Learning to stand in the wind
Bríd O’Meara from Aware talks about how to build emotional resilience

Bríd O’Meara 

Resilience is a key factor in life, and something which we can all work to develop and enhance, according to Bríd O’Meara, Director of Services with Aware. “Resilience can be considered an ongoing process in life, rather than something you have or don’t have. It is about being able to balance upset and difficulty with opportunity and taking helpful actions.”

While some people may appear to have a greater tendency to resilience than others, it is important to understand that resilience is something we can work on throughout our life, she says.

“Resilience can be a key defining factor in how a person will face and recover from a challenge; and resilience in many cases comes from having faced challenges and survived them,” she explains, continuing: “There is a lovely quote from Napoleon Hill which is worth keeping in mind: ‘The strongest oak tree of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.’

“We sometimes talk about resilience as that ‘grit’ that enables a person to bounce back after a difficult or challenging experience,” she says. 

“Quite often, two people can have a very similar experience, for example a relationship breakdown or job loss. One person might ‘bounce back’ quite quickly while someone else might take years or more to get over that loss.”

Action is key in terms of resilience, as well as the wider area of mental wellbeing, she says: “If you can look at whatever situation you are in and see the opportunity in the challenge, and also really look at what helpful actions you can take, this will not only likely yield a better outcome for you; you will also be working your resilience ‘muscle’.


“That ongoing practice is really important in laying a strong foundation of resilience for the next challenge that comes along in life,” she says.

So, how can we each work on improving our own resilience?

Good relationships with friends and family where one is receiving support is vital to resilience.

Assisting others during their difficult times can also help the helper. Staying connected and making plans to keep in touch with friends and relatives is important. It is a good idea, when one occasion has passed, to plan the next one and put it in the diary – so that the full value of looking ahead to it can be had.

Acknowledging what is going well is vital. Even on a bad day, or during a ‘bad’ experience, there will be good moments and ‘good’ learnings to take away from it. It can be very helpful to get into the habit of recording three good moments from each day in a notebook before bedtime. It helps us to see that there are good moments, and it also helps us in the future to more naturally see these good moments rather than to have to go seeking them. 

Try to accept the things you cannot change – this will help you to focus on the things that you can change and work towards changing.

Fresh air and exercise every day, even for 10 minutes during lunch break if pushed for time, brings a combination of natural light and exercise which is hugely beneficial to mental wellbeing. A break away from the desk/crying children/cycles of washing and cooking can give us a different perspective that helps us to face the rest of whatever task we have.

Planning something to look forward to each day, no matter how small it is, can be very helpful in helping us get through the things that we aren’t looking forward to so much. For instance, if you have to call a service provider to make a complaint but you are feeling anxious about it, knowing that you are catching up with a friend for a cup of tea later, can help you get through it. Make sure your plans are realistic and achievable; even an extra five minutes in the morning to sit down and savour the warmth of that first cup of tea.

A good night’s sleep is essential to set us up for the next day. Preparing for bedtime, leaving electrical devices out of the room, and avoiding stimulating programmes such as horror movies or serious documentaries are all helpful. Avoid tea and coffee in the evening, as both are stimulants and can disrupt sleep.

A balanced diet is essential to keep our body and mind in good health, and to keep us strong and resilient. Fresh, nutritious meals, eating regularly and keeping hydrated all help us to withstand all that the daily routine asks of us.

How Aware helps

The Aware Resilience Series aims to highlight the important role of resilience in everyone’s life, through both good times and bad. Defined as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, resilience is something which can be constantly developed and enhanced throughout life.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will be the special guest contributor at the first event in the Aware Resilience Series 2017, which will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday February 16 in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin 8.

In ‘The Reality of Resilience: A special evening with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’, Archbishop Martin will be interviewed by Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent with The Irish Times, and will discuss the role resilience has had throughout his own life, including at the most testing of times. 

Tickets for the event, which is a fundraising event for Aware, are available online now through aware.ie priced at €25 each. In 2015, 85% of Aware’s funding came from fundraising events, public and corporate donations.

With such funding, Aware is able to provide a range of services for individuals and families impacted by depression or bipolar disorder. 

The organisation offers free life skills programmes, based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as well as a support and education programme for relatives and friends of people who are experiencing depression or bipolar disorder. 

These are available online and in locations nationwide, offered in phases throughout the year and can be helpful in helping participants learn new ways to deal with their life challenges.  

The organisation also provides a range of mental health education programmes for adults, secondary school students, and managers/employees in workplaces nationwide. Free secondary schools programmes are delivered to thousands of senior-cycle students each year, including a 70-minute class talk and a six session Life Skills programme, aimed at equipping young people with vital skills which are often overlooked. 


Book now: For more information on Aware Support
Groups see aware.ie, or email supportmail@aware.ie, or call 1800 80 48 48 at any time between 10am and 10pm. Further information about all of Aware’s services, as well as the organisation’s governance standards, can be found on the organisation’s website.

To book your tickets for the February 16 Resilience Talk with Archbishop Martin, see aware.ie now. Light refreshments will be available before the talk from 7pm with the talk starting at 7.30pm sharp.