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  • Sarah Banks

Bouncing Back Better

Updated: Feb 26

I recently experienced an anxiety episode. Having picked myself up and dusted myself off, I’ve been reflecting on the process of bouncing back better and this 5-stage conceptual model sprung to mind. Does it resonate for you? I’d appreciate any feedback! 

 🔵The primal stage: This stage is the immediate response to a difficult life experience. It can last a few hours or months, and our key focus here is safety and survival. This means looking after ourselves as best we can at the most basic level – think warm baths, deep breathing or just a large slice of chocolate cake. An important point here is to be kind to oneself about meeting our basic needs as best we can. 

 🔵Action stage: As the initial shock subsides, this creates space to identify positive next steps. This could be taking stock after redundancy or in my case, simply moving out of a triggering, physical space. To some extent, we may still be in fight, flight or freeze mode, so it’s important to remember that clarity of thought could still be inhibited. However, if we can have the presence of mind to change something, this reminds us we have agency to take affirmative action and can help us feel more positive. 

 🔵Awareness stage: At this point, it is helpful to notice the voice inside our head, particularly critical, judgemental, and repetitive thought patterns, also known as saboteurs. This could be a belief we must be strong which creates shame about asking for help or in my example, a deep-bedded notion that I am ‘too sensitive’ or ‘difficult’. Building mindset awareness creates an opportunity to intentionally evolve our thinking, using tools such as the Albert Ellis Cognitive Reframing technique or Ethan Kross Fly on the Wall self-coaching method. 

 🔵The growth stage: At this stage, we can intentionally consider what has been learned from the adverse experience. This begins to nurture a growth mindset, which reminds us of our capacity to evolve, and helps tap into our inner strength to persevere despite set-backs (Dweck, 2017). For example, I began to realise the situation had taught me much about humility, empathy and self-care, valuable skills in my work and personal relationships. 

 🔵The gratitude stage: When I viewed my experience as a learning opportunity, what was interesting was that I began to feel gratitude. This reminded me of other adverse life events, following which there was also opportunity to develop greater maturity and make positive changes. Gratitude has clear links with happiness (Achor, 2012), and presumably this creates a virtuous cycle promoting higher levels of future resilience. To be clear, I am not saying to anyone that they ‘should’ be grateful, this is a very personal journey and we all have to navigate our path as best we can. 

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