Today I want to talk about something that is very important to me: RESILIENCE.
One of the things I am often asked about is how I managed to sustain my success in my athletics career after I won the Olympic gold. My answer is always that it was down to building and sustaining my resilience. Resilience is something that I believe everyone should have and is the thing that will stop you crumbling when you hit bumps in the road of life.
There are always going to be stresses in life, unexpected problems that you don’t see coming and I really believe that the best way to navigate these issues is to make sure that you are resilient – so you are in the best position to deal with life’s complications.
To build resilience, you should begin by focussing on sleep, exercise and food. Getting enough quality sleep means your body and brain can recover and re-energise so you are ready to face life in the morning. Secondly, unsurprisingly as a former athlete, I highly recommend adding exercise to your weekly timetable. The natural endorphins that exercise creates will definitely help keep you going through difficult times. Thirdly take a good look at your diet, as this is so important in making sure that your body is working at its optimum level.
Recently I worked with York Test Laboratories trying out their food intolerance tests and the results led me to discover I have an intolerance to eggs and dairy. I have always suffered from swollen eyes but never made a connection to eggs, and since stopping eating eggs this symptom has completely disappeared. I have also massively reduced my intake of dairy and have noticed a huge change in my energy levels. These small things mean that I am better equipped to physically to deal with life’s stresses.
Once these three things are in place you should focus on finding mechanisms to help cope with stress when it hits. I know that mindfulness is very popular at the moment, but I like to think of it more as ‘me time’. Taking myself out of a stressful situation, whether that’s going for a walk or taking a bath, means I am better able to focus on problems. It’s not running away it’s regrouping.
I also believe it’s really important to talk about your problems. Sharing your stresses with a friend is a fantastic way to get perspective and support when times are difficult.
Finally, try to find purpose in your life. It’s really easy for us to be focussed only on what’s happening to us, but engaging in charity work or looking after children or a pet gives an extra meaning to life and further perspective on our problems.
Building up your resilience won’t stop problems occurring but will certainly make it easier to cope when they do.