Bounce Back Better: Build Social Networks

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites have large followings. This is a reflection of the basic need of human beings for love and fellowship as well as the need to feel as part of something bigger than ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other, to form strong bonds. We need the safety net of social support systems when other areas of our lives come crashing down.

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Several years ago a home was burnt to ashes, leaving the family with no possessions. All clothing, food, school supplies, appliances and everything else in the house were destroyed.

There was an outpouring of love from a variety of persons. This love was practical, consisting of donations of food and other supplies. It came from other relatives, community members, friends and well-wishers, their children’s school fraternities, local government representatives and churches.

The family had all the support they needed to survive, eventually re-build a home and to carry on with life in a relatively short time. The ability of that family to withstand and overcome their adverse situation was greatly enhanced by their external support systems.

Similarly, when natural disasters strike, nations come together to assist those undergoing the misfortune. When Haiti and the Dominican Republic were hit by separate hurricanes some years ago, the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago graciously and generously assisted them.

The point is that we do not exist in isolation. We need to support each other and we need support from others to survive and thrive.

By working and playing together, our bodies produce hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that promote feelings of well being.

Supportive networks help us differentiate between what is and is not important.

Through our interactions with diverse people, we learn and improve skills that help us stay afloat during difficult times.

Just as we are advised to back up our computer systems, we need to build relationships as our human back-up systems  when tragedy strikes.

Tell me, do you have a strong support network?


Series of Workshops on Resilience

We all go through rough times.

It may be a loss of job, loss of a loved one through death or breakup, loss of good health, loss of sense of self after a devastating blow or business or examination failure.

Whatever your particular loss may be at this point in time, I have come to realize that there are some basic steps that can help to smooth the transition to a “new normal”.

I recognized a pattern of behaviours to overcome tough times through my own life’s journeys down a rocky road that at one point involved being a survivor of gun violence.

Resilient woman

My third book,”Bounce Back Better, 10(+1) Key Steps for Building Resilience” discusses the steps that all of us need to employ as we traverse this unpredictable, sometimes bumpy life pathway.


Out of the third book, I have developed and am developing a series of workshops that will soon be available. The workshops are entitled:

  • Women’s Leadership Workshop: The Resilient Woman
  • Girls’ Empowerment Workshop Series: The Resilient Girl (Ages 12 to 18)
  • Boys’ Empowerment Workshop Series: The Resilient Boy (Ages 12 to 18)
  • Men’s Leadership Workshop: The Resilient Man

The series are 12 part series based on the principles in my book, Bounce Back Better. Each workshop is specifically modified for the the selected audience. The workshops include specially designed workbooks and can be done as half day sessions (12) or whole day sessions (6).

The series :

  • develops definitions of success and resilience,
  • evaluates participants current level of resilience,
  • provides and develops the steps needed for resilience and
  • includes interactive exercises on faith, personal strength, social networks and higher values.

I am planning to host the various workshops online at some point in time and will soon make available an introductory video.

If you are interested in the workshops, online or offline, leave a comment below. You can follow my blog to receive information as it becomes available or leave your email address in the form below.

Today is World Mental Day, 2016 and there has been a host of information coming at me from the newspaper, Facebook posts and a Radio programme.

For the first time I delved into the pages of activists for mental health. I am amazed and impressed by the few I have had time to look at for today only.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2013. I accessed excellent psychological, medical and social support, through the public system, friends and family.

Truth be told though, upon careful examination of my life, I think I may have been experiencing bouts of depression for a much longer time than I can recall.

Over the years I can recount many, many occasions when my thinking was fuzzy and there was mental fog.

I would be hard on myself, always believing that I was just anti-social. Anti-social, because I would avoid going out, refuse to answer telephone calls and generally withdraw from many activities.

Activist/comedian based in the United Kingdom, Ruby Wax, likes to quote that  1 in 4 persons are suffering with some form of mental illness and, in the same breath, suggest that the figure is really 4 in 4. In other words, almost all, if not all, of us have some degree of mental problem.

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If those figures are to be believed, then there are several implications with which we need to deal. I will focus on just one for today’s post.

If so many of us are ailing in this aspect of our lives, then we should be more compassionate toward each other. All of us are hurting, why do we need to add to that hurt by placing negative labels?

The stigma of a diagnosis associated with mental health is real. It is so real, that many are unwilling to admit it even to themselves. It is so real that it is a flowing source for comedic relief.

We do not hear of jokes about heart health, kidney health or other physical illnesses. In fact to laugh at any of these physical problems would be highly insensitive.

Yet…we continue to cajole or even badger those who are experiencing mental challenges to shrug it off, get going, stop being lazy and just get over it. We get impatient and intolerant when they begin sharing their situation with us.

Sadly instead of being supportive, what is needed, we become less available and less encouraging to those who have real mental challenges.

A mental health diagnosis is not necessarily a sign of being totally out of control of your thinking, beliefs and actions. Dr. Hanif E. A. Benjamin expressed it so well this morning on a local radio programme.

He said that mental health illness can be considered as falling along a continuous spectrum. There is a wide range of problems, from minor to severe. Some problems allow a person to function at a high level in society while other problems reduce that level so  that a person is unable to function according to societal norms.

The statistics are real and are a reflection of the times in which we live as well as only accounting for those who actually seek help. This means that the figures are probably much higher in reality.

There is help. We all can help. Ignorance and lack of compassion are unacceptable in these so-called enlightened times.

Let us all join in  fanning the flames of passion lit by the activists for and professionals in mental health. Let us start developing our compassion, humanity and respect for all life. Let us nullify the stigma as we stand in solidarity with each other for mental health issues.

