Kate McLeay. Photo: Florence Charvin

[As published in May/June BayBuzz magazine.]

To say that Hawke’s Bay experienced a sudden and great change at the hands of Cyclone Gabrielle would be an understatement. Watching the carnage was and still is heartbreaking. It’s impossible to imagine the true depths of the pain of those who literally had their homes, loved ones and livelihoods submerged or swept away. There are many stories of devastation and in the long tail of this storm the chequered journeys and labyrinths those most affected now walk through feels unfathomable.

Yet. The warm ray of hope from the outset has been the inspirational rising of community helping community. The compassion in action of a multitude of humble heroes with huge hearts, deep courage and true grit. There are so many stories of the remarkable spirit of individuals and community resilience shining through. A true testimony to the human spirit and the power of resilience in the face of adversity.

Resilience used to be thought of as the ability to ‘bounce back’. But the truth is that there is no going back. With each breath as humans, we change. The pain of catastrophic change brings irrevocable change.

That’s where adaptive resilience steps in.

Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute defines Adaptive Resilience as, “The ability to recover from adversity, adapt and thrive. It builds the capacity to be productive, resourceful and creative within changing circumstance or adversity.” Adaptive resilience or ‘bouncing forward’ is the crucial quality that helps individuals, communities and countries recover and rebuild after catastrophes. To get better not bitter.

There are many great, often complex models for building resilience. Towards the end of NZ resilience expert Bradley Hook’s book Resilience Mastery there was an aside that made me smile. “It may sound cliché, but diet, exercise and sleep are the building blocks of resilience. We struggle to reach mastery without nailing these essentials first.”

So, let’s keep it simple and stick with some essentials. Practices that in their simplicity you might take for granted within these four basic pillars of resilience. Give yourself a resounding YES for each one you already do and find one in each category you could do more.

1. Mental resilience

Working on your mental resilience gives you increased mental focus, more discipline, determination and willpower. We know from the scientific research that willpower works like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Take up small challenges without giving up. Build concentration through regular meditation practice. Practice conscious mindful presence. Become the ‘gatekeeper’ of your mind and thoughts. Release what you can’t control. Strengthen your ability to “reframe” challenges to look for learning. Keep learning – read a book, attend a course, ask for help. In short, mentally resilient folks stay challenged.

2. Physical resilience

Research also tells us that the number one thing you can do to boost your physical resilience is to move your body. In 2017 Dr Keith M. Diaz from Columbia University in New York City published his findings on what is now being called the “30-minute rule for longevity”. The best advice from this study is to avoid long periods of sitting. Take time throughout the day to mindfully move and stretch. Walk, dance, garden, hang out the washing, take the stairs. In addition to this keep your body healthy through eating nutrient dense food and pure water. Limit alcohol … it’s a depressant. Prioritise sleep as the number one way to combat stress. 

3. Social resilience

When you stay in touch with others you are being socially resilient. Hugs and handshakes stimulate the brain. Having a friend who you look forward to connecting with and taking the initiative to stay engaged builds social resilience. Random acts of kindness have been shown to make you happier for two weeks and make the other person happy for a whole day. Surround yourself with supportive people and reach out to help others in need. Seek out resilient role models and find out their secrets. 

4. Emotional resilience

Emotional resilience allows us to find positive things even when circumstances stay grim. Emotional resilience is the ability to provoke powerful, positive emotions like gratitude and love. It is the ability to practice self-compassion; Invoking laughter through conversation; Evoking feelings of gratitude, love, freedom, or joy; Remembering your moments of triumph and how these felt; Being kind to yourself and interested in other people’s lives; Engage in regular reflection on things beautiful, fanciful, visionary. Emotional resilience exercises our capability to imagine, dream, plan and create. 

These four pillars are irrevocably interconnected and just a drop in the ocean of the possibilities. Do you want to know the hardest part? Taking the time out to incorporate them into your daily life.

The author of Resilience, Elizabeth Edwards wrote, “She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” Keep adjusting your sails treasures. Acknowledge the resilience that you have shown through all the storms that life has thrown you. You as living wisdom. Writing a road map for others to follow. Pick one thing you could do to make you stronger. The best of the best – exploring how to get better and better. 

Suggested reading• The Choice, by Edith Eger• Resilient Grieving, by Dr Lucy Hone • Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Kate McLeay is a mindfulness mentor, yoga teacher and retreat host based out at Cape South Country Estate and Wellness Retreat.  www.katemcleay.com

royston hospital logo
Royston Hospital is pleased to sponsor robust examination of health issues in Hawkes Bay This reporting is prepared by BayBuzz Any editorial views expressed are those of the BayBuzz team

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you. We all need reminding that standing still in life is not an option.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *