How to be resilient, agile, and ready for anything when all hell breaks lose

Okay so we aren’t talking zombie apocalypse or alien invasions although I’ve watched enough movies to guess I’d do pretty well up those disasters, however we are talking hell and I want to share with you how to achieve, overcome and stay positive when it feels like your world is collapsing

While the pandemic has led us all to experience something, we will tell generations to come about and many many books will be written about, not all experiences over the last year have been equal or fair, but if you know anything about life, you will know that life is not fair.

In March last year I was coming to the end of getting my mother-in-law safe from a violent, aggressive, and scary stepfather in law who I had to have sectioned to protect him and her. It was a massive level of relief for the emergency services, social services, her GP and of course us to finally get the result we needed.

On average I was speaking to the emergency services 4 times a week. You may think “How can that be right?” but in DV (Domestic Violence) cases often the authorities know what’s happening but don’t have enough evidence to do anything and my Mum in law rightly or wrongly was not prepared to go into a shelter reasoning “I’ve done nothing wrong why should I be forced out of my home!” She is a strong woman, just not strong against a man a foot taller than her who doesn’t have Parkinson’s to contend with too.

To go from one major life changing moment to another was challenging.

Within months of the pandemic hitting my husband was struggling. To give you the short answer he was signed off work and I’ve been kicking myself for months as I have looked back over the last 15 months and questioned “How did I not see this coming?” But that was just the start…

Hindsight is an evil thing that can drag you down, so I don’t squander any time, emotion or thought there for long. Although I do question why counsellors and GPs are not trained to spot the emotional signs in a person that are not related to mental health and are in fact connected to a serious illness?

When my Stepfather in law was first taken into hospital nurses would ask if he had a temperature. Trying to ram my Mother-in-law onto the floor or taking her walking sticks didn’t seem that interesting to them. What I failed to appreciate is that a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) can present itself with severe changes in a person. Delirium with anger, confusion or agitation can all be signs of a UTI (1).

And with thyroid cancer you can experience memory lapse, sleep issues, anxiety, short temper and severe mood swings. The British Thyroid Foundation writes “Whatever your type of thyroid disorder, it can make you feel more emotional than you felt before and you may find that your mood changes, sometimes rapidly and unpredictably.” (2)

But that was just the start, my husband got a lot worse. Blood clot, stroke incident, partial lung collapse, heart failure and then they found a lump in his thyroid and his lung. The one is his thyroid turned out to be thyroid cancer which they hoped to cure by removing one side but unfortunately the cancer was in the whole thyroid, so he had to go through the huge surgery for a second time just 5 weeks later.

This is a man who in 28 years of being together has had flu once, broke his knuckle sledding with the kids and that’s about it!

During a pandemic I couldn’t be with him in his many hospital stays, and we had been warned that due to his heart working at only 15% to 25% the general anaesthetic could be very dangerous too.

I want to share with you how to be resilient, keep going, stay positive and believe in hope and the future when you face so much. These tools and techniques apply to you personally, to business, to your children, to your goals and your obstacles to success and happiness. So, I hope they inspire you too – they’ve been essential to me and my teenagers at this tough time/

Know when to fight

26th November the hospital said “Mrs Holgate your husband is not a candidate for surgery, the situation is rather hopeless, and we don’t know what we can do.” I didn’t accept that answer. When you are faced with authority or clever people who know their stuff, it can be hard to speak up.

Learn how to feel internally confident so that you can speak politely and powerfully. There are lots of articles on my site to help you with this – start with;

Dealing with that voice in your head – does it help or hinder?

In my book Fight the fear there is a whole chapter on speaking up and how to have difficult conversations.

And if confidence is your issue, then this has been proven to build confidence so you can speak up and get what you need. Click here.

If you want something that is different to what that person is prepared to give or do, then internalise what you want to achieve before you speak or act.

Knowing what to fight is essential. It gives you your why and stops you from giving up when it gets tough. I refused to believe I would lose my husband. A good thing I fought right? Otherwise, we wouldn’t have found the thyroid cancer and I wouldn’t have a plan in place to get him healthy again. All be it a long road is ahead, so know your reasons for fighting.

Know how to fight

When you face something big, possibly even insurmountable it is no good approaching it like a week at work or doing the grocery shop. It won’t work. For big goals and obstacles, you need big plans and ideas and big, big thoughts! You will need to then do the following;

Attach emotion to the goal – It’s not difficult when it’s the love of your life, but not all emotions and feelings are so easy to tap into. What emotions do you need to hold on to and what emotions need to be moved through? If you are feeling angry and frustrated about your situation it will be far harder to find practical and supportive ways to move forward.

Don’t expect to be superhuman. You haven’t suddenly gained a second stomach or brain or the energy levels of a superhero. Fighting the good fight means knowing how to look after you.

Make time. It may seem selfish but while I do go and check on my husband every half an hour, I make time for me. All the things that make me feel happy and alive, I make time for. It can seem meaningless and futile but do it anyway. When you suffer a mental health illness you don’t wake up 1 day ill just as you don’t wake up 1 day well again. It’s a bumpy ride with peaks and troughs moving up or down, thus taking the time for you and your loves in life is good for you and what you wish to overcome and achieve. It also creates brain space to process the magnitude of the situation.