Are you on board? Are you willing to help educate and support in the field of mental health? Are you already doing your part? Please leave a comment and let me know.


Navigating The Storms Of Life.

Embracing challenges enables us to navigate life adeptly, circumventing hurdles which may hinder physiological, psychological and spiritual progress.

We are constantly faced with situations which take us out of our comfort zones. It may be attending a function by yourself, not knowing anyone else there… and you are an introvert. Or it may be losing a job or simply the prospect of losing a job.

Perhaps you are awaiting the results of a medical examination; you play a variety of scenarios in your mind: “I have cancer…or diabetes… or high blood pressure…or a heart condition”… and the list goes on.

It could be the devastating news of the death of a loved one. Divorce may be on the horizon. Maybe you left home blissfully unaware of dramatic circumstances that would soon unfold: a robbery or an accident.

Such negative news could have been received personally; alternatively it may have been relayed through another person directly or by different types of messages (written, text) or by a telephone call. It may have been obtained through a newspaper article or a television programme or even via the Internet.

Whatever the situation is, it takes you out of your comfort zone; out of that sphere of life with which you are most familiar and with which you are most capable of handling.

If you are a fan of athletics you may be aware that when winning times for certain events such as the sprints, hurdles and long jump, are announced, mention is made of the wind reading. There are two categories of wind reading: a positive reading resulting from a “tailwind” or a negative reading resulting from a “headwind”.

A “tailwind” is one which assists the athlete. It exerts a push from behind the athlete and enhances his performance. Up to a given maximum, a “tailwind” is legally accepted; beyond that maximum value, the result is illegal and does not count for record purposes.

A “headwind” is one which creates resistance for the athlete. The athlete moves in one direction while the wind blows in the opposite direction. All headwinds are considered legal.

Today as I was running I was reminded of these two terms: “tailwind” and “headwind”.

I used a different venue for my usual evening run. I was asked to meet my nephew after an event at a local mall in South Trinidad and then take him to my mother’s home. It was more convenient for me to run at a nearby ground in San Fernando called Skinner Park than close to home, so that I would be on time for him.

The Park has a field which is widely used by Southerners for walking, running, football practice and games and also for socializing or “liming” as it is referred to in Trinidad.

Running in one direction around the field, I faced a mild tailwind.

Running in the opposite direction left me feeling as though I was in a hurricane zone: the headwind was tremendous. I was being pushed backward almost literally (perhaps not eating properly today could have contributed to that).

What was I to do?

I could have stopped running. However that would have upset my running goal for the week.

I could have tried to push harder to keep moving at the same pace. This would have left me depleted and unable to complete my daily running goal.

I could have adjusted, and did adjust, my stride so that I was able to move more slowly along that portion of the field. In this way, I was able to accomplish my goal and save some energy by adapting to the conditions along the different areas of the track.

When we are dealt with circumstances that upset our equilibrium in life, what do we do?

Do we stop doing all that we set out to do? Do we pretend that we are superhuman and fight and struggle unsuccessfully against those upsets? Or do we adjust our internal meters, reset our goals and circumnavigate around the obstacle?

To be able to stand tall, with your character strengthened and your dignity maintained, I propose that it is best to select the last option.

Initially you may have to stop doing some activities which become beyond your new capacity. You may need time to come to terms with the situation. The time needed for grief and eventual acceptance of the setback is unique for each individual.

This is an essential step before anyone can overcome any type of challenge. Some persons need very little time; others need days, weeks, months or years. It does not make you inferior to someone else if you need more time than they appear to need.

Like in the story of Cinderella, no one else can fit exactly into your shoes. Your inherent traits such as personality, your experiences, your beliefs, values and faith, your position in life and your resilience are some of the factors which determine the size and shape of your proverbial shoe.

Science is now finding evidence that there is a secondary, chemical-based system which works along with the main central nervous system for relaying messages throughout the body. This secondary system uses large molecules to translate emotional experiences into physical symptoms or signals.

This means that emotions are not experienced only in the brain but they may also trigger biochemical reactions in almost every system in the body ( It supports the mind-body connection; what affects the mind does seem to affect the body.

The point is that you should not allow anyone to minimize your grief or the time you need to heal after an experience that was traumatic for you. As I already said, it may have been a missed deadline or a broken relationship and it may have been traumatic for you.

So there will always be some kind of challenge in life. We have to be prepared for such challenges and go through a process of grieving, customized for our unique situations.

My only qualification for the grieving process is that you be mindful enough to know if and when you need professional help.

However, once you are past the grief stage of a trying experience then acceptance of your current situation will step in and you will be ready to take responsibility for reassessing and resetting your goals.

The real challenge is not in avoiding the hurdles of life but in being able to recognize them for what they are: catalysts of change. It is in being able to embrace those obstacles which stand in the way of the path that you selected for yourself and using them to sidestep to another path.

Great insight is gained when the curved ball thrown at you is used to your advantage. The greatest gain comes when you are able to discern that the ball was curved to divert you in a different direction.

A curved ball sends you on a spontaneous journey; a journey that is unplanned and unknown.

Such a journey could be postponed if you live in denial of your fate, of the circumstances created by your trouble or trial. Postponed but not cancelled. Rest assured that no matter when you do decide to embrace the challenges of life, you will once again resume the journey for which you are called.

The challenges life deals to us are meant to steer us in the direction of our personal spiritual journeys.

I see it as a cycle: we face challenges which help us to mature spiritually; our spiritual maturity then helps us to cope with further challenges. The cycle repeats until the final destination of our spiritual journey is on the horizon.

Are you aware of your spiritual journey? Have you taken a conscious decision to embark on such a journey? Do you need to rejuvenate and resume your journey?