Introduction to the podcast
Welcome and get to know Bethan Vincent
Interview with Bethan Vincent about challenges and developing resilience
Hi there. Welcome to The Brave a podcast all about resilience and how to deal with the trials and tribulations that modern day life likes to throw at us. My name is Bethan Vincent and I'm going to be your host for this series. And over the coming weeks I'm going to be interviewing a range of people from various walks of life, different professions, and basically talk to them about how they have approached challenges, how they deal with risk, how do they endure under periods of extreme stress, and how do they deal with the fact that life is often imperfect and full of obstacles
So hang in there with me and I hope to see you throughout this entire series.
Welcome to episode one. This week is going to be slightly different because I'm actually going to be the solo guest on the podcast.
I basically felt it was kind of unfair to go out and ask people rather intimate questions without opening myself up firstly. So this week I'm basically going to talk about my kind of story with resilience and some of the challenges I've overcome, some of the strategies that I deploy in my daily life to overcome stress and change and challenge and all of that kind of stuff. So I wanted to start off with a little bit of a story and the story is around one of the most challenging periods of my life and some of the things that taught me and some of the ways I kind of got through it. So I'm going to go all the way back to the murky depths of 2011. So back then I'd been at university a year. I started in 2010, I studied medieval history at the University of York, which is the world's most useful degree...
and I now work in tech, who knew. Basically, uh, back then, I don't know if it still exists, bit of a touchy subject with the whole Brexit thing, but, I had the opportunity to do an Erasmus placement. Erasmus placements essentially are that basically universities have agreements with each other and they send students from one country to a university in the other country. So, and this is all to do with the European Union and is backed and funded by them. So I had the opportunity to go and study at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which sounded great. It was 20 minutes from Amsterdam and didn't really know much about the Netherlands. I think I'd been once before, but I was like, yeah, "this sounds really cool. It's an opportunity". I was also going to get 500 euros a month from the EU.
So I was pretty stoked about that. And yeah, I was kind of 21 and looking forward to life, so in the September of 2011 I packed two suitcases and I moved to the Netherlands for eight months and the beginning was all Hunky Dory. There was a heat wave. It was really kind of wonderful being this hot country. It was very flat, which was a bit strange. But yeah, I was generally enjoying things and I started my studies and that's when things started going a little bit downhill. So I got that and I realized I'd accidentally signed up for a Master's course as one of my, so I had to pick I think three or four core subjects while I was there. So one of them was a master's course and the other two were undergrad courses. And bear in mind, I was in my second year of university. So I got thrust into this course with people who had been studying at university level for about six, seven, eight years because in Europe you study for a lot longer than than the UK.
And I was suddenly in this environment where I'd gone from being a pretty kind of able student in the top ish range of my class. Not to brag, but you know, that's what it was like. I worked hard. To being. So I went from that to being kind of one of the lowest, like most inexperienced students and from really the moment I walked in the room that showed, and even though they were all Dutch, most of them are native Dutch and English was a second language or English was my first language. Supposedly I should have some kind of advantage there. They all spoke better English than me. So yeah, that went great. Um, also around that time I, I was quite an overweight 20/21 year old. Um, I kind of Yoyo'd throughout my teens. I'd never been like ridiculous chubby until I went to uni basically and put on loads of weight, as most people do. And I was feeling pretty down about myself. I wasn't really happy in my body and I do believe you can be happy at any size, but I really wasn't, you know, I just didn't feel myself and I was very, very miserable with this. And so this coupled with doing this really hard course. I hadn't really realized I signed up for in a different country. I found it actually quite difficult to make friends. I'm quite an outgoing, gregarious person, but whilst I was there I just wasn't really feeling it. Basically I started getting really, really down to the point where I stopped going outside and I kind of was starting to give up a bit. I was definitely falling down into period of basically deep depression. I was also having relationship issues, you know, long distance boyfriend and all of that kind of stuff.