It’s impossible to remember it all. We have between 2 and 6 hospital appointments, scans, calls etc a week. I write it all down. It’s a fat file now but it means I don’t have to remember the last 8 months and it goes everywhere with us, so I’m prepared. What would help you feel prepared?

Don’t fight alone.

It’s sad to say but ultimately after the first big shock of “Wow, your husband is that ill!” apart from the nice messages and occasional gift you’re on your own. People get on with their own lives and don’t know what to say or do so they stop. That’s not a lack of caring on their part just human nature. So, if you need help ask for it!

I hate to say it but often if you are handling things really well people will be able to shirk out of helping because you can cope, that doesn’t mean you should keep coping. Eventually your mind, body and spirit will flag and if you’d have asked for help you wouldn’t get to that situation, so speak up on what you need.

If you really struggle to ask for help and accept it, start small, let someone cook your dinner. It could be your children cooking a spaghetti bolognaise from a jar sauce, not your normal culinary brilliance, but hey if it’s got 5 veg in, don’t stress it. Ask for that help!

Know what to fight – choose your battles wisely.

You can feel like you are on constant fight or flight mode, so know what battles to fight. I have a 3-month-old mattress from Dreams that is faulty that they refuse to work with us remotely to resolve despite the fact we are shielded due to my husband’s condition. It’s very uncomfortable, with 2 inch dips in it and clearly faulty. It’s another battle I need to have at some stage, but should that come above my husband’s heart failure, cancer diagnosis and radiotherapy? No of course not, but it’s not always going to be obvious what battle can be left unattended and what is urgent.

Learn to look out for the battles that can be dropped for now. A good question to ask is “If it was 6 months into the future how would I feel about this?” If it’s just mildly annoyed then forget it, if it creates masses of emotions, then deal with it. Just don’t dwell on it, deal or ditch. (Emotionally speaking as well as physically!)

Know when to stop – R n R.

The ability to stay motivated and inspired and keep going no matter what also needs a good dose of stopping. It’s all too easy to become consumed by life and not take the time to stand back and reflect and review – R n R. No matter how busy your day take a minute to take 3 deep breathes, my clients know that I teach the box breathing method – the finest elite soldiers in the world use before a big dangerous mission. After the kit is checked, the details checked and double checked, they stop and breathe. You should do the same.

Stopping is often something we feel guilty about so if guilt is hiding in your psyche, tell it to get out! Guilt stops the down time from being as beneficial as it could be. So, stop and enjoy the stopping.

Know what you want.

Setting goals seems a bit impossible when life is so tough. Especially when you’re in a situation where your time is monopolised by hospital appointments and procedures. I’ve not had a single week since December without hospital appointments, phone calls and emails to deal with. Sometimes 6 appointments in one week! It’s a full-time job looking after someone seriously ill. So, it would be mad to try and stick to the goals I had planned, wouldn’t it?

That depends on you. Don’t define how you keep going by how someone else has done it. For me I’ve still got a few core goals that I’m working towards and I’ve adjusted my goals for my growth personally and professionally to honour the situation I find myself in. I’ve been researching and learning Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to compliment my knowledge of CBT and CAT. It is brilliant for understanding your mind in high pressure situations where life feels too big and too hard.

I’ve a robust mental health tool kit  (See mine here) and I’ve helped my daughter develop one too that will honour her needs. Take some time to understand what you want to achieve and to understand if it’s possible to work towards at this time. Even if it is not possible to give 100% to, it is possible to make some time that is dedicated to just that goal. Even if it is just 5 minutes a day, that’s still 29.5 hours in one year you could dedicate to your goal, so don’t give up altogether on the things in life that mattered to you before this situation began. It will remind you of what is possible and that you still exist amongst all you face.

And lastly flexibility and agility.

If I said we were off to the beach in 2 hours’ time, how would you feel? Panicked or excited? Ready to drop everything or worried something important will get dropped. Seriously take a moment to answer this question. I’ve posed it to thousands of people, and it often showcases the kind of person you really are. For some being adaptable and flexible is easy, for others it can really throw them. Learn what to drop and sacrifice and how this process will aid you.

Learn how to be more resilient to change. People that tell me it is what it is. Often learn a lot about themselves in the coaching process as they explore that “It is what it is” keeps them stuck and stops the opportunity for something better to be discovered. Just think, if I’d believed “It is what it is” My husband would have died of Thyroid cancer and heart failure. You don’t have to be facing a life and death situation to benefit from remembering;

Know when to fight, know what to fight, how to fight, when to stop fighting, how to ask for help, know what you want and how to be flexible and open to change.

These are core practices to adopt so that you can keep going no matter what and remember that underpinning your success is that confidence level. That belief in yourself that you will find a way, because trust me, no matter how big and scary life feels right now, you can find a way forward. Good luck and keep in touch.

I’m fully booked now for the next 3 months but you can still work with me through my books and courses and mastermind group, all accessible on this site.

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