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From Surviving to Thriving

For lots of us this is a very worrying time. It may be that you are under all types of pressure; relationships, finances, kids home, working from home, getting food and toilet roll!! We are facing challenges that two weeks ago we took for granted. My challenges are staying motivated, having a focus and doing things that have a meaning and purpose.

But how do we do this? How can we maintain our wellbeing during these times of strain? Perhaps taking inspiration from people who have overcome all odds can help us through this:

Alexander Selkirk (1676 ? 13 December 1721)

Selkirk was said to be the inspiration behind Robinson Crusoe after being marooned on an uninhabited island off the coast of Chile. At first he struggled to survive but adapted to his surroundings and lived on the island for four years before being picked up in 1709 by a passing ship. Selkirk was reported to be incoherent with joy after not having human contact for four years and helped the ship?s crew recover from scurvy using his agile skills to hunt the island’s native species.

Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 ? 5 December 2013)

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. The first 18 of these were spent in near isolation in a damp concrete cell measuring 8ft x 7ft with a straw mat to sleep on. Mandela was sent to work in a lime quarry where he received permanent damage to his eyes from the glare of the rocks as he was forbidden sunglasses.

Mandela spent many months in solitary confinement, he was allowed one visit and one letter every six months. The letters were heavily censored. During his time in prison he contracted Tuberculosis and experienced many hardships.

Despite spending many years in prison he managed to study and gained a degree in law from a college in London via distance learning. In February 1990 Mandela was released and went on to win the Nobel Peace prize and became the President of South Africa.

Hugh Glass (1783-1833)

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio was based on a true story about the American frontiersman and fur trapper who became a folk hero after surviving a bear attack and then traveling hundreds of miles alone to safety. Glass was left for dead by his travelling companions and spent two months travelling through hostile conditions to seek revenge on those who had betrayed him. The movie is a fictionalised account of his life, however there are some elements of truth in it as Glass was attacked by a bear and suffered horrific injuries. He used his outdoor skills to overcome the odds and managed to track down the above and it is recorded he forgave them.

Vesna Vulovic (3 January 1950 ? 23 December 2016)

She holds possibly one of the most unwanted world records of all time – she fell over 30,000 ft without a parachute and survived. She was a flight attendant on a plane that was hit by a bomb in 1972. Vulovi? spent days in a coma and was hospitalized for several months. She suffered a fractured skull, three broken vertebrae, broken legs, broken ribs, and a fractured pelvis. These injuries resulted in her being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. She made an almost complete recovery but continued to walk with a limp. Vulovi? had no memory of the incident and had no qualms about flying in the aftermath of the crash. 

She went on to become a political activist and fought for democratic rights in Yugoslavia and Serbia. Vesna became an optimist and refused to undergo therapy for her trauma. She was quoted as saying “If you can survive what I survived,” she said, “you can survive anything.”

The above examples are based on people who have overcome the odds in extreme conditions, for some of us these are extreme conditions of loneliness and isolation. So what can we do to ensure we maintain our well being:

  1. Comedy – a good laugh is amazing for our well being physically, emotionally and mentally.
  2. Have a plan – make a new routine, make plans to exercise, make plans to read a book, watch a film – having something to look forward to is optimistic and brings us pleasure. 
  3. Exercise – whatever your level is, anything is better than nothing – there are lots of videos out there. And we can still go for a walk. Exercise has a massive impact on your well being – it’s a holistic winner for mind, body and soul.
  4. Routine – our routines have changed, make a new one – get up at a certain time, have breakfast, do some exercise then read, then meditate then watch a comedy or uplifting programme. My routine is as follows since working from home – wake up, shower, breakfast, work from home, exercise, read, watch some tv, meditate. I add some other stuff in but make time to do the things  I value and make them a priority. What do you value and what are your priorities?
  5. Connect – however you do it, make some time to connect with others. For some this is a challenge due to various factors. It may be that going to a central location once a week was your opportunity for socialising which has now gone. Reaching out is very difficult, but it can make a massive difference. Pick up the phone, write letters to people even if you can’t send them. Write a journal or diary, it?s better to get your thoughts and feelings externalised in black and white than ruminating on them.


These are just small steps we can take to help us cope with the lockdown. Over the next few weeks Valleys Steps will be giving you tips and advice to help you. One last thing before I sign off, a simple thing like having a long bath can bring us a huge amount of pleasure. Take ?self-care?

By Paul Griffits

Lead Practitioner