeatedly then it would be me. This is my superpower!
Resilience is something I have discovered through a series of traumas. These dramatic episodes have dictated the course of my life in a series of natural highs and lows.
I think I got my dogged determination to never give up from my father. He was in The 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment. He also had a strong understanding of the effects of trauma having seen army friends suffer emotionally after their service. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to parachute into a war zone or see military action. I find it difficult to envisage jumping out of a plane in the first instance having experienced taking the controls of a glider plane and perusing the ground beneath me.
A male friend of mine after hearing my story once said, “The lads thought we were hard, but what have you been through?” I had not told them myself and to be honest I found it slightly unnerving at the time that they knew what my experience might be.
The reality is that we only know our own problems and how we cope becomes habitual. The grass is never truly greener elsewhere. I would not change my life for anyone else’s. By accepting our situation we are more equipped to manage it. Some people have problems, conditions, environments, and pain that I find incomprehensible. I never feel comfortable comparing and contrasting. All I know is that I have been through my own turbulent journey and periodically have come out on top.
Resilience is like a muscle that we exercise in order to spring back our emotional and physical elasticity in order to become stronger. Our reactive flexibility is rather like the comic superheroes with their pliable bodies like Marvel Comic’s Kamala Khan. Stretchiness is often an ability that characters acquire to become more malleable when dealing with their lives both in and out of their costumes. We may not wear a comic disguise, but we do understand how that must feel. We are often both public and private personas as business owners. The show always goes on!
Through my own experiences, I have now established five key conditions of my life that demonstrate to me the overall status of my ability to bounce back. This breakdown provides a birds-eye view, puts me in control of my life, and able to create a sense of my future-paced self.
Trust your past experiences will show you how to cope with upheaval.
With a diagnosis of Bipolar and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder taking care of my emotions is paramount. We have all needed to take on the enormity of a worldwide pandemic and this was particularly difficult for me to accept. The concept seemed more like a flight of fancy from a distressed mind than a reality. Added to the stress of isolation many people began to struggle at the thought of becoming institutionalized in their own home. Conversely, I remembered every emotion associated with the restrictions as emotional places where I had been before. I no longer felt fear and reintegration has come more naturally than I could have accepted.
Rely on your ability to keep positive and find alternative solutions
I have developed an ability to rarely lose a feeling of optimism and hope. Where there is hope there are the embers of a belief that we can design our own future. This is what The Visuals Adviser has provided for me when I pivoted through lockdown. Change opens the door to new opportunities. Overcoming the challenges that these opportunities bring creates confidence. Becoming solution-focused has taken me time, now I’m already thinking about what’s next seconds after I hit a problem. My inner drive was undeterred by problems with my jewellery business in 2020. Instead, I restructured the business and started a new venture which has developed exponentially. I have also realised through the process how to maximise my skills in media, PR, and marketing.
Make those who lift you up the focus of your world and reciprocate.
I remember coming back from a holiday in Lake Garda in Italy once in a state of emotional turmoil. After spending four days at home with my partner I regrouped and was back on track. Having people in your life who can ground you like this is so important. These are our supportive cheerleaders. They are also important relationships to nurture in our inner circles. Knowing that I could rely on others through lockdown gave me the support I needed when Mum passed away of Covid. She was one of my biggest supporters. Isolated as a couple my partner and I managed to live together almost 24 hours a day with a healthy respect for each other’s feelings and boundaries. There are moments I am not sure I would have coped without him.
Remember at your core is the beginning of a new chapter in your life.
Whatever you are passionate about is your WHY?. I may have lost sight of my predominant memories which drive me as I have always been self-motivated. Working from home did not change my workflow. In fact, the pace picked up, and now I’m going at full pelt. I only look back now in order to move forward with gusto. Knowing my strengths and competencies enables me to have confidence that I am the master of my own fate. I have learned about manifesting recently and have seen its effects already. My life has taken an unexpected twist and I now see myself on a path to becoming a public speaker talking about emotional health. Every obstacle will become an anecdote in a story. I have finally unified my vocation and mission with my profession and passion to create a real reason for being. In this way, my past, my pain, and the lessons I’ve learned have become part of my future and powerful assets to help others.
Nourish your mind from the inside out with food that calms the soul.
One of the things I have relied on for a long time is regular fresh food and meals cooked from scratch every evening. We were lucky to have a subscription for deliveries with three different meals to try every week before the panic buying commenced. I may have gained weight like many people over the last year through lack of exercise, but my physical strength is the final key to unlocking my full potential. This one last step has been the most difficult. Finding a programme that helps me to be fitter and that is also sustainable is my key focus. Now that my online studies over the past year are coming to fruition I can finally focus on getting in shape. This will take perseverance. I will need to develop a strategy so that I don’t fail through lack of planning. At least I won’t be jumping out of planes or running a marathon just yet. Going forward realistic goals and a strategy will develop a more effective connection of resilience for my mind and body.
Why not analyse your own experiences over the past year. We have all come so far and coped with something unexpected and shocking that we will never forget. Some of the lessons we have learned cannot be undone. So make them count.
Abbi Head, The Visuals Advisor is a Member of the Woman Who Achieves Academy