These are the abilities typical of resilient people:
- Coping well with high levels of ongoing, disruptive change;
- The ability to sustain good health and energy even under constant pressure;
- Being able to bounce back after setbacks;
- Overcoming adversity;
- Being able to change to a new way of living and working when the old way is no longer possible;
These abilities are supported when you have the following skills:
1. The Ability to Mind Your Mind
It is said that the mind is a faithful servant but a tyrannical master. We need to learn how to be in charge of the way we think about things. Do you play mental games of “Ain’t it awful”? Do you ask yourself endless “what if” questions? Do you make mountains out of molehills in your mind? You need to learn how to counter this whenever you do it. Here are some examples:
- Every time you play “ain’t it awful”, stop and ask yourself what you can do about the situation you are in. Can you take action to change your circumstances? Then do it. Can you think about it as a problem to be solved? Then solve the problem. Can you think about it differently, focusing on the opportunities the situation provides you with? Do it. Can you simply shift your attention to something you can do something about? Do that then.
- If you find yourself asking endless “what if” questions, get into the habit of answering the question. “What if I lose my job?” Decide what you will do; decide what you will do to always be ready for such an eventuality. “What if they don’t like my proposal?” Will you offer an alternative proposal? Will you ask questions to ascertain what needs to be changed in order to get approval? “What if this economy really tanks?” Decide what you will do to protect your investments. Decide how you will get out of debt.
- Are you aware that you tend to make mountains out of molehills? Catch yourself when you are amplifying issues and picture them as tiny problems. There is an NLP visualization technique that has you imagine placing the issue on the palm of your hand and visualize it becoming smaller and smaller.
- Of course, when you are mentally tormenting yourself with catastrophizing thoughts, you can always take the Bob Newhart therapy – stop it!
- Don’t lose your sense of humour! It is remarkable how laughter can take the sting out of difficult situations and give you a sense that you can handle it.
2. Develop the Habit of Solving Problems
Resilient people are able to solve problems in the moment. They have a habit of asking themselves “what can I do about this” whenever they face a problem, obstacle or challenge. It is a habit of mind and can be learned. Sometimes it comes easily, and sometimes you need to stop, take a few breaths and think about how you can approach something. Having decided what you can do about something, you also need to decide what you will do about something.
Learn to do this in relation to the small, everyday issues, and you will be able to practice it when it really counts.
3. Build Good Friendships in Your Work and Personal Life
Don’t ever underestimate the powerful buffering impact of good friendships. You don’t need a lot of friends, but you do need some friends – and you definitely need a friend or 2 at work. Friends offer each other the following:
- A place to laugh, cry, talk or just be – you don’t actually need to be drawing something specific from a friendship for it to be having a positive impact. You don’t even need to spend a great deal of time with your friends – but they do need to be there and you do need to be willing to draw closer to them from time to time.
- Work friends have an especially positive impact on your “inner work life”. Even when your work is very pressurized, the presence of work friends makes a positive impact on the experience of being at work. Work friends can offer you another point of view or way of looking at things – and sometimes you just need a place to have a bit of a grumble!
- Having a partner who is also a friend is a wonderful buffer when life is difficult – when home is your “soft place to fall” you are significantly buffered against life’s challenges and setbacks. When home is tainted with toxicity it makes you extremely vulnerable to the negative impacts of adversity.
4. Exercise and Physical Health
Too often I hear my clients telling me that they’ll get back to the gym when they are “over this hump”, or that they’ll resume their sport when it warms up. Who are they fooling? Firstly, you’re never really over the hump. Secondly, you need the positive benefits of exercise NOW, while you’re negotiating the hump. People who are resilient build exercise into their schedule – it is part of their scheduled activities, rather than something they “find/make time for”. It is a priority – it does not take a back seat to other priorities. Exercise releases powerful hormones which are a powerful antidote to the damaging stress hormones that are released when life is difficult. Type “impact of exercise on mental health” into the Google task bar and see how much information comes up to this effect!
Another mistake people make is to push through when they are sick, rather than seeing a doctor and taking things a bit more slowly. This takes a punishing toll on your body and can trigger the onset of all sorts of negative immune responses. The same applies if you feel you’re not coping emotionally. See a doctor – don’t be a hero.
5. What you eat and drink
It is tempting to comfort eat when you are battling life’s challenges. However, once again the evidence is compelling that this can create a vicious cycle - feeling stressed leads to consumption of unhelpful foods which has a negative impact on your mental state, which leads to more consumption of unhelpful foods. Healthy eating habits during less stressful times make it easier to maintain healthy eating habits when the pressure is on. But you know this, don’t you!
The upshot of all of this is that resilience is something you build when you don’t need it so that you have it when you do. It is about establishing and practicing healthy mental and physical habits on an ongoing basis so that you have this powerful buffering effect when you need it.
Call to Action
If you recognise that you need to start developing your resilience, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s discuss your coaching programme.