Be Strong and Flexible Like A Spider’s Web: Resilience and Depression

By Vickie | Resilience

Feb 08 resilience and depression

Yesterday morning I saw the most beautiful thing, a perfectly spun spider’s web hanging between clumps of plants in the garden.

We’d had a lot of rain overnight and droplets of water clung to the threads like tiny diamonds. It was still windy and with each gust the web swayed and swung. I was sure that it would be snatched from its moorings and blown away.

But no, the web was firmly anchored by silky threads to the plants around it. The body of the web bent and sagged with each gust but then pulled taut again, clinging firmly but loosely to its moorings. depression and resilience

Being resilient means being as tough and flexible as a spider’s web.

Such a light, soft structure, but firmly anchored, moving flexibly with each gust and returning to its normal shape when the air calmed.

The spider’s web reminded me how important it is to develop resilience and flexibility in our thinking and action. To be held firmly by our values, but not so fixed and rigid that we can’t adjust to new challenges.

Resilience is the opposite of depression Click To Tweet.

We all face a certain amount of stress in our life. Stress helps us to strive to reach goals and do our best.

At other times, small doses of stress keep us safe from physical harm.

But sometimes that stress becomes compounded – working overtime for some weeks, loss of regular sleep, a physical illness – and can result in depression.

To keep our low mood from worsening, or relapsing back into a depressed mood, we need to develop something called resilience.

Resilience can be built through greater flexibility in our thinking and behaviour. People who are resilient remain connected to the outside world, are open-minded and search for solutions for when times get tough. They don’t dwell on the challenges or problems of life but are able to move forward despite setbacks.

Although it’s difficult to understand why some people survive and do well after enduring harsh losses and cruel trauma, it does appear that resilient people tend to share certain characteristics.

Resilient people:

  • Are not judgemental of themselves or others
  • Care about others’ feelings
  • Have a good sense of self and feel good about who they are
  • Are thoughtful rather than impulsive
  • Have caring and supportive relationships with friends, family and the wider community and
  • Are skilled in communication and solving problems

Resilience is the ability to grin and bear it.

When stress, hardship or difficulty strikes, you still experience frustration, sorrow and heartache, but they don’t drop you into depression; you’re able to keep going. resilience and depression

This snail is showing flexible behaviour!

Not because you can tough it out or keep a stiff upper lip and pretend all is well, but because you have an inner knowing that you are on your right path.

Resilience is a strength of purpose and strength of character which, during the period of your depression, might have become lost to you.

Resilience is an inner resourcefulness, the knowledge that you can take care of yourself should the black clouds of chronic low mood gather once more.

We do need to develop skills for resiliency.

Resiliency takes time to develop and practice, especially if depression has had you stuck in certain thinking styles for a long time.

The core foundation for building resilience are being flexible in thinking and behaviour.

Resilience: Be flexible in your thinking

When we feel in overwhelming despair we tend to view the world pessimistically. Our gloomy outlook on life and the future may feel like realism to us.

We’ve got so used to having our thoughts be negative that it seems the only sensible way to think now. You may begin to develop negative beliefs that defend your depressed way of life.

For example, you might think

‘It’s better never to leave the house because it’s a dangerous world out there. Look how many muggings and shootings there are today’ or

‘Oh, I’d never take up walking or jogging. No, not with my knees. My father had a knee replacement. I don’t want that. No, it’s safer to stay on the couch’. resilience and depression

Rusty, inflexible and going nowhere fast!

These kinds of thought fossilise in our brains because we’ve used the same neural pathways over and over again. They are automatic thoughts and they seem to make sense to us. They seem realistic.

In fact, thinking like this is very rigid and doesn’t help us to create new ways of thinking and being in the world.

Softening your way of thinking helps you with relationships, gives you more energy and creativity, helps you be more productive and effective at work and even develops a more effective immune system!

Our thinking is based on how we react to the world and the things that we encounter in our daily lives.

No one controls how we react except us.

We are all free to choose our own reactions to events in life. This is how one person can be very upset at something which barely affects another person.

What can you do to break these types of rigid ways of thinking?

  1. Become aware of your thinking. Be aware of when you are ruminating about the problems in your life. Practise letting go of this way of thinking by using mindfulness and then look for the evidence for your belief, or ask a friend if your thinking is realistic.
  2. Look for the evidence. Train yourself to look at an event or conversation which you are responding to from all angles. Is there any evidence for your rigid response? Was it really ‘all their fault’? Could you create an alternative meaning to the thing that has happened? Read more about looking for evidence here.
  3. Ask a friend to give their perspective on your way of thinking. Do they agree with your idea or interpretation? Could they open up an alternative way of responding? Friends and allies are really important in depression recovery. Learn how they can help you here.

Resilience is Developing Flexibility in Behaviour

The other key way to build resilience is to be flexible in your behaviour.

When we are experiencing low mood, it feels easier to do what you’ve always done: eat the same breakfast, take the same route to work, go straight home and watch TV till it’s time for bed. Breaking out of that habit and routine will spark up your brain and lift your mood.

Developing flexibility in behaviour will help build resilience because it opens up the possibility that life can actually be different Click To Tweet. Unless you try something new, however small, you will stay in the belief that how you are living now is the only way it’s ever going to be.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, try something different. Something as simple as a different breakfast cereal, a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten before, an interesting sauce or flavouring will create a new meal time experience that will open your eyes to new possibilities.

On weekends, or days you’re not working, make sure you don’t spend all day doing one thing.

Limit activities to a certain time, particularly those that are sedentary.

  • Watch some TV, but then do a little house work.
  • Surf the net for a set time, then put on a jacket and go for a walk.
  • Give yourself a short time on social media, then get into the kitchen and make a nice meal.
  • Phone a friend and arrange to catch up for coffee.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Go into town and look at the shops.

Just make sure you mix up your weekend activities to increase social time and increase flexibility in behaviour.

Flexibility in thinking and behaviour are important for building resilience when tough times hit.

Having a close look at the way you are responding to events in your life or conversations or actions of others will help you see that there may be more than one point of view, more than one explanation. This will help you choose a response that is less likely to end in disappointment and resentment.

Create a habit of flexibility in thinking and see the benefits for your relationships.

Flexibility in behaviour is also important because it makes you less rigid, and things which are less rigid are less likely to snap and break! Enjoy a varied lifestyle with different activities and see how brighter your mood can be and how much stronger you feel. resilience and depression

Build resilience and flexibility and protect yourself from depression.

If you have found this post helpful, please consider sharing it to spread the message. Also, would you like to leave a comment below? I love to hear from readers and will respond to all comments. Thank you!




About the Author

If you'd asked her 15 years ago if she believed life could be a wonderful as it is today, Vickie would have answered, 'I just don't know, but it doesn't seem likely.' Now she knows that if she can turn her life around, it's possible for you too. Ask Vickie how she can help you design the life you'd really love to live and say goodbye to depression forever.

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