So all of these factors were coming together into this very kind of difficult situation where I felt very trapped because I signed up for this eight month period and I couldn't just turn around and go home. You know, I wanted to stick it out, but I was also hating it whilst I was there and yeah, it got to the point where I just didn't leave my university room and I was miserable. And that's when I started realizing I kind of had to do something about it. And I think this separation from my friends, from my family, from everything I knew made me realize that the only person who could get me out of this miserable hole I felt I was in was me. There was no one else. So it was literally no one else. I mean I could Skype my mum, I could Skype my friends, but I had to do it and I always been quite independent.
But I think this was literally the point where I started growing up and realizing I had to fend for myself. So in terms of kind of I guess strategies that I use during this period to move myself forward because I really did feel stuck. And I think that was one of the things about resilience and grit is it's useful in those moments where you feel like you are stuck, you are trapped, you're almost frozen in place and you can't see a path forward. And I really wanted to move forward. I, I was sick, I was miserable, I was unhappy. So one of the first things I started doing was going outside. It sounds really obvious, doesn't it? But I basically made myself go for walks and outside my student accommodation there was randomly this really old Napoleonic-era fort, which had a track around at about three or four kilometers long.
And I started walking around that and as I was going for the first couple of weeks, I thought, oh, I could have a go running this. I mean when that be fun. I mean, I didn't think it was fun. I was just thinking like, what can I do to kind of, I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to feel better about myself. I wanted to live, you know, and I have never really done any exercise before this. So it was kind of a ridiculous idea. And I was very over-, very overweight, very out of shape. But I bought some trainers and I put them on and I said to myself, right, I'm going to go for a run. And it was a disaster. I got like, I got about 10 meters down the road on this track and I was so out of breath.
I remember thinking, if like die, if I die here, no one will know. There's no one about. Um, and at that point I, I started turning around to go home cause I was just like, well screw this. I can't even go for a run, you know? I mean even walking, I got a bit out of breath. I really was out of shape, but something in me kind of, I don't know, got angry, got really angry and was like turn the hell around and start running. And that's what I did. And I can't tell you where that voice came from. It was just like, don't, don't stop, like don't give up. And I was almost so frustrated with myself, taht I almost started running again to spite myself. Um, yeah, deep insight into my psychology there. But yeah, I started running and I got 10 more meters and I almost threw up in fact...
I think I threw up on that first run actually. And I continued doing this. You know, I would go out every day and try and run a little bit further and get really out of breath and then a little bit further and get really out breath and continue the cycle day on day. And the weirdest thing started happening. Everyday I got a little bit better. And in the beginning it was quite imperceptible and it was very frustrating and I hated it. But after I think it was about a month, I could run for a good five minutes without stopping and that was a real achievement and I was like, oh my God, I can do this. And from that step I started to run even further until it, so the track was four or five kilometers long. I managed by the end to run round it without stopping. And that was a real achievement.
And I think being able to break it down into these kinds of small goals and small kind of successes that every day I went a little bit further. It was really important in terms of getting me to continue and also kind of overcoming the general feeling that I had in that time that I just was crap. Because everyday, even if I wasn't doing very, very well in my studies or my relationship was awful, I at least could go out and do this one thing where I felt a bit better. And I felt I was making progress. So that is a really powerful strategy I have gone on to use throughout the rest of my life where I've taken something really insurmountable and I've broken it down into really small goals. And when I have made progress and I have had success, even if it's really, it seems really silly to someone else, I celebrated it, you know, because I've done it for me and it's been really important.
And even if that celebration was um, having, you know, a glass of wine or just like clapping myself kind of mentally on the back and being like, go you, that was really important. And I think importantly I was kind of doing it for me as well, not for someone else. And you know what the byproduct was? I lost a load of weight and I got really into shape and now I go to the gym, I think about three or four times a week. It kind of depends on my schedule and I go for me and I go to relieve stress and I go to get a little bit better every time I go there. And I do think physical endurance and mental endurance, I've very much intertwined. And if you can get a grip on one, you can definitely get a grip on the other.
