Note: Really sorry. But I’m told that some others are also experiencing problems being able to ‘like’ and comment on posts. It’s so damn frustrating and please, trust me, I have been reading all your lovely blogs — I’m only able to comment or ‘like’ on 1% of them. Please bear with me; don’t leave me 😦
What is resilience?
“It’s your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns,” says Amit Sood, MD, executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency.
However, resilience is not a trampoline, where you’re down one moment and up the next, wrote Katie Hurley, LCSW, 2019. She suggested it’s more like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you, and you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. But eventually you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come.
Why we need resilience
We need resilience because we experience all kinds of adversity in life; personal upsets such as bullying and abuse, financial changes, redundancy or work-related stress, mental or physical illness, and loss of a loved one, to name just a few.
We also have the shared tragic events in the news, such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters like recent floods in the UK, the earthquake in Croatia and the anxiety-provoking worldwide COVID-19 virus. We need resilience; we have to learn to cope with and work through some very challenging life experiences. So, in essence, resilience helps you handle stress more positively.
We’ve all heard the saying — kids are resilient. But, are they and are all kids resilient? McDonald (1) would argue “Resilience is not a trait that children and adults either have or don’t have. It involves thoughts, behaviors and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”
How we develop resilience
We develop resilience by drawing on our past learning or similar difficulties, to remember what we already know. What was it precisely that helped you to get through previous challenges i.e. being made redundant from work, a separation, receiving divorce papers, a period of physical or mental illness? Think about it for a moment and maybe make some notes — this will remind you of your past resilience.
Resilience relies on different skills and draws on various sources of help, including physical and mental health, rational thinking skills and your relationships with those around you. It’s not always about overcoming massive challenges; we all face lots of small challenges each day and we each need to draw on our reserves of resilience.
The diverse approaches and strategies we use to handle adversity have been learned and shaped by culture, society, and the family systems that we grew up in and are part of. While we all process trauma and adversity in different ways, there are certain protective factors that help boost resilience by improving coping skills and adaptability.
Common protective factors that will build resilience
Taking care of yourself — financially, healthy and balanced diet, exercise, physically, emotionally and mentally. Doctors, nurses and other health care professional are often the worst offenders in not taking care of themselves; often thinking that the rules don’t apply to them, but they do.
Taking care of others physically, mentally or emotionally — jobs that involve caring for others are known to build resilience. Well developed communication (read here) and conflict resolution skills, social confidence and assertiveness are essential qualities needed to care for others — in both personal and professionally capacities.
Self-confidence and self-awareness — having a positive self-image and knowing yourself — noticing what’s going on inside your head and around you. Believing in yourself, remembering your past experiences, knowledge and skills and recognising your own strengths are crucial for confronting and managing the fears or anxieties in your life.
Being tactful — and choosing the right techniques and approaches to use in difficult circumstances. Don’t be that bull in a china shop, take your time and think about what you might say or do and how it might come across to or affect others.
Self-reflection — enables you to process and make meaning of the good, the bad, the ugly or even the great (and not so great) learning experiences you’ve had. It allows you to explore your experiences, leading to new and better understanding and appreciation of them — what you learnt from them. See Gibbs Reflective Cycle model, which was in use when I was studying mental health nursing and can be used as a guideline for your own self reflection. Why not give it a go? And make notes.
Flexibility — a key component of resilience that requires you to be flexible in your thinking and actions, such as being willing to learn or try new things, see things differently and try other approaches — there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Thinking clearly and in an organised manner — being able to interpret any events/demand that crop up in a calm and rational way. When faced with increasing demands, one extremely effective and simple way to build resilience is to organise your thoughts. Take some time before you start on your workload to organise, list your thoughts and tasks, prioritising them as necessary.
Sense of humour — and being able to use humour appropriately — the ability to laugh at yourself and to laugh in the face of adversity. You’ll find that most doctors and nurses understand each others dark sense of humour, needed to relieve themselves of the burden and stresses of their jobs.
Reaching out — it’s important to be able to call on others to help you meet any challenges you face, because resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help.
How you can develop more resilience
There are several ways that you can develop more resilience in difficult or stressful events within your life, some of which are listed below.
Make a few lifestyle changes — practice being more assertive and up-front with others. If you think people are making unreasonable demands upon you, tell them how you feel and say no (remember – you don’t have to give a reason for saying no). The moment you um and ah, or say “I can’t because………” they’ll see the chink in your armour and push to get what they want. Use any form of relaxation, taking time to do things that help to calm you, whether it’s reading, exercising, going for a walk, taking a bath or listening to your favourite music.
Assess the sense of balance in your life and if one thing i.e. work, is taking up all your time, make some space for other things. Learn new hobbies and consider new interests, and make time for them. Make time to spend with family and friends, and make use of your support network.
Look after your physical health — work on your sleep hygiene, try to get into a routine to develop a better sleep pattern. Try to exercise regularly; be as physically active as you can, even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. Eat a healthy and balanced diet — check out the stores for the cheaper wonky fruit and vegetables. Try to lower your salt, fat and sugar intake.
Don’t be so hard on yourself —make time each day to pat yourself on the back for your accomplishments and reward yourself for what you’ve achieved. Love yourself unconditionally and have some self-compassion – if you’ve made errors or you didn’t achieve what you wanted, stop punishing yourself and remember — nobody’s perfect.
Don’t fall into one of the major thinking traps which include using phrases like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘should’ and ‘must’ i.e “I’m p’d off because you never take the bin out” because I’m sure that at some point they have, and they’ll throw back at you “Yes I do. I took it out on Monday.” then the argument goes onto “No you didn’t,” and “Yes I did, and I did it the week before,” rather than what angered/upset you in the first place.
Try to resolve old or existing conflicts — not always easy, but settling arguments, or finding a new way to move forward with a loved one or a friend will assist you in feeling better and finding a sense of peace.
While I’ve managed to sort out some major technical issues I’m having with my own site — by following some of my own advice, like taking time out to relax by finishing a novel I’ve been reading forever — I’m still unable to like or comment on lots of other blogs. I’ve been going round in circles the last two days and nights, so I’ve taken a break to write this post and to apologise for my apparent lack of communication with you all. I will get back onto it!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on building resilience. How have you been coping in the face of adversity; all the lockdowns around the world? Is there anything I’ve missed on resilience and do you have any other handy tips?
You might also find the following posts useful
- How to improve your verbal communication skills here
- How to improve effective listening skills here
- When and how do I say sorry here
- Never miss important social cues again here
McDonald et al., 2012, Positive Psychology, The Crisis Kit https://positivepsychology.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Crisis-Kit.pdf