How resilient do you think you are? How To Build Resilience? Do you relish a challenge, rubbing your hands with glee as things get tough? Or do your palms start to sweat and your stomach start to churn? When things go wrong, do you berate yourself for not coping better, then shy away from the next challenge on the horizon?
Do you envy those who seem to confidently leap over life’s hurdles barely raising an eyebrow? Hurdles that leave you in a sobbing mess on the floor?
Don’t we all?!
The good news is that resilience is not a fixed trait; you’re not born with a finite amount of it.
It is something that can be developed and built upon. Because every single one of us has experienced challenges in our past that we have coped with, even overcome (we wouldn’t have made it this far otherwise).
It is those experiences that we can use to help improve our resilience levels now.
Why do we find some situations so challenging? And why is it that some things, e.g. giving a presentation, terrify some of us but others don’t seem at all bothered?
Are they just braver than us?
While there are situations and events that we would all find extremely challenging, most difficult situations are only as difficult as you interpret them to be.
Fear, in other words, is in the eye of the beholder.
Most of the stress we experience is because we feel out of control. We feel as if we have no say in what’s happening to us. That’s when the fear kicks in – when you get an overwhelming desire to go and hide in a cupboard.
If you give presentations all the time, you’re probably in your comfort zone, you know how it works, so you’re more likely to feel more relaxed. If, on the other hand, you rarely have to present, then when you do, you feel out of control and afraid.
So, the first thing to recognise is that it’s ok if you find something challenging that your partner or colleagues don’t.
Then, remember that, even if everything else is out of your hands, you can control how you feel and how you react.
That may not feel very easy when your heartbeat’s gone into overdrive. But by recognising this initial knee-jerk reaction for what it is, you can – with practise and self-awareness – begin to take a more considered approach to the events at hand.
Doug Strycharzyck (2014) developed the 4 C’s model to help us take a more rational approach to stressful situations.
When faced with a challenging situation, ask yourself these questions to help you take a step back, review the situation and plan your response:
- Challenge – is it an opportunity or a threat? What’s the actual level of challenge involved?
- Commitment – how committed are you to dealing with the situation?
- Control – to what extent do you have control? Remember we all have control of our own health care, diet, exercise levels, sleep, perspective, emotional regulation and mindfulness.
- Confidence – how can you tackle this situation? What do you need to learn? Who can help you?
This model is a great way to address, understand and rationalise the immediate situation. But how do we build our resilience levels for use in the long-term?
Dr Nimmi Hutnik from London South Bank University has developed a resilience awareness coaching tool (presented at SGCP conference in December 2015, to be published in 2016) that helps you practise being resilient using an understanding of how you dealt with things in the past.
- Define the situation you’re currently facing.
- Draw your timeline of significant life events – what positive and negative events have happened to you over the course of your life?
- Discover how you responded to difficult life events in the past. What strategies did you use to cope with those situations? What about those positive events – what obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them in order to achieve positive results?
- Develop an understanding of the behaviours you employed in the past to cope with difficult situations or overcome obstacles in order to achieve something positive. What are the common factors?
- Delve into these behaviours more deeply with the aim of turning them into ‘resilience principles’ that can be applied to the challenges you face.
- Drive resilience by practising those principles in everyday life. How could they be employed to help you get through the next challenge?
How To Build Resilience? You are likely to find it more effective to work with a third party such as a coach or trusted confidante, rather than on your own. Someone who will listen without judgement and help you explore these areas and identify your resilience principles.
And finally, Nimmi recommends that you do the following:
- Find an image that represents you being resilient – and refer to it in times of need.
- Find a song that encapsulates your sense of being resilient, (mine is ‘Don’t worry, be happy’! It’s even my ring tone!) Sing it to yourself when you need a courage boost!
Let me know what your song would be – I’d love to hear about it.