So I find this at the gym, I think pretty much like, correct me if I'm wrong, elite sports people, but physical exercise and sport is mostly mental I would say. Because you have those days where you go to the gym or you go to do something physically exerting or exerting-full, that's not a word, but we'll go with it and you know you can do it because you've done it before, but something in your head is like just I can't, I can't do this. And I think a lot of kind of mental strength is being able to, like I say, overcome those moments where you're like, no, I just cannot, cannot do this. So, yeah, that was one of the strategies are used in that time to kind of overcome this really stuck situation I was in. The other thing was, and this was quite a big thing for me, was I went and asked for help and I did this in a couple of ways.
Um, I kind of told my parents about the situation. I was like, look, I'm really struggling. I'm miserable. I hate it. And obviously I've got some support back there and you know, they really helped me through it and that was a very hard thing to do because I think a lot of our society and culture conditions us to not ask for help. It's a sign of weakness. Right? But to be honest, like when you're, think about it, when you're asked for help by someone else, do you think they're weak or not? Normally you're just like really pleased to be asked. You're like, hey, someone asked me for help. Thank think I know what I'm doing. I think it's a really weird thing that I personally struggle with when I'm kind of in a situation where I don't know what to do or I need some help.
I don't ask for it. And you've already shared because people are more than willing to help. And I'm pretty sure I saw a study recently that showed that um, people helping if you help someone that actually boosts your own self esteem. So if you ask someone for help, you're really doing them a favor I would say. But yeah. So I asked for help from my parents, um, from my home university, from the university there and that really helped and it kind of gave me some of my confidence, my Mojo back. And also I asked my classmates in this ridiculously hard masters class I was in for help as well. Uh, cause they were doing really well and I wasn't necessarily doing so well. And you know what, that was really liberating because they almost kind of rallied around me and help me push through that period.
And I went and I spoke to my tutor in at this university at Utrecht University and she was really quite shocked that I was asking for help and she was like, you seem fine. Like all your works fine. Like there's no problem here. Just carry on what you're doing. The marking system here is very hard and no one gets top marks because I was very used to back in the UK getting A's, a stars and all of that. And it was weird to go somewhere where I couldn't get the top mark, but when it was explained to me, that's not actually something that happens. We don't award that. I was like, oh, okay, that makes me feel a bit better. And I think that's another thing as well, when you're in a really kind of difficult or stuck places, giving yourself context and other people can give you contacts for your own situation, right?
So asking for help from someone else or someone else's opinion can almost kind of remove the tunnel vision you'd get when things are very difficult because that's Germany what we do. And I think that's part of kind of human, human nature and it's part of our survival mechanisms to almost like hone in on the thing that's a problem. And you get this tunnel vision where nothing else kind of matters but the problem. But if you remove yourself that and take a step back, you can kind of see things from different angles. You might find a solution yet hadn't thought of, or you might just see the problem is not a problem because almost telling you some more information about it. You know, like I had like, you know, actually we don't ever reward anyone the top marks, but you know, it's just really great to get contacts.
So yeah, those are kind of the, the two main strategies I used and they carried with me ever since. You know, I feel like because I went through that really difficult period, I learned some really important lessons about myself. And I think that's something to remember when times are really difficult, and this sounds so cliche and I think it's going to be really hard to do the series without falling into cliches, but the most difficult times, the times when you're really tested, they're the ones that actually make you and they're the ones that teach you something about yourself, so nothing is ever lost even when it's really difficult even when you give up as well. And I think that that was something that I didn't give up during that trip. I did make the full eight months, but there was a point where I realized it would be okay to give up and sometimes it is okay.
Sometimes it's absolutely fine just to hold your hands up and be like, this is too difficult. It is not worth it, it's causing me too much stress or I'm not ready for it. And remove yourself from the situation again, you can take a step back and get that contacts, get that overview again and hey, you might be able to go back and reengage with it, reengaged with the challenge and try again. Or You just know it's not for you. And that's absolutely fine. And I, I'm definitely the kind of person who struggles with this person. You know, I, I get myself into situations where I feel like I have to see it through like I'm a failure if I don't complete this and that, that's not true. No, no one's a failure for trying something. And actually I think it shows a real strength of character to remove yourself from the situation and be like, you know what, I, I'm okay on done with this.
