Are you Surviving or Thriving
In Conversation with Cinzia Pezzolesi

Are you living your life simply ‘getting through’ and doing your best to juggle all of the various demands on your time, money, resources and attention; or are you truly living life to the fullest and thriving?

It’s a stirring question, one which for many of us we’ve probably never given much thought to, but it certainly feels worthy of exploration, because good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem.

We wanted to learn more, and so we picked the brains of one of our Associates, Dr Cinzia Pezzolesi:


How do we know if we are surviving or thriving, what is the difference between the two?

A very interesting question indeed! I think that when we are surviving there is an element of fatigue, everything requires effort and there is a sense of running against the tide. The days may feel the same and there might be a lack of sense of purpose. When we are thriving, it feels like being in a ‘flow’, it feels right and we are excited to be where we are and do what we do.

What steps can we take to look after our mental health, building resilience to cope with the demands of life?

First of all, we need to have some time to step back and observe what is going on in our lives. If we live in automatic pilot we might not notice when things begin to overwhelm us or deplete our mental wellbeing. Awareness is the key!

Is it okay if at some points in our lives we operate in survival mode, like at particularly stressful points such as moving house, having a baby or starting a new job?

Indeed, it is not such a dichotomy, some days we may thrive and other days we might survive. It is sometimes comforting to notice and see how impermanent i.e. temporary everything is. For example an emotion only lasts 20 seconds in the brain, so if we don’t invest too much time thinking about that emotion but instead we open up to the ups and downs of life, we can bounce back quite quickly.

How can we make sure we build long lasting positive habits, to prevent slipping back into survival mode again?

Habits are based on positive reinforcements. So if we want to foster a positive habit we need to associate the habit with something that is rewarding. For example if you want to develop the habit to eat well, it is important to make sure that enjoyment is present when eating, that could mean making your salad fresh, colorful, and use beautiful plates and cutlery.

How can we support others who we may be concerned are not fully engaged in life and thriving?

Listening and observing what is going on with them first, trying to be present but not forcing anything. Is there any material condition that is getting in their way e.g. working too many hours or not having any childcare support?

If so maybe offering to help with practical things so that some time is released to savour life. I also think that ‘teaching by example’ to role model is very powerful, especially within families.

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