When things don’t go to plan, do you tend to bounce back or fall apart?
Resilience, defined as the psychological capacity to adapt to stressful circumstances and to bounce
back from adverse events, is a highly sought-after skill in today’s world. With everything that we have
faced over recent times – including the pandemic, economic challenges, increased cost of living, war
and global issues – and will continue to face, resilience tops the list of positive psychology
characteristics needed to cope and adapt in our increasingly unpredictable world.
Resilience doesn’t make your problems go away — but resilience can give you the ability to see past
them, find enjoyment in life and better handle stress. If you aren’t as resilient as you’d like to be, you
can develop and learn skills to become more resilient.
When you have resilience, you harness the inner strength that helps you rebound from a setback or
challenge, such as a job loss, an illness or a loved one’s death. If you lack resilience, you might dwell
on problems, feel victimised, become overwhelmed or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as
avoidance, isolation, alcohol abuse or self-medication.
What resilience is NOT
There are some common misconceptions regarding resilience:
- Resilience is a fixed trait and special quality – NO! We can and should all work on it.
- You need to suppress your emotions to show resilience – NO! It is about how we manage
- It is all about positive thinking – NO! Negative thoughts will occur, it is how we perceive
and manage them.
Resilience and mental health
Resilience is a key factor in protecting and promoting good mental health. Our mental health is more than the absence of disorders; it is also the presence of positive mental habits – such as resilience, self-awareness and self-care.
Both our mental health and our resilience can vary over time and circumstance. We get into difficulty when the demands we face outweigh the things that keep us well.
We need to keep things balanced because if our resilience is low there is a higher risk of being negatively impacted by stressful or potentially traumatic events.
So how can we boost our own resilience and support others in an increasingly busy and challenging world?
The ‘science’ of resilience
In our Resilience training courses, we focus on teaching research-backed ways to boost resilience and support others.
The importance of a growth mind-set
Carol Dweck is an American Psychologist and pioneering researcher in the field of motivation. Her ideas have gained wide popularity in the growing field examining how we develop resilience and grit.
Her work focuses on mind-sets — that is, how we view our own abilities. She distinguishes between what she termed fixed mind-sets and growth mind-sets. Those with a fixed mind-set don’t believe their abilities, intelligence and personalities can really change and evolve. They see mistakes, challenges and setbacks simply as signs of stupidity or incompetence and give up.
Those with a growth mind-set understand that intelligence and capabilities are malleable. Even if we all won’t become world-class mathematicians, for example, we can get better at maths. They are more likely to be resilient in the face of obstacles and failure, seeing them as necessary to becoming better at just about anything.
Lucy Hone’s Practical Strategies for Resilience
Lucy Hone, widely regarded as a thought leader in the field of resilience psychology, was personally forced to focus more closely on grief when her 12-year-old daughter was tragically killed in a road accident. She is the author of best-selling book, Resilient Grieving, and her hugely popular TED talk, Three Secrets of Resilient People has had over 2.6 million views.
She believes there are three practical strategies for resilience when times are tough:
1. Acknowledge that sh*t happens to everyone
Think “why not me?” instead of “why me?”
Suffering is simply part of human existence. There’s solace to be found in the simple but powerful fact that you are not alone and that, sadly, none of us are entitled to a perfect life.
2. Look for – and accept – the good
Resilient people habitually appraise situations realistically, which means they’re pretty good at knowing what they can change and accepting the things they can’t change.
They’re also good at tuning into and noticing what’s still good in their world.
Know that you can find positives somewhere in your life – even if you have to delve deep.
3. Ask yourself: Is what you’re doing working for you?
Is the way you’re thinking or the way you are acting helping or harming you in your quest to get through adversity?
By asking yourself this simple question you place yourself back in the driver’s seat, allowing you at least a modicum of control over your decision-making and experiences.
This is particularly important during times when control can feel very thin on the ground.
The ABILITY™ acronym for resilience
Based on the work of Aaron Antonovksy and the Salutogenic model of health, we explore the ABILITY™ acronym in our courses. This is an effective approach that can be used in our everyday lives to improve outcomes from the inevitable stresses we all face.
It focusses on changing how we respond to stress and developing techniques to build resilience.
A. Acknowledge your situation
When we are aware of our environment, we are more equipped to make well thought out choices that can benefit us. Notice what is going on around you. In the workplace it could be finding out a bit more about your colleagues or the bigger picture. When we’re busy it’s easy to work in silo and lose awareness.
B. Become accepting
We know there are certain things we can’t do anything about. Deadlines can loom, circumstances can change, people can be disagreeable!
We don’t live in a perfect world and nor are we perfect ourselves. We will have good days and bad days regardless of what we do. Accept that you yourself will make mistakes, as will others. Learn forgiveness for people and for situations that are unavoidable.
I. Implement ways of managing
When we’re faced with adversity, what strategies might work? This might take a little investigation and practice.
What works for other people? Are there any evidence-based methods to inspire you? Healthy coping mechanisms will serve you well in different situations. Unhealthy coping may become a quick fix but never works out in the long term. For example, turning to alcohol each time you have a stressful day can become dangerous over time.
L. Learn what works for you
Everyone is different. Just as stress manifests in different ways for different people, so do the antidotes.
Although there is no magic pill, exercise can go a long way to improving both physical and mental health. However, some people hate exercise. There is little point in persevering with something that doesn’t suit you. This stage might take a bit of time while you try out different methods of coping. The NHS is a good place to start: 10 stress busters – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
I. Identify your purpose
Antonovsky believed a “sense of coherence” gives an ability to cope with stress and be resilient. Integral to this sense is “meaningfulness”, which is about having purpose in whatever we do.
We all have purposes. They might be to succeed at work, to be a good parent, to be a good partner, to learn new skills. Focus on your sense of purpose. What drives you? Keeping a long term goal in mind can help to build resilience.
T. Trust your techniques
Now you have a set of techniques to help deal with tough times. Use the ones that work for you. Assemble a personal toolkit that you can employ the next time you face adversity.
Learning about our triggers can also help us to pull the right resource from our arsenal when we need it. Learn to use your toolkit and add new tools. Feel safe knowing that you have the right tools to face the unexpected.
Y. You are the decision maker
Some people that have overcome hardship say that the reason they are resilient is that they do not let bad events dictate the rest of their life. Something that happens to you does not need to define you. You can choose how to cope with the inevitable stressors that life will throw at you.
You know yourself better than anyone. Although you might not have control over your circumstances, you have the power to make decisions that work for you now and in the future.
Building resilience takes time, strength and support from people around us, and is a skill set that we can work on and grow. With flexibility, adaptability and perseverance, we can all tap into our resilience by changing certain thoughts and behaviours.
Resilient people aren’t immune from experiencing stress, setbacks and difficult emotions. They are, however, able to use their strengths and seek help from support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems.
When frustrations, anxieties and disappointments arise – as they inevitably do – resilience empowers us to accept, adapt and move forward. In essence, it’s the core strength we can use to lift the load of life. In today’s unpredictable world, a truly invaluable skill.
At Digital Bricks Learning, we deliver Resilience training courses which explore how to thrive in the face of adversity by changing our response to stress and choosing healthy coping strategies. All our courses can be tailored to individual audience needs and goals and can be delivered online through our intuitive learning platform, face-to-face or through a workshop.
To find out more, contact our friendly team at firstname.lastname@example.org