I'll always remember my, my grandmother once said something like that to me because, um, I was really like terrible with scary movies as a kid basically. And I was staying Brown, I think my cousin's house and my grandmother was there and we were watching something altogether together on TV and she was babysitting us and we were watching this really scary thing and I was getting rid of internally freaked out. I must've been like 10. And it was something about asteroids and people frozen on a train, if anyone can remember what that TV show is, ob eternally grateful because I have no idea. And I basically got so freaked out that I just walked out and my grandmother was like, where are you going? I was like, I'm really scared and I don't want to watch this anymore so I'm going to go. And she was like, okay, cool.
You got upstairs, go to bed. That was fine. And they told her, I remember she came up and she said, you know what, I'm really proud of you. I'm really proud of you from walking away from something that was really difficult for you. And that's something that stuck with me ever since. It's one of my very few memories from my age, but it's always okay to walk away. So those are kind of my big life lessons I would say. But Day to day, um, I have a pretty stressful job. Uh, I work in marketing in the tech industry. Um, it can be quite time pressured in terms of deadlines and things like that and events and stuff. And also because I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I wanted to do my best. And in terms of kind of day to day strategies for carrying on going, dealing with stress, you know, approaching challenge, dealing with change, there's a lot of change in marketing cause often just the kind of, yeah, the software changes or the algorithm changes.
You have to be quite agile I guess. Um, is always kind of, it sounds really easy to say and it's quite hard in practice, but being agile and being adaptable to change and almost not worrying that things are going to change. I think if you go into something expecting it's going to be the same conditions and then it changes, that's a lot more disjointing than knowing, you know what this is affects like this isn't going to look like this at the end, I'm going to have to roll with it if it changes. So it's a bit about your mindset there and just being like, okay, yeah, probably I'm in for a hell of a ride here, but I'm just gonna roll with it. So that was one of the things I kind of, the mindset is I like to put myself into for dealing with that.
I suppose the second thing is, um, when I come home from work, I try and switch off from work. And that's not to say I don't do work outside of work, if that makes sense. Outside of like my core working hours, I always have had to and that's fine. But I do try and find periods of time in the day where I totally disconnect from work. And that actually is for me doing things like this. Podcasts, this is bit of an escape. I'm not going to lie. And it's also kind of an interesting thing to do just in terms of professional development. And I was really intrigued to see what it was like to actually make one and what went into it. So yeah, try and find something that's not passive as well. So you know, you've got kind of like active is active Ras and passive Ras or active relaxation and passive relaxation.
So passive relaxation is just sitting there watching TV, you know, you're just kind of mine. Not Mindlessly, well maybe mindlessly consuming information, whereas actively kind of relaxing is where you're doing something, you know, with intention. So I make this podcast with intention to make sure I'm not thinking of our work, even though that's just made me think about work. But I will now try and stop thinking about what, but yeah, just try and remove yourself from the things that stress you, even if it's for half an hour a day. So I walk to work and back, which is half an hour each way and I listened to a podcast or listen, listen to some music and Germany. That's kind of my me time. And it's really important to build that kind of me time into your schedule where you're were alone. I think it's important to be alone and so much of our lives is spent around other people, whether that's digitally and you're on Instagram to Essa or physically you in an open plan office or you're commuting everyday on Apache, but pack train, you know, it's important to find some solitude and your own space.
So yeah, those are kind of my daily tactics I would say. Um, so to wrap up, really, I hope you enjoyed this. This is the first episode. It's almost kind of the trial for me. I've really enjoyed talking to you. Um, so I'm going to be back in the coming weeks with various guests. I'm really excited actually. So I've got someone who is a specialist in stress management and he's going to talk about his experiences. He comes from a very high powered corporate background. He's had to deal with a lot and he's got some really interesting things to say around stress management and just generally kind of relaxation. I'm also going to be talking to a sports specialist about physical endurance and he's really good. He's a trainer essentially, so he trains athletes and kind of non athletes normies like you and me. Um, unless you're an athlete and you're listening. Uh, but yeah, about kind of the physical side of things and some of the tactics that he uses to help when people are training for big events, competitions, things like that. So I think that's going to be super interesting. So yeah, thank you so much for listening. I'd love it if you could
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