Introducing the Ten Lives Resilience Program!

ARTICLE BY: Samantha Blight, Positive Insight Group

There is a connection between physical health and resilience; individuals that are physically in shape generally feel better mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. They are also better able to recover from mental and physical health challenges. This is especially important when it comes to the staff and volunteers at Ten Lives. Caring for our feline friends every day is a lot more than just playing with cats, and not all the cats that come through our Centre have happy stories, or happy endings. It can be an emotionally and physically difficult and draining job at times, and this is why it’s so important to us to be able to provide regular resilience sessions for our people. Our wonderful program is led by Samantha Blight from Positive Insight Group and Annalee Brumby and her team from Hobart Fitness Training, and gives Ten Lives the supportive tools to create a resilient workforce which helps us better care for ourselves and our cats!

When Ten Lives contacted me to help develop a resilience program, I felt like I had found my happy place… the ability to combine two passions into one: resilience & cats! A year later and I’m thrilled so many staff and volunteers have taken part and provided positive feedback.

What is resilience?

Resilience refers to the ability to ‘bounce back’ or recover quickly from stressful situations.

In the field of psychology, resilience emerged in the mid 1990’s when the president of the American Psychological Association shifted the focus of psychology from studying individuals at their worst, to studying individuals who were, instead, thriving. In other words, why do some people crumble under stress while others use that stress as motivation to grow? After decades of research, we now know individual resilience levels vary, that support networks and team cohesion boost resilience, but most importantly, that we can build our own resilience with the right tools.

Why is resilience important in animal welfare?

Although purring cats and playful kittens are an important part of working at Ten Lives (and life in general), there’s a challenging side to working in animal welfare; the outcomes aren’t always positive and sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. It also involves working with frightened or abused animals, supporting grieving or stressed owners, receiving surrenders, or dealing with environmental stressors, and quite a few kitty litter boxes! During the kitten season, these challenges are amplified and place additional pressure on staff and volunteers. Hence, resilience is the ability to respond and adapt to these challenges and to bounce back!

How we build resilience at Ten Lives?

The Resilience Building Program at Ten Lives is comprehensive. It acknowledges that health and safety is more than just slips, trips and falls, but also represents psychological safety.

The program itself includes 3 dedicated group resilience sessions per year as well as a monthly resilience building calendar. We cover topics like dealing with stress, to communication styles and holding difficult conversations. We also incorporate strategies to build resilience which are reinforced during daily toolbox talks. There are also exercise sessions from Hobart Fitness Training that link into a monthly theme!

It’s a truly comprehensive support program that helps staff and volunteers continue to do an amazing job looking after cats in need.

Samantha Blight is a psychologist with a passion for developing and implementing resilience programs in the workplace.

Prior to working as a psychologist, she spent over 20 years in a range of government and non-government organisations, including over 4 years as a senior welfare manager in Papua New Guinea. She now works in private practice and facilitates group mental health and workplace resilience programs.

She lives (and thrives) in Tasmania with her partner and two amazing cats from Ten Lives Cat Centre.

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