Whether you have a high resilience factor or a relatively low one, there are things you can do to build your resilience.
In my previous three blogs on this very hot topic, I’ve outlined what it is, what happens to you physiologically; I’ve asked you questions about your own resilience, your reactions, when you’ve been highly resilient and when you haven’t. I’ve talked about changing the ‘narrative’ you tell yourself when something goes wrong.
Now I’m going to give some more practical hints and tips that will help build your resilience.
- Take time to Gather Your Thoughts. When something unexpected or upsetting happens, it’s OK to have whatever reaction you have. After that, though, it’s advisable to take a good deep breath and keep your thoughts to yourself while you figure out what happens next.
Too often, one reaction leads to another which can exacerbate the problem and undermine resilience. Your body needs time for its Cortisol levels to get back to normal so taking time as early as possible to collect your thoughts will help your body break the spiral of being distressed with the distress.
- Become a Solution Finder. I may be projecting here as this is usually my first port of call after I allow myself my initial reactions (”Oh no!” “Bloody hell!” “I can’t believe this!”). My second reaction is generally to unpick what’s happened and look for a way to resolve it.
What that does is to focus my mind away from wallowing in emotions (of course, after I’ve had a good wallow) and get on with dealing with practicalities. In turn, this has positioned me as one of the people to go to when things go wrong. I may have a strong immediate reaction, but I don’t blame, fault-fine or recriminate. I look to make it OK and find an outcome that gets things back on an even keel.
This is a terrific way to build resilience as it gives you a way of taking your attention off your reactions and onto finding solutions that will help everyone, including yourself. It’s a great way to boost confidence and raise your profile as someone who can be creative in a crisis.
- See the Bigger Picture. This goes hand in hand with being a solution finder. When you are able to step back and gain perspective on a problem, you have a far better chance of seeing the many strands that have contributed to a particular knot and figure out ways of untangling them. Often when things go wrong, most people focus on the thing that has happened instead of the wider implications.
- Become More Accepting. Acceptance is an interesting concept. Accepting that something has gone awry doesn’t mean you like it, it doesn’t mean you even think it’s OK. What acceptance does is allow you to move on.
- Take a Break from the Fray. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given or give to others: get away from it all for a little while. Go for a walk, get something to eat, make a cup of tea, chat with a friend – anything that changes the ‘dynamic’ of the situation you are in. When you are in the stew of your own and other people’s emotions it can be really hard to see what to do next.
This isn’t the same as gathering your thoughts which ideally happens right at the start of a problem or when something goes wrong; this is when you are right smack into the repercussions when you might think it’s more advisable to be in the middle of it all to help sort it. To me that’s just when you should remove yourself and not think about the issues at all. Your brain cells need to focus on something else or even nothing at all.
- Have Great Support Around You. This is a crucial element in building resilience: don’t do it alone! Seeking and using support is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, the more support you have around you, the stronger you become because others can take some of the burden off your shoulders. This isn’t about having people to moan to (though they can occasionally serve that purpose as moaning isn’t always a bad thing), but rather having others around you who have distance and empathy.
- Develop Your Sense of Humour. Just laugh in the face of adversity! Well, that’s not really what I mean about developing a sense of humour. It’s more about being able to find the humour in a situation, even if it’s being able to laugh at your own over-reactions.
Humour is a great leveller and is another way to gain distance and perspective on things that are ready to snap at your heels and steal your resilience. This is when great support can come in handy as they can often point out the absurdities in ways you can’t.
These are just a few of the many ways you can build resilience and become more flexible, adaptable and buoyant. We have a lot more tools and techniques which you can practise on our Building Resilience Open Course.