As many of you already know, this is a special week. It’s National Police week, a time when we’re encouraged to pause and think about the invaluable contributions these men and women make to our quality of life. We thank not just the officers, but also their families, for the steadfast work they do in supporting their loved ones.
It’s my privilege to work with a number of officers, and I am constantly astounded by the extreme situations they find themselves in, and the incredible resourcefulness it takes to stay focussed on the job at hand. I bear witness to the toll it takes on them, and the dedication they demonstrate through years of service. How do they stay resilient I wonder? This question has been a lifelong obsession for me, taking me back thirty years to my master’s research when I interviewed officers across the country, trying to understand the unique stressors that police officers face while on the job.
It takes a special kind of person to stay strong when the going gets tough. The job takes a number of forms: whether it’s keeping our streets and highways safe, working homicide cases, investigating cybercrime, conducting sex crime investigations, working undercover with gangs, conducting military investigations, or in the case of RCMP members, doing time in isolated Northern communities.
To each and every one of you, we are grateful for your efforts.
Thanks to you, our communities are that much safer.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Founder, Landing Strong
I have a confession to make. I love Christmas, it’s the simple things that make it special really…like the smell of my mother’s traditional shortbread recipe filling the house as we play good tunes and decorate cookies together. Although my mother is gone, the smell reminds me of her love. Or watching cheesy Christmas movies together and participating in family fitness bootcamps. It’s a time when we all take time away from our busy lives to connect. My kids will come home, we’ll cook some good food together, and maybe have a kitchen dance party or two. In this busy life, and despite the many events of the season, for me, it’s a time of reflection and appreciation.
Have you noticed how easy it is to fall into routines in our daily lives that place the needs of others ahead of our own? We form patterns that might not be sustainable, often leaving us discouraged and exhausted. I’m reminded of the importance of taking time to “refill the well” before the supply runs dry. It’s an aspect of our wellbeing that’s often neglected.
If we don’t make a conscious effort to destress at the end of each day, the cumulative effect of what we carry in our lives can become increasingly difficult to hold. That’s why doing something we enjoy each day is so important. We are offering two programs in January, both designed to build resilience and help us stay strong.
For First Responders and Veterans living with PTSD, anxiety or depression, we have the “New Year, New You” workshop on January 11th.
For Caregivers, friends and family of these First Responders and Veterans, we are offering Part 1 of our “Care for the Caregiver” series on January 7th for those who weren’t able to attend the first series.
We hope that you will join us.
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.
Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team, Belinda
I was deeply touched last week when I read an article about Skippy, an 10-month-old barn cat, who crawled home ten days after going missing. He had three broken legs and puncture and talon marks on his back leg. Carried away by an owl, Skippy fought furiously for survival until the bird of prey dropped him, leading to the broken bones. With his one good leg, he somehow managed to drag himself home.
Like Skippy, many of us have an equally strong desire to find our way home; even when it may seem impossible. Although the breaks and injuries might not be visible, invisible wounds can prevent an easy return. Once we have arrived at our destination, that’s often when the real work begins. Will we ever be the same? Is recovery possible? What must happen for us to fit into home as we previously knew it?
This is the work of Landing Strong. It takes incredible resilience to make the journey. We hope that you will join us on September 27th in celebrating the strength, courage, and fortitude it takes for service men and women, veterans, and first responders who are struggling to find their way home.
I was going for a hike last weekend when I stumbled across the perfect example of resiliency. A magnificent mushroom, in the middle of a gravel road, pushing its way up towards the universe. Despite everything that says it shouldn’t exist, it appears to be thriving.
It made me ponder the meaning of resilience: not just surviving, but thriving in the face of adversity. Having that wonderful Indian rubber ball “bounce back” quality when life throws us hard knocks.
Many people I work with tell me that I better not expect them to get all emotional because they “don’t do that stuff.”
Ignoring the emotional impact of our experiences takes a bigger toll than we think. Dealing with the emotional impact of our experiences is often harder than carrying out the duties of our jobs in the first place. It’s a completely different headspace than being in operational mode.
When we aren’t able to experience or express our feelings, we create an emotional backlog that eventually catches up with us. It’s only possible to keep this up for so long. This is one of the reasons we see so many military members and first responders people performing at a top level in their careers, only to experience problems after many years of service or following retirement. They aren’t broken, they are suffering from emotional backlog.
By learning to clean our emotional closet regularly, we prevent injury.
How do we do this? By being vulnerable. Resiliency isn’t about being tough, it’s about knowing how and when to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to do our jobs and be okay.
We grow stronger by shining a light on the darkest areas of our lives, and understanding the emotional impact of these experiences on us. Going to those places that we least want to go. Our resiliency comes from fearlessly facing the emotions that accompany them.
So as you can see, courage is tied into resiliency. And the people who are doing the work of recovery are some of the bravest people I know.
We are hosting a Celebration of Resiliency in conjunction with the Grand Opening of our new Landing Strong Centre in Windsor, Nova Scotia. We’d love to have you join us in celebrating the strength of our community, and the military members, veterans, and first responders who serve them. Let’s also celebrate the families who support them, because they are indeed, as the Military Family Resource Center puts it, the strength behind the uniform.
I remember when the kids were little, they had a pet Betta fish. For some reason, that only they would understand, they named it “Llama.” One day, I asked my son to clean the fish water. He happily obliged, but left the small round fish bowl on the bathroom sink (with the fish in it). We went out for dinner, and when we returned, the fish had jumped out of the bowl. A thorough search led to a ghastly discovery… Llama had completely dried up on the bathroom floor. So dry in fact that I could not pick him up by hand, and had to use a putty knife to gently chip him off. His poor dehydrated form came up in one piece, except for a small segment of his fin that remained cemented to the floor. I dropped him into the fish bowl, preparing to dispense of him.
To my surprise, when I picked up the bowl, I noticed that Llama appeared to be breathing. Watching intently, I saw him magically rehydrate, and slowly regain movement and life. By the end of an hour, it would have been impossible to know that he had been near death. The only telltale sign being a small piece of missing fin.
Trying to understand the miracle I had witnessed, I did some research and learned that Betta fishes were discovered living in puddles, drainage ditches, and rice paddies in China. Extreme changes in environment forced it to adapt, finding a way to survive harsh conditions. The instinct to jump, and find a bigger puddle had backfired on our poor friend. Natural survival adaptation, however, allowed it to shut down its metabolism and wait out the “drought” until the opportunity to rehydrate presented itself. Like a dried up puddle being replenished by rain.
Llama the betta fish dried up and came back to life.
Although he made a full recovery and lived for a long time after, he had a chip in his fin (a piece of the middle missing) from the rescue. It didn’t affect his ability to swim, but remained with him, an understated reminder of his resilience.
Recovery from trauma does not mean going back to being exactly the same person we were before our injury. It means learning to move forward: wiser, smarter, and better prepared to protect ourselves against future injury.
Connecting with Belinda
Founder Belinda Seagram, Ph.D. shares regular blog posts to inspire you during your journey.