We all go through moments of adversity. A loss. A traumatic event. A big change. It’s an unfortunate truth that binds us all together. But when these moments of challenge rear their head, how do you get through them? We spoke to Ed Jackson, a professional rugby player whose whole life was turned upside down after jumping into a shallow pool. Ed has become a master in overcoming what many would consider an incredible level of adversity - told that he would never walk again, to now scaling mountains and inspiring others to push beyond their limits. This blog brings his unique insight and crystalises it into some takeaway advice on how to help yourself (or a loved one) get through a tricky time.

The power of self-belief 

When times are tough, often it’s the limits in our minds that create a barrier to progress. Ed recalled a massive shift in his recovery when he worked with a physical therapist that told him that he would be able to walk again. Just the hope of this in the future willed him enough to try. So how do you bring this same level of self-belief into your own life? 

  • Picture yourself getting through this tough time. If you can’t even allow yourself to dream that it might happen, then it’ll be tough to find the motivation to keep going. 
  • Surround yourself with people that talk positively too. As Ed said, it wasn’t until someone put the thought in his mind that he could walk again that he wanted to try. 
  • Add in daily goals. Ticking off the small things can be the motivation you need to push toward bigger achievements. 

Securing yourself in the present 

Second up is mindfulness. Now we know this word might elicit an eye roll, but we’re talking about being in the present. In his recovery, Ed told us how much power this had for him “What I realised is that in order progress I couldn’t live in the future in the past, I had to ask myself, what can I do right there and then.”  But how do you ‘practice’ mindfulness? 

  • Focus on awareness: many think mindfulness is all about clearing your head completely. Instead, just focus on the present - acknowledging all your thoughts without judgement. 
  • Notice where you are: it might be as simple as naming 5 things you can see, 3 things you can hear and 1 thing you can smell. This pulls you out of your internal narrative that may be rooted in the past or future. 
  • Have answers to your past and future worries: make a list of common concerns, judgements and worries you have. And write a retort to each. Often we spiral into thinking about the past or present because we have nothing to say back. Arm yourself with those words. 

Shifting perspective with gratitude 

When you’re going through a difficult time we often disconnect from feelings of gratitude. But instead of getting stuck in the struggle, gratitude forces us to seek out the little things that give us happiness. And it was this mindset that forged positivity into Ed’s early recovery; “Realising how lucky I am to just be alive has added a whole new layer of appreciation to my life “. Want to start refocusing on gratitude? Here are some tips: 

  • Make it a conscious habit: like brushing your teeth or hitting the gym. Make it a part of your day - at the same time every day. 
  • Write it down or share it: record your gratitudes in a notebook, your phone notes or chat them out with a loved one. 
  • Be specific: whilst it’s important to look at the bigger picture like Ed did, try and pick out some unique gratuities for that day. Like a walk in the sun, your coffee in the morning or discovering a new song. 

Strength through stoicism 

Ed highlighted a turning point in his recovery when his friend gave him a book called ‘The Obstacle is The Way’ by Ryan Holiday. The book centres on the concept of stoicism - essentially removing emotion and replacing it with rationality. This way of thinking helped Ed to reframe his thoughts around his accident - from feeling unlucky to lucky. It’s by no means a simple shift but one that can be incredibly useful when you are experiencing negative emotions. 

  • Pause: catch the thoughts and emotions attached to them. Instead be curious about them, questioning them rather than allowing them to take over your whole being. 
  • Focus on what you can control: often we’re paralysed by the fear of things we can’t control. Instead, focus on the aspects that are in your control and how you can make moves within those boundaries. 
  • Objectify your situation: remove your emotion and look at the facts as an outsider. 

Welcomed distractions 

Sometimes regardless of all of the mental resilience we have, there are times where distraction can come in really handy. When feeling unmotivated Ed talked about how distraction would give him relief - whether that be writing, reading, spending time with loved ones or laughing it off with his rugby mates. But what does healthy distraction look like? 

  • Mindful distraction: engaging in distraction is great until it stops you from progressing forward. Be strategic about distraction - using it time to rest and recover before making moves (whether they be mental or physical).
  • Loved ones: the support of people around you, regardless of what adversity you might be faced with, cannot be understated. Laughing, sharing how you feel and talking ‘normally’ can all be helpful to keep you on track. 

We hope this journal has given you some direction if you’re experiencing a difficult time or are looking out for someone else. To hear more about Ed Jackson’s incredible journey, you can watch his talk on The Weekly or get in touch with our team to book him for a PepTalk with your business. 

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