Personal Resilience & Well-being by Ashley Goosman
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Ashley Goosman's Personal Resilience & Well-being Journey
There are many reasons why we do this work. As my colleagues note, few of us entered this profession with foresight or pre-planning. Many of us were either voluntold or fell into it after recognizing affinities from past traumatic experiences. In my case, the September 11 Attack precipitated my entry into disaster recovery. I've shared that I started this work after joining the American Red Cross Recovery Program in New York. It was such a watershed experience that it became my future work. Rather than remaining with NGOs, I became invested in continuity planning, first on the public side and later with a private corporation. For others, it's prior military, emergency management, Y2k, risk management, or events that sparked an affinity for the profession.
What is likely less clear are the personal motivations that drive me. That road started long before. I grew up in challenging economic circumstances. My family lived a hardscrabble life on Cape Cod, part of the tradition of multi-generational families dating back to the Pilgrim settlers that make a living on this peninsula next to the sea. I was the fixer—problem solver—in my family.
I'm of the camp that believes mental health is a disease and likens it to other illnesses in the body. Like many, I had periods of emotional distress after 9/11. After starting my healing journey, I went to New York to work on the 9/11 Mental Health Benefit. As difficult as the experience was, I found a purpose. Living through our shared COVID experience into year three, I understand the importance of well-being and resilience practices.
We need to be forgiving of ourselves and each other. All humans confront difficulties in life. And we are all living through the pandemic but in different ways. I am a fan of Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Freud. His holistic approach to psychology emphasizes the importance of overcoming feelings of inferiority and gaining a sense of belonging to achieve success and happiness. If you haven't read the Japanese phenomenon, The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness, I highly recommend it. Adler is the grandfather of the Western self-help movement, and his themes are just as relevant as at the turn of the last century.
The science of resilience practices is over forty years old. However, the link between a resilient workforce and organization is gaining traction in our near post-COVID world. Clinically validated techniques help people resist job stress, burnout risk, and obtain work-life balance. My practice includes embracing a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition, fitness, mediation, gratitude, sleep hygiene, and sufficient downtime. Balancing it isn't easy, so achieving it is a sustaining goal. Hopefully, more companies will support resilience as a norm for building a healthy workplace.
Companies like meQuilibrium assist employers in bridging the gap between employee mental health, organizational resilience, and workforce development. Their solutions are proven. Founder Jan Bruce states that "The biggest challenge facing employers in 2022 is to be able to predict and prevent employee mental health problems early – before they have a negative impact – and create a culture of mental well-being". In addition, researchers like George Bonanno are on the leading edge of sharing breakthroughs in learnings about PTSD, grief, and depression. Scientists like Steve Crimando are grounding us in techniques like Psychological First Aid (PFA) and practical behavioral health applications of threat management and crisis intervention.
As for me, I made a small contribution to supporting efforts to embed emotional resilience and PFA in US communities. I'll continue to be an avid supporter of these efforts because I saw the positive difference they've made in my own life. Having married later in life, I am blessed to have an amazing husband who shares my passion for self-improvement and giving back. I read recently that the normal human state leans toward pessimism. From a paleolithic perspective, this evolutionary trait makes sense as living in the natural world; death was a daily risk.
Yet, I believe our ancestors also embraced an optimistic outlook. I've heard it said that hope is a crucial differentiator of humanity. We now have the tools to gain increased individual and business plasticity. Personal agency and self-actualization are obtainable objectives. Although individuals are somewhere along the continuum, resilience is a learnable trait. This realization bodes well for the road ahead. Resilient organizations are possible but require investment in their workers. I am living proof that turnaround is attainable, and I share this hoping that my journey can inspire or align with your path.
It's time for the stigmas of mental illness to end. We are becoming COVID survivors learning to thrive on change, empowered to live better and bring our empathetic selves to our work lives.
Reach out to the Resilience Think Tank or connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.