Resilience and wellbeing

Focus on what’s important

Earlier in my recovery I blogged about the importance of minimizing stress when returning to work. The central idea was to give you time and mental space to come to terms with the changes in the various parts if your life – diet, exercise, mortality etc. What I failed to realize at that time is how fundamentally important building your resilience is. I learned this the hard way by allowing work pressures to get the better of me. Over time this pressure took a hefty toll on my mental health and physical.

Failing to build personal resilience can have serious consequences for anyone. However for those if us living with heart disease the implications can be even more serious. Chronic stress has been linked to elevated cortisol levels which in turn raises cholesterol (http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol). Also when we are in this stressed state we are less likely to remain committed to the nutrition and exercise goals we might have set that support a heart healthy lifestyle.

So if resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, then wellbeing is the foundation for resilience. There are many debates in academic circles about the definition of wellbeing versus the theory of wellbeing, but what it comes down to in my mind is that there are a range of elements that make up wellbeing and to have a sense of wellbeing these elements need to be balanced against the challenges an individual faces.

Dodge et al (2012) define wellbeing as a balancing act between psychological, social and physical resources and challenges. I would add spiritual resources to that list too.

Martin Seligman refers to the five elements of wellbeing: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. Seligman’s theory says that an individual can achieve wellbeing by focusing on just one of these elements. However, it seems unlikely that you could achieve real resilience by focusing on just positive emotion (for example).

Wellbeing and heart disease

My personal focus is on wellbeing and heart disease. That’s because I believe that it is even more important for those of us who have already had a cardiac event or those at high risk of a cardiac event to minimise future risks.

The Heartcoach approach programme is divided into four parts:

  • physical wellbeing
  • emotional wellbeing
  • social wellbeing
  • spiritual wellbeing

More about these in future posts.