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Your Wellbeing: the eye of Chris

Revd Chris McDermott, Lead Chaplain for the University of Sussex.

It’s happened! I feel like I have arrived.

I now have a namesake tropical storm! I’d sport the name, ‘Hurricane Chris’ but some rapper named Christopher Dooley Jr has already taken that name. But never mind.

I have always liked wild weather, even when I was a child. The wild howl of wind, the deafening clash of thunder and lightening, dodging seriously large hailstones or having to sleep in a community centre because of a sudden snow blizzard were all the stuff of drama for me.

On one occasion, I remember weathering electrical storms while camping in a tent by the St Francis River in Quebec and later during that same trip in Aroostic County in northern Maine. Perhaps I was rather too oblivious to the damaging potential of such ‘drama’.

It is sometimes difficult to find a refuge when you are caught up in a serious weather situation and always a good idea to have a plan: keeping an eye on weather forecasts before venturing out, identifying places for shelter along the way, dressing appropriately and, in extreme cases, making sure you are well supplied with water, food, etc. for those worse-case scenarios.

Storms, of course, are also hackneyed metaphors for the stuff that sometimes life’s ‘weather’ dumps on us.

I do not advocate constantly worrying about worse-case scenarios that might unfold for us at any moment now. That sounds more like a life-killer and recipe for being permanently anxious. You are too worried about what might happen to enjoy the present moment in that case.

But there is also something in the idea of nurturing the kinds of resources that, on those occasions when we find ourselves in the throes of a Chris (the tropical storm, not me) keep us steady and grounded.

Key things among those resources include:

Attitude

Optimism informed by the reality that bad stuff happens now and then to all of us. This is basically a positive outlook that is neither infantile in its assumption that the sun will always be shining nor a Private Frazer-like “We're doomed, DOOMED!” morbid preoccupation with a bleak future.

Building relationships

The quality of our connection with others will at the worst times offer a much needed and valued support when things crash around us. Having friends and colleagues with whom you can be honest and open and who provide you with a sense of a kind, non-judgmental and positive regard can be just the shelter you need.

Resilience

Cultivating habits of life that build both physical and inner resilience are also crucial not only to our general sense of wellbeing but also in sustaining us when things go terribly ‘Trump’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist this. Especially as a Trump storm is likely sweeping London right now!)

Habits of exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, meeting up with other people and making time for family and friends (see above) are just some ways of cultivating resilience in our lives - drawing on the kinds of inner resources that can ground us when foundations shake with the force of the wind.

These are just a few ideas for finding way into the ‘eye of Chris’ – again, the storm, not me. That place of relative calm amid whatever stormy challenges you may face. In the meantime, ‘Hamba khale!’ as I got into the habit of saying while living in South Africa.

Go well.

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Thursday, 12 July 2018

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