Resilience has become something of a buzzword recently – but given all that is going on right now, I thought it would be useful to explore a bit about what resilience actually is (and isn’t) and a few simple things we can do to ensure we come out of the other side of these challenging times in as good a shape as possible.
What is resilience?
Our level of resilience reflects our ability to bounce back when something hasn’t gone the way we were hoping it might – whether that’s professionally, at work, or whether that’s something more out of our control.
It’s probably best described as our ability to sustainably able to cope with the ups and downs of life.
And having downs as well as ups is something that happens to everyone - there is no one who will go through life free from challenges and set backs.
But it’s important to realise that resilience is relative – we are all experiencing challenges, and just because one person is going through a tougher time does not diminish what you are feeling, or your need to be resilient. We may only think about resilience in terms of facing the massive challenges that come our way – redundancy, bereavement, divorce etc, but right now, we all need an increased level of resilience to cope with the day to day challenges that are coming our way.
And what resilience isn't....
Having explained what resilience is, it’s also important to be clear on what it isn’t - it isn’t about toughing it out, just powering on through, or (one of my most hated phrases) “manning up”. It’s not about trying to find a level of perfection, and I’m afraid to say, being more resilient is not going to suddenly make things go your way – it may just make it easier to recover from them when they don’t.
Why is it important to work on your resilience?
Our level of resilience reflects how well we manage the level of stress we find ourselves under, and if left unchecked, prolonged stress can have a massive impact on our physical, mental and emotional health.
From poorer work performance, irritability, and mood swings right through to not sleeping well, lower immunity and depression, stress can cause a whole raft of issues for us, and so taking the time to build our tolerance to it, as well as tackling the causes of it (where we can) is vital for health and wellbeing.
So how can we build our resilience?
I’ve got 4 tips below to help you develop your own resilience toolkit so that you can be ready to face any challenges that come your way.
1. Monitor your emotions
Some of us are better than others at recognising changing emotions and labelling them accordingly. When we start facing new or unexpected challenges, it can be useful to start analysing how we are feeling – is it anger, for example, or is there something else driving it – disappointment or fear? Reflective Tools like journaling can be great here to get to the root of what’s being brought up for us by the circumstances we are finding ourselves in.
2. Respond, don’t react
In a similar way to the first tip, take some time to figure out what’s really going on when challenges arise, and figure out how to respond calmly. If you are a ‘strike first, ask questions later” kind of person, then increased stress levels can mean that we are spending a lot of time ‘reacting’ rather than ‘responding’ to the situation. Start making time to stop, breathe, and reflect on what’s going on around you and planning out actions you want to take in certain situations rather than just firefighting as things come up.
3. Look after yourself physically
We cannot expect our bodies to support us, and respond in the way we would like if we aren’t looking after them, so think about what makes you feel good – eat good food regularly, drink water and move your body in a way that feels good for you. One of the thing that has made the biggest difference to me is looking at my sleep pattern – are you a lark or an owl? And can you flex your day to allow you to do more at the time which works best for you?
4. Monitor your support web
Who do you rely on for support – practically, mentally and emotionally? It’s really important to ensure you can reach out to others across the spectrum of your life, for example, work colleagues and mentors as well as friends, family. Each will help you in a different way, and so building a ‘web’ of support can be really helpful.
Right now, it’s also important to think about who we are providing support to – both practically and emotionally to – and to check that we are not draining ourselves by doing so. Whilst providing support to others is a great thing to do if we can, we shouldn’t do it at the expense of our own physical, mental and emotional health – we must “fit our own oxygen mask first” in order to be able to help others.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you - we are living in unprecedented times, and so anything we can do to look after ourselves is going to be time well spent.
If you're interested in learning more about looking after yourself, and how to build a career that works for you, why not come and join my free facebook group, the Career Confidence Club?