Disaster Strikes! Steps to building a resilient mind in the face of adversity

We all have good weeks and bad weeks.

When I worked in the Child Protection unit, I was overseen by my incompetent manager Lesley.

And she absolutely despised me!

These types of managers were dime a dozen during my time in local government, – usually promoted on the merit they were good administrators, and by flawed logic, qualified to lead a team.

A people pleaser by nature, I took pride in putting other people first, even above my own well being.  Despite trying my hardest Lesley always found something wrong, and this was killing me.

I got sloppy and began making mistakes.  Lesley had spent the last nine months telling me of all the things I was allegedly doing wrong, now I was gifting her with actual proof.

One day she corned me in a room where I endured 15 minutes of abuse about my performance.

If a man had spoke to me like that I would have slugged him.

Instead I took it until I broke – I felt weak and pathetic.  For the rest of the day, although I was at work, I wasn’t present.

I’d planned to resign – running away when things got tough.  But two colleagues intervened and advised I might be better taking time out to reflect and recover to put things in perspective before I did anything too hasty.

That was nearly five years ago when I was mentally broke in two by a nasty bitch.

It’s my pleasure to say I overcame the threat, building myself a nice life, working a job I enjoy and best of all… no sociopath boss.

How did I come back fighting to create a good life?

The answer – a level of resilience I never realised I had.

What makes a good resilient person?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) describes three attributes of what makes a good resilient person:

  • An acceptance of reality
  • Belief that life is meaningful
  • Able to improvise

When things came crashing down all these attributes applied to the next steps I took to get myself back on track.

If you are facing a bad situation, why not try the following:

Be honest with yourself

Despite trying my best for a year to impress a manager who didn’t appreciate my potential, I finally accepted the reality she didn’t like me.  Because of everything that had happened I knew there was no chance of rebuilding our professional relationship.

In reflection being more self aware would have helped avoid reaching such a low point – admitting I was not happy in my job.

It can also mean facing harsh truths, being honest with myself I admitted I was being bullied by my female boss, which you can appreciate is hard to admit as a man.

By accepting a problem exists you can set plans to address them and/or move on.

Work out the problem

The cause of the stress will keep reoccurring if you don’t know what the problem is.  When you follow the same routine everyday it’s hard to see the issue, hence when you do something different such as go on holiday, you reflect and realise what the issue is.

Sometimes it takes the intervention of a third party to realise the problem, or at least put you on the path to working out your own solution.  It took a visit to my doctor to realise I needed to work out my issues.

Get support

Your support network is key – when you are suffering, don’t do it in silence.

I will forever be grateful to my work colleagues who were loyal to me, they stopped me from running and I was lucky to have supportive parents prepared to listen and provide a relaxed environment to recover.

Failing the support of an understanding network, there are multiple support lines people can call for advice or just a listening ear.

Stop caring what other people think

The amount of time and energy spent wondering what people would think is an additional stress and at the time I couldn’t help worrying what other work colleagues were saying about me.

The worry was for nothing as I came back to an office fully on my side, but regardless, to bounce back you need to stop caring about the opinions of others,  When you are down your own well being should be your primary concern.

There will alway be people who judge your actions.  It’s about understanding that not everyone will like you and if they don’t – who cares that is there problem!

Motivate yourself

When things go wrong your motivation to do anything is shot – you feel low, tired and little enthusiasm for anything.

This is when you need to remind yourself why life is meaningful – remember what drives you, exercise, have hobbies, find something to look forward to, absorb motivating content or strive for further knowledge.

Before my sickness I planned to do an obstacle race.  During my two weeks off I made it my mission to defy anyone who ever doubted me – as a result I got my best time and best position in my obstacle racing career!.

On my return to work I was driven in my ambition to re-kick start my career and create the life I always wanted.

It’s in your interest to stay motivated if you want to move on.  In my situation, if I kept performing poorly I was not going to get the next job and eventually piss off colleagues who were still on my side.  It took me six months to get a new job, but during that time I gave a faultless performance.

Face your fears

I was terrified to go back.

My two biggest fears was:

  1. What had people been saying about me while I was off
  2. Having to work with my manager again

When my sick note was close to expiring I was tempted to try and get longer off work.  I knew if I did this I was just avoiding the problem, as mentally I would never recover 100% until I faced my fear.

