Communication. The building blocks of psychological resilience.

‘By opening up and sharing what’s on our mind, all of a sudden the world doesn’t feel like such a lonely place after all.’

Dr Mark Winwood in People

27 September 2019

You might be surprised to hear that open communication underpins the development of psychological resilience. It can also be the key to managing any stress or worry.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? But opening up can be hard. It’s sometimes a lot easier to bottle things up.

When times get tough and we’re facing challenges (and let’s face it, it happens to all of us), it can make us feel isolated and vulnerable. Stuck in a cycle of seeing things in a certain way. A self destructive loop of our own making. Without realising it, psychological barriers go up and we start to feel alone and cut off.

By opening up and sharing what’s on our mind, all of a sudden the world doesn’t feel like such a lonely place after all. When we vocalise our thoughts, we’re automatically forced to think about them in a slightly different way. To find the words for a concern, causes us to engage with the prefrontal cortex of our brains where our more rational thoughts live, rather than being caught in that fight or flight loop that’s so easy to get stuck in.

The trick is finding the right person, or people, for you and your situation. If you have the luxury of having lots of people to choose from, be selective. The best person will be different for everyone. It might be a family member, a close friend, or often, someone outside of your immediate circle if you need a more objective opinion.

You might find that person has been through a similar experience and can offer a different perspective to help you shift your own, and see things in a different light. They might be able to offer practical advice. Or they might just offer that reassuring ear.

That comfort and support can prove invaluable. Suddenly the burden is shared and there’s light at the end of the tunnel, because it’s true what they say, a problem shared really is a problem halved.

But what if you suspect someone else is bottling something up and doesn’t want to talk about it? Starting a conversation about mental health can be daunting but there are ways to help someone open up:

  • A simple, ‘How are you?’ is a great place to start. And be sure to ask twice, as you can get a more honest answer the second time.
  • Explain what you’ve noticed about their change in their behaviour and express concern, but not in a judgmental or accusatory way.
  • Can you relate to their issue? This will help them realise they’re not alone and their thoughts are rationale and understandable.
  • Offer supportive practical help. Telling someone you’re there for them can seem like a small thing but have a big impact.
  • If they’re going to get professional help, offer to go with them if you can. Be that person to hold their hand along the journey and let them know they’re not alone.

Once we’re able to initiate that open and honest conversation, and we start to share our feelings, we’re all better off for it because sharing makes us all stronger.

By being more connected and fostering a behaviour of togetherness, we start to support each other, and it’s that support that forms the psychological resilience we need to be our best selves. Now more than ever. It can improve our energy, help create meaningful relationships, get priorities in order, offer perspective and improve our emotional intelligence. And the best news of all? This positive behaviour change couldn’t be simpler to achieve.

It really is good to share.