Resilience: Looking after yourself

Part 4 in the series looking at Resilience.

Abraham Maslow created the hierarchy of need in 1943.  Below, is a visual diagram which explains his studies on human need.   Maslow concluded our ‘deficiency’ needs are at the bottom of the triangle, and our ‘growth’ needs are at the top.  

What does that mean for me?

It means that if we are deficient in our physiological and safety needs, then we will find it a lot harder to meet our needs for love, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.  If we are not looking after ourselves physically then it is difficult to have good relationships with friends and family, and it can also impact upon our self-esteem.

When we are feeling overwhelmed it can be easy to neglect our physiological needs (physical health) which can then impact our other needs.  Ensuring that we prioritise being able to eat well, exercise and sleep are fundamental elements to building our resilience.

In the Old testament in the Bible, there is a story about a prophet called Elijah who is running for his life away from Queen Jezebel.

Queen Jezebel and King Ahab were worshiping the gods of Baal, rather than the living God and Elijah (being God’s prophet) spoke into the situation.  Elijah saw God do amazing miracles.  On one occasion, there was no rain for three years.  Then when Elijah lived with a widow and her son, who had only a little food and they saw the miracle of the jar of flour and jar of oil not running dry!  Sadly, the widow’s son became ill and died, and Elijah prayed to God and He bought the child back to life!  Why not read this for yourself in The Bible in 1 Kings chapter 17.

The King and Queen didn’t like all that Elijah was doing in following God.  Queen Jezebel sent a message to Elijah saying that she was going to kill him, and he ran away.  Elijah had seen God doing amazing miracles, but when it came to the crunch his response he ran away.  His response was just as human as ours can be under pressure – either ‘fight’ or ‘flight’.

When we pick up his story in The Bible in 1 Kings chapter 19, he is sitting under a tree – fed up, depressed and wanting to die.  Elijah cries out to God telling him to take his life as he thinks he’s done such a bad job.  He poured out his heart to God and was so emotionally exhausted by the end of it that he fell asleep.  Elijah is then woken up by an angel and the story continues …

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So, he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Bible – 1 Kings chapter 19 verses 7-9 (New International Version)

This story shows that God knows our every need.  God knew (long before Maslow came up with his triangle!) that our basic needs of having air, water, food and sleep have to be met before we can address any emotional needs that we might have.  God didn’t send his angel to challenge Elijah about why he had run away, or about anything that had happened.  God knew that Elijah needed to have food and rest before he could speak to him.  

It is always worth stopping and considering if we are looking ourselves properly physically especially when we start to find situations overwhelming.  Stop and consider whether you are eating well, have you had some exercise (even if its just a short walk) and how are you sleeping.  Sometimes small changes in these areas can make a big difference to our responses emotionally.

Why not take a look at our website for lots of ideas; just go to https://www.wycombeyfc.org.uk/mental-health-wellbeing/.  Here are some others ideas of things to do to get you started.

Eating Well

I don’t know about you, but I find that if I am worried or stressed about something, I can have a tendency to reach for chocolate or some other kind of snack to eat as I think that this will make me feel better.  To be honest, it will make you feel better in the short term, it may boost your energy as your blood sugar rises but if that is all you eat then when your blood sugar drops down to normal levels you will be left feeling tired, irritable or fed up.

  • Making sure that you eat regularly ensuring that your meals contain carbohydrates (your slow release energy), fruit, vegetables and protein.  This will ensure that your sugar levels remain steady
  • Making sure you drink plenty of water is also important as being dehydrated can affect your concentration and may give you a stomach ache.

Being physically active

When things get too much, taking a break and going outside for a time can be really helpful even if it is just a short walk around your local area.  Being physically active improves your self-esteem, and can release endorphins in your body (your feel good hormones) which has a positive effect on your brain.

There is lots of information on the NHS website and apps like couch to 5k which takes you on a steady programme to get you running over 10 weeks. 

Sleep

Sleep is so important to our mental wellbeing.  If we are tired, we can become irritable, irrational and very sensitive.  Making sure that you get a good night’s sleep can be difficult especially if you have got into some bad habits but it is possible to improve your sleep habits.  Try one or more of the following, remembering that it may take a few nights for things to have an effect:

  • Switching off devices 1 hour before bed
  • Don’t do exercise too soon before going to bed, but doing some exercise during the day will help
  • Have a bedtime routine which might include having a bath, having a warm drink (without caffeine), doing something to relax i.e. reading a book
  • Sometimes essential oils such as lavender can be helpful for sleep