Life is suffering. Throughout history, these very words have been uttered time again. From the ancient teachings of the Buddha to 21st-century teacher Dr. Jordan Perterson, the wise insist that suffering and life are 2 for 1 package deal. One does not need to search very hard for evidence of the pain inherent in life itself. Even the most beautiful, talented, and successful face the pain of failed marriages, the loss of a parent, and many other forms of suffering. It can be said that suffering does not discriminate when selecting its victims. But, despite this widespread suffering and debilitating pain, we see the world spin on and somehow, people coming out on the other side. How is this possible? The key is resilience.
Blair Kaplan Venables had a normal, happy life. In the words of the song, ‘No alarms and no surprises.’ She enjoyed a fulfilling career as a communications expert, author, and entrepreneur, and her family life was stable. After a series of tragic events, however, her picture-postcard world started to unravel.
The death of loved ones, a near-fatal car accident, infertility issues, and other ‘dark moments’, took their toll on Kaplan Venables’ mental and physical well-being. In a bid to regain solidity, she began researching how to bolster her resilience.
Tell us about the significance of your ‘I Am Resilient Project’
“I’ve always been a writer. As a child, I recall writing often. Writing helps me express my feelings and make sense of events. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I chose to write my book, ‘Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw And Real Stories From An Entrepreneur’. When my estranged father discovered he had a terminal illness—after we’d just started rebuilding our fraught relationship—I realized there were many who had similar stories to share about their pain and suffering. I figured it would be cathartic and healing for us to collate the stories—through the ‘I Am Resilient Project’—and make them available to a wider community.”
Is resilience an innate trait or does it develop throughout life?
“Both! Whilst some are blessed with natural grit, resilience—the ability to ‘bounce forward’ from difficulties—is a skill that can be acquired. In one sense, we will never really know how tough we are until we actually experience a tragedy. However, having good foundations can really help. A network of trusted friends and associates, with whom you can talk openly, is a big start—a virtual community of like-minded people. We all need an outlet for our emotions.”
Do you think most people take self-care seriously?
“I think society is realizing the importance of holistic health and wellness. The rise of meditation, yoga, mindfulness and other techniques is a recognition of the fact that we need more than just ‘a good gym session’ to remain healthy. Given COVID-19’s impact, companies too are becoming more aware of the psychological impact of personal tragedies and traumas. The last two years have definitely raised awareness around these topics. The stigma we used to attach to mental wellbeing is fading.”
Describe the techniques that you recommend to those who need to heal.
“One thing we’re guilty of in the West is skipping sleep. In countries like China, arguably one of the most productive on earth, it’s not uncommon for workers to have a midday nap. However, in North America, that’s somewhat frowned upon. The image is slowly changing, however. Some athletes, and other high-level performers, are recognizing sleep’s ability to make everything better: reaction time, speed, ability to heal (physically and emotionally). Coaches prescribe up to nine or ten hours per night. Another of my favorite techniques is my ‘daily gratitude’ alarm. At 4 pm, every single day, my phone alarm goes off, and I list three things I’m grateful for from the past 24 hours. Science shows that after doing this for 21 days, it changes the neural pathways in your brain; you see the world in a more positive way.
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