As a member of the Commando Troops Nutma was part of secret and dangerous missions. He was also the fourth Dutch person to ever run a marathon at the North Pole and he did a solo expedition of 6,000 kilometres across Siberia.
In an empty X theatre venue, Sierd Nutma quickly sums up his achievements. “I am wonderful. I am the best, physically and mentally,” he says while looking straight at the camera. The prevailing corona restrictions in the second half of December mean that dozens of viewers can only attend virtually, but the discomfort is tangible, even through a screen.
Nutma is aware of what he is doing as there is another side to his achievements. “What you don’t see are the things I messed up,” he says. “I am divorced, took wrong decisions and ended up homeless.”
But he still sought out extremes and hungered for recognition and appreciation. “Until I realised that I was playing a game that I could never win unless I myself would recognise who I am outside of the achievements, prestige and results. I allowed myself to simply be who I am.”
Step out of your bubble
He then addresses the students watching virtually. “Why do you do the things that you do? What is your drive? Are you able to continue where others stop? Can you shift down a gear if it’s needed and are you able to look at yourself in the mirror from time to time and give yourself some tips?”
Nutma believes that resilient people know the answers to these questions. They can handle the tension and the uncertainties of these times. Not that it means that everything is easy if you are resilient. “Resilience is about making an effort and that is a challenge, especially now as we are no longer used to making an effort. If we have a flat tyre we use the Swapfiets service. If we break up with someone, we swipe (Tinder). And why would you do the shopping if you can order in food?”
‘Focus on the things that make life beautiful’
Nutma says it is important to step out of the convenience bubble. He encourages everyone to go in search of the things that energise them. But that is hard if we are not allowed to do much. Restaurants and student associations are closed and social contact is limited. “Challenge yourself,” Nutma urges. “Look for opportunities and at what can be done. And also look at the people around you. How is it going with them and how can we help each other? There are often more opportunities than we think. Focus on the things that make life beautiful.” He says that these are the reasons that he stopped watching chat shows and using Twitter.
For anyone who thinks that he is all words and has no idea what kind of shit other people are going through, Nutma has no soothing words. “Life is not a fairy tale. You are sometimes dealt a bad hand, but there will be another time when you can look for opportunities. I am not a positivity guru that says that everything will be all right. Instead, it is down to you how you respond and deal with it.”
During his military time Nutma learned the following simple basic principles to strengthen mental resilience.
Make sure you get enough rest! It is not at all bad to work very hard as long as you arrange your rest times properly.
However you fare, you are the one who decides what you eat. It does not mean that you have to go on a diet or become a nutrition freak. As long as you know a bit about the differences between carbohydrates, proteins and fats you’ll come a long way.
Keep moving. Do not let yourself be limited by corona restrictions, but look for alternatives. Go for a walk, for example, alone or with others.
Do not let things get to you. Stay connected to yourself and to each other as we all need each other. Do you feel strong and powerful? Then look around you. Who needs you?
- The Mental Resilience: How to boost the flexibility of the mind lecture is an initiative of Career & Counselling Services, X and the Student Council (Oras and Lijst Bèta). The lecture, including the closing words by Rob Mudde, can be watched on YouTube.
- Would you like to discuss and join a project about resilience? Then sign up here.
- The TU Delft community organises various initiatives to meet others. Click here for more information.
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