This has been my approach to anything I fear ever since – don’t delay, just get it done with.

Required to give a presentation in class?  Don’t sit their dreading it, put your hand up and volunteer to go first!  Trust me, you won’t be sat in class dreading your turn as you have already gone!

Find a reason to live

The Harvard Business review article on resilience talks about ‘accepting life is meaningful’.  For me this is about establishing my reason for living.

During my sick leave I wrote a lot, I went to the gym, spent time reviewing and adding to my goals and focusing where I wanted my career to go.

By doing this I had hope, I may have dreaded going back, but I knew this was not going to be the rest of my life – my ambition was to move forward, not look back.

I’m a big fan of the work of Simon Sinek.  In his talk ‘Start with why’ he talks about how Why is the core belief behind successful businesses and business leaders.

I also believe that every person should find their why.

What is your why?  What makes you get up in the morning?  What are you enthusiastic about?  If you can identify this, then you get establish what your why is.  When you are down, your why will help you understand the bigger picture and motivate you during setbacks.

When you hit rock bottom you can only go up

The whole situation hit me hard and honestly, it was the lowest point of my life.

I was depressed, low motivated and lost.  And yet I had a glimmer of optimism – when you hit rock bottom you can only go up.

The week of 14th July 2014 was probably the most significant week in my life for change.

Coincidentally the day before my boss chewed me out into a breakdown, I met the woman who would become my wife and change my life forever.

In the back of my mind she was the hope I needed to move forward, and that is what resilience is about.


I hope that you enjoyed this post – how are you resilient in a bad situation?  What are your thoughts on resilience?  Please feel free to comment below (I respond to all your comments!)

If you got some value from this post then why not join my mailing list?  I write content about living a positive and fulfilling life.

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Thank you!


Further reading

This was based on my own perspectives and experience of being resilient in a bad situation, however they following article are some additional extra useful reads that influenced the content of this post:

Resilient People – A guide to workplace bullying

Redkite Project – Workplace Bullying: An Act of War Threatening the Health and Safety of Your Employees

inequilibrium – Resilience and the growth mindset


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3 thoughts on “Disaster Strikes! Steps to building a resilient mind in the face of adversity

  1. James, I was scrolling through posts here on WordPress when I came across this post from you. I am so sorry to hear about some of your work place experiences. I also agree with many of the suggestions that you give here. When it comes to getting support, it makes sense to get support from the people around you who can be of help. James, you should also know that you can get support from God as well. As a matter of fact, a support from God is more powerful than any other support that a person can get. God is an ever present help in times of need. God has dominion over all things, and he sure can help you. You need to pray over the situation and let the Lord know how you feel. Tell God about what you are going through, and ask for his help, and I am sure that he can help you. In my experience, I had a co-worker who I considered a bully. This co-worker would always talk bad about me in the presence of the manager. This co-worker was constantly picking on me. You see my brother, I got on my knees and I prayed to God about this person. I persistently prayed about this person and reported the case to my heavenly Father. I was surprised when the person suddenly began to change, and take on a different personality. God has the power to change the hearts of people, and prayers have the power to change the heart of God. So, prayer is key.

    The Bible says in Philippians 4:6
    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done”.

    The Bible says in Matthew 7: 7-8
    “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened”.

    God says in Isaiah 41:10
    “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”

    If you do not yet have a relationship with the Lord, I would strongly suggest that you begin one. There are a lot of blessings that comes from knowing the Lord, and being in fellowship with him. If you already have a relationship with the Lord, that is good, keep believing and working to deepen your relationship with him, and I am sure that he would come through for you somehow.

    If you want to know about God in more detail, you can find further information here https://christcenteredruminations.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/a-few-things-that-i-have-learned-about-god/ And Here https://christcenteredruminations.wordpress.com/2018/08/29/how-to-build-a-relationship-with-god/

    May God’s blessings be with you, Amen. ❤ ❤

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. Yes faith is something that helps you get through these types of situations. Fortunately I pulled through the bad times and as a result was stronger than ever before. These things really do get sent to test us.

      1. You are right brother, they are a test, but even in our testing period, the Lord is with us, and he is going to help us get through it. God bless you, and may the goodness of love and happiness always be with you, Amen.

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