Building a More Resilient You

The stresses and demands of daily life, not just life transitions, can take its toll on us physically and psychologically. We are living in a world where uncertainty is constant, we have 24/7 connectivity and where we are continually being asked to take on more change in our home and working lives. We need to be able to react quickly to change, achieve more with less, and ensure we don’t become overwhelmed. We need to be more resilient, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Next week, on Friday 31st March, Ireland’s third National Workplace Wellbeing Day will take place.  The purpose of the annual event is to encourage employers across Ireland to promote employee wellbeing.  So it’s timely to remind ourselves of the importance of wellbeing and building our personal resilience. There’s a message here for employers too as workplace stress can contribute to absenteeism and can impact on productivity.

Resilience, which is directly related to wellbeing, is about our ability to cope and “bounce back” from difficult situations.  The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing as “the state in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”

But people do not respond to stressful events in the same way.  Some of us seem to be more resilient and cope better with challenges than others.  Resilience is a characteristic and, like all characteristics, the amount we possess differs from person to person. Developing resilience is a personal journey. From the day we are born our resilience is being developed. Whether it’s when we are learning to walk, to make friends, to do exams, manage the demands of work or most importantly manage the way we interact with those we love.

Our need to be able to deal with the hard times calls on our resilience.  While many of us want to be perfect, the harsh truth is that none of us are. It is in dealing with our mistakes and foibles that we need to draw on our resilience.  When things go wrong (as the often will), we have a number of choices; ignore them, learn from them, or crumble under them.  By learning from the hard times we grow our resilience.  The good news is the learning from Positive Psychology tells us that we can all develop more resilience.

Here are my tips for individuals on how to take a personal approach to growing your resilience:

  1. Stay Connected: our relationships with close family members, friends or others are important in strengthening our resilience and so, be open to help and support from those who care about you.
  2. Don’t see a crisis as “the end of the world”: we can’t stop difficult and stressful events happening in our lives, but we can change how we view and react to them. So, keep things in perspective, try looking beyond the immediate difficult situation and consider how the future might be different or better. Listen to your body to see how it reacts to this change in your thought process.
  3. Have a strong sense of purpose: resilient people have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Develop a vision of what gives meaning to your work and life, write it out and be guided by it.
  4. Consider lessons learned: how you have successfully dealt with difficult situations in the past and trust yourself to do so now.
  5. Accept that change is part of life: There is only one thing that is certain in life and its change, at the same time there are occasions when things cannot be changed. Focus on the things that you can change and look to the future. Consider change as an opportunity to reflect on what is and look for opportunities to learn and grow.
  6. Take decisive actions: don’t just hope that problems will go away; use sound problem-solving strategies to consider what actions you can take in the situation and act!
  7. Set goals and take actions to achieve them: make sure your goals are realistic and taking steps, even small ones, towards them is powerful in developing resilience.
  8. Work on being flexible and adaptable: resilient people are able to adapt to new people and situations quickly; they let go of the old way of doing things and quickly learn new procedures and skills. They can also tolerate high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty in situations.
  9. Cultivate a positive view of yourself helps build resilience; be confident in your ability and trust your instincts. When you find yourself having negative thoughts restate them positively. Be optimistic, good things do happen, visualise what you want instead of worrying and being fearful.
  10. Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, focus on continuing the things that help you relax and actively work on developing and maintaining a positive work life balance.
  11. Keep your sense of humour!

If you are having difficulty, and finding yourself overwhelmed, then the first point in the list above is the most important tip.  As Dr Damien Amen put it, “all of us have problems, the smart ones get help.”  Our advice to you: if you are struggling, be smart and reach out and get the support you need to grow your resilience. Very often a coach can help you with this.

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