He’s modest about it, but ultramarathon runner Simon Wheatcroft knows all about emotional resilience. (2-minute read)
This is a man who overcame losing his sight at a young age to become the first visually impaired runner to role ultramarathons solo and unaided, a global keynote speaker and an accessibility adviser to some of the world’s biggest technology companies.
This is not to say it’s been an easy ride. From finding out he was visually impaired while trekking Yosemite to running into burnt-out cars, suffering serious injuries and facing social stigma along the way, he’s learnt adaptability the hard way.
“For me, emotional resilience is something that's a constant learning curve,” he said, on the first Sylo Magazine podcast ‘Improve your emotional resilience’, which is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google and all other major podcast platforms.
“It’s hard for someone to say I have really high emotional resilience because, on one day, you might be quite resilient, to any given situation, but on another day you might have quite a negative response.”
“So for me, I'd say there is an absolute ebb and flow to resilience. I've always considered it more of how well you perform on a bad day, versus how well you perform on a good day -- because we can all do well when we're feeling great and happy.
“But on a really bad day, when even getting out of bed can seem a great challenge, on some days that's enough.”
“You aren’t going to go out and do huge, incredible, amazing things. But steadily high-perform on those bad days, and things improve. So yeah, day one, you might be able to get out of bed, but on day 50 or 100 you can do incredible things on those bad days. And that’s definitely what’s it been about for me.”
One of Simon’s greatest challenges was his diagnosis of being visually impaired when he planned to propose to his now-wife up on Yosemite. (Read his full account here from our earlier interview).
“After the failure to climb that mountain, I returned to the UK and realised...I'd put my life on pause. I was stopping doing things because I couldn't see. It seemed like the ultimate constraint.
“And essentially, did I want to live the rest of my life on pause, just waiting for, you know, something to improve?”
Simon’s advice, of starting with small steps, could also relate to those currently struggling through the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Being on pause is no way to live your life. So I realised that the only way forward was to make a change and make the change now. It started with very small steps to start with; just getting out of the house and walking around and then running up and down a football pitch.
“And then the momentum builds before you know it, the football pitch turns into running on closed roads, on open roads, and then I end up running 260 miles. So it definitely built. But the initial thing was realising I put myself on hold.”
(Hear from Simon, best-selling author Dr Harry Barry and resilience trainer Dr Sven Hansen in ‘Improve your emotional resilience’. Available now on all good podcast platforms).
Implementation intentions: A simple technique to improving emotional resilience
Simon has an effective trick for keeping calm and measured through any kind of situation or crisis.
“The way I dealt with it back then, and I still do now, is I always used to use something called ‘implementation intentions’. And what that is, is the ‘If-Then’ statement. So ‘if this happens, then I'll do this’.
“So what I would try and do is for any given situation, I'd try and think of as many ‘ifs-thens’ as I possibly could, and then they almost help you create this little plan of how you can react to a situation.
“It is actually using that ‘if-then’ as a sort of structure. If this happens, then I'll do this is.
“...Perhaps years ago, I never truly believe that that would work. But it turns out, it worked incredibly well. It's something I still do today. And I'd say it's the one thing that's really helped me navigate lots of challenging and difficult situations.”
These quotes were taken from Sylo Magazine’s podcast episode 1, ‘Improve your emotional resilience'. Tune in on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts or Anchor to discover what is emotional resilience, how you can improve it for COVID-19 and beyond, and how to improve how we manage stress, anxiety and depression - in ourselves and in children too.
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