I often get asked by my Clients, ‘how do I build resilience?’ which is an interesting conundrum. Can you plan for it, given you need to cultivate it by being present to the moment and situation that unfolds. Or perhaps it’s about reflecting on how you handled an event and knowing what you’d do differently next time. Or practicing it in everyday interactions so when something more significant shakes you, you’re able to bounce back more effectively.
I see building resilience as a 3-step process…
Step 1: event or situation – these are often beyond your control
Step 2: your response – there is choice in this action
Step 3: the effect of your response – both internal and external
Consider this process and it’s been worded specifically and simply.
Firstly, you can’t control everything in life (as much as some of us like to try) but you can take responsibility.
Next, own up to your choices and know that you have the power to respond appropriately. We often unconsciously react, make the choice to start ‘responding’ to situations, take an extra 10 seconds to critique what is suitable, is flying off the handle going to help the situation, or taking a calmer more rational approach better?
And what happens afterwards, reflect on what is going on inside you, and also the feedback received from others. We can focus on others, but there is also valuable insight when we look at our inner dialogue and messages we send ourselves.
Experiment a little…
Below are some more specific tips for building resilience, consider which ones may feel right for you and see where you can start to naturally change ways, or ones that you’re more resistant to and seeing if you can get a new result by pushing through a bit of a pain barrier. If you’re in a relationship it could also be useful to share some of these techniques, or to start modelling them with your kids.
Misaligned perception can be what helps to build your resilience
Is your internal dialogue aligned with external dialogue, are you berating yourself whilst gushing compliments towards others? Are you feeling sick in the pit of your stomach but walking proud and confident to others? I’m really not a massive fan of ‘fake it to you make it’ as in my experience it’s really not helpful for people, and I’m also not a fan of ‘bring your whole self’ attitude because it gives permission for people to spray their emotions all over others, instead I like the notion, of ‘how do you bring your true and appropriate self to this situation?’. This gives you a moment to consider and allows you to show some vulnerability – to witness water form in eyes in moments of joy and sadness, we’re not robots. But flying off the handle in a rage, making accusations, bottling up and other unhelpful reactions are often not going to get the best results for your communication nor long term relationships with yourself and others.
What can also help is being optimistic about your potential to be the best you can be in each situation, having an attitude towards growth, being positive and seeing life as a set of opportunities is powerful in building resilience. This is what is otherwise known as a ‘growth mindset’.
Mindfulness, and more specifically having critical awareness
Putting a bit of a reality check on your thoughts, emotions – the messages we are telling ourselves as well as what we’re absorbing from society, the media, family, and friends. Question what you feel and what you are absorbing – ask yourself, ‘is this real?’ and ‘is this something I want to take on?’ or ‘how is this way of being or view effecting me, is it of benefit?’
If you’ve become conditioned to thinking you’re not good enough and don’t have enough, then the damage is happening. Putting our lives in perspective is important.
How are you at forming and maintaining relationships?
Being able to connect with people on deep level will strengthen resilience. This isn’t surface level, competitive or jealousy-based relationships. It’s when you’re able to converse with others who are like-minded, supportive of your development and have the ability to listen and offer honest, constructive feedback.
Family are often key here as they accept you as you are, as are true friends and colleagues who have your best interests at heart, and having a partner with aligned values can be bonus in fostering resilience.
This in one I have struggled with! I like to analyse and understand, and sometimes you just can’t rationalise an explanation. Being able to move on and not dwell on negative events is a must, if you’re stuck in the past and focusing on what you’ve missed, regretted, forgotten, are feeling guilty or ashamed of then you going to be unable to see through the fog and take steps forward.
Brene Brown defines hope as ‘the combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to go after them, and believing in our own abilities’. Hope is a learned skill and mindset. From childhood, seeing everyone around us, there are people who don’t give in and the others who stop after the first hurdle. To cultivate hopefulness we need to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance, as not every goal will look and feel the same. Tolerance for disappointment and belief in self are essential.
Try to prevent yourself from numbing what you assume are ‘negative’ feelings
Most of us don’t want to live in discomfort and will attempt to remove, run from, and take the edge off anything prickly. Not dealing with these types of emotions effectively can lead to addictions, dangerous behaviours, depression and not valuing yourself. Being able to sit with the so-called negative emotions builds resilience. A lot of the time the ‘negative’ sense is a helpful awareness to be aware of.
Seriously, when you’re feeling down, exhausted and overwhelmed the best thing to do is shift in some way. Bringing the ‘intention of a solution’ through physically moving always helps me, whether it’s getting away from the desk and computer for a drink of water, a walk, boxing some aggression out. It’s very powerful to build exercise and movement into strengthening resilience.