Man About Town: 2021 and the importance of resilience

Patrick McLoughney

Reporter:

Patrick McLoughney

Man About Town: 2021 and the importance of resilience

Patrick `McLoughney is looking forward to a brighter 2021

I’D like to kick 2021 off with a little piece on resilience because it’s something many of us have had to call upon during the last year. Resilience is what gives people the strength to cope with stress and times of hardship. It is the reservoir of mental strength that people can call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. Many believe that resilient people are better able to handle adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

2020? Well it’s safe to say that we can write that off as a catastrophe!

At some point in our lives, we will all experience varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not passing your driving test on the first attempt), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (death, illness, disability). How we deal with these problems can play a significant role in not only the outcome but also the long-term psychological consequences.

While I’ve always considered myself to be a somewhat resilient person, in 2020 I learned the full extent of my ability to cope with problems and setbacks.

Let me begin by stating that this is not a pity party, I simply want to share my own story in the event that reading it might inspire someone else who’s struggling right now. On the 2nd of January 2020, I awoke to several missed calls from people whose names I wouldn’t regularly see on my home screen. I returned a call to one of them and was informed that someone I cared for deeply had passed during the night. That person was Natalie Katilius. Much has been said and written about Nat in the last 12 months so I won’t use this time to eulogise her, but, Natalie was a person who was very close to my heart and someone who left an indelible mark on my life.

In the immediate aftermath of Natalie’s death, I, along with several of her closest friends had to find the strength to help with funeral arrangements and support her devastated family. To do this I had to block out my grief and despair which would come back to haunt me at a later date.

Later that month I received more devastating news which I won’t divulge publicly as it’s a family matter but it meant a dream I’d been working towards for two years coming to a screeching halt. This coming on the heels of Natalie’s death set the wheels in motion of a descent into a pit of grief, distress and anxiety and I didn’t yet possess the strength and growth to try and claw my way back out of it.

Then of course came Covid- 19, Lockdown, the phases, the restrictions and all the other fun stuff that made 2020 a sh*t year for everyone. Not being in a great place prior to these events certainly didn’t help matters but the icing on the cake came shortly thereafter when the company that I was working for, who I’d only joined before last Christmas decided to offset any potential losses that Covid might cause by cutting staff and used the end of my 6-month probationary contract as a means to let me go.

Rock Bottom

If you were reading my sporadic submissions to this paper during this time you might have been able to tell that something was up. My head and heart simply were not in it as I was consumed by disappointment and the idea that for everything I had seemingly achieved over the last few years, ultimately, I was a failure.

While my thoughts at this time were clearly unhealthy and destructive, I didn’t descend to a dangerous level of despair and depression. There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, my amazing family members and my closest circle of friends refused to give up on me and more importantly, refused to let me give up on myself. Because of them, I found a reserve of resilience from within and fought my way back.

I began by spending a few hours every day applying for jobs. Some of my closest friends helped me by putting me in touch with people and sending me leads and I eventually found a better job than the one I had lost. When I accepted my current job I had to turn down offers from two other companies who I’m certain would have been a pleasure to work with. The moral of this part of the story is that if you set your mind to it, it is possible to find the job for you as I did it in the middle of a lockdown.

I also started posting on social media again as I had left the online world during this period. The reason I left was that the overachievers and cool kids of Instagram were making me feel even worse about the position I was in. I really shouldn’t have let this happen as I’ve known for some time that a lot of what you see online is completely fake. It’s clear that there are a great number of social media accounts that exist to make others feel jealous and inadequate and send the message ‘I’m better than you and I need you to know that”. From now on when I see them, I unfollow them. Social media can be a positive place when you eliminate the negatives.

I won’t start listing my successes in the latter half of 2020 as this is intended as something far different than a victory lap. I will simply say that due to the overwhelming reaction to the Limerick’s Most Stylish Man competition, some very exciting opportunities have come my way, and I am very enthusiastic about what lies ahead in 2021.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t searched for and found that resilience from within.

Resilience does not eliminate stress or erase life's difficulties and people who possess this resilience don’t see life through rose-coloured glasses. It’s about understanding that setbacks happen and that sometimes life is hard and painful. I still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after painful experiences and tragedy, but having a resilient outlook allows me to work through these feelings and recover. Resilience gives people the strength to tackle problems head-on, overcome adversity, and move on with their lives.

Some people come by these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain unflappable in the face of challenge. However, these behaviours are not just inborn traits found in a select few individuals. According to many experts, resilience is quite common, and people are very capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient. Social support is another critical variable that contributes to resilience. Resilient people tend to have the support of family and friends who help bolster them up in times of trouble. I know that without the support of my sister, brother in law and close friends, I would never have been able to find the strength from within needed to come back from the adversity I faced in the first half of 2020.

Fortunately, resilience is something that you can build both in yourself and in your loved ones. Here are some of the important steps that you can take to become more resilient.

Reframe Your Thoughts

Resilient people are able to look at negative situations realistically, but in a way that doesn't centre on blame. Instead of viewing adversity as insurmountable, focus on looking for small ways that you can tackle the problem and make changes that will help. You can also use this approach to help your children learn how to better cope with challenges. Encourage them to think about challenges in more positive, hopeful ways. This way, instead of getting stuck in a spiral of negative emotions, children can learn to see these events as opportunities to challenge themselves and develop new skills.

Seek Support

Having people you can trust and confide in is important for building resilience. Talking about the problems you are coping with doesn't make them go away, but sharing with a friend or family member can make you feel like you have someone in your corner. Discussing things with other people can also help you gain insight or even new ideas that might help you better manage the challenges you're dealing with.

Focus on What You Can Control

When faced with a crisis or problem, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the things that feel out of your control. Instead of wishing there was some way you could go back in time or change things, try focusing only on the things that are in your control.

I have come to learn that many who don’t know me personally and can only see me through the lens of social media have the assumption that my life is great and I have it all figured it. I write things like this from time to time to show everyone that I am human and my struggles are no different than anyone else’s. If you are experiencing hard times right now then I hope you find something here that helps you find the resilience within to power through. Hard times breed better men (and women) and there’s a road going down the other side of every hill.

Happy New Year.