Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Resilience Top 7 Tips

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Founding Director of Impact Factory

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Just How Resilient Are You?

Here are some questions to ponder about resilience.

In the first instance, try to answer with the first thing that pops into your head without editing or imposing how you think you ought to answer.

  1. What are your immediate physical, emotional and intellectual reactions when something goes wrong?

  1. What are your second reactions?

  1. When you bounce back easily from difficulties, what do you tell yourself?

  1. When you don’t bounce back easily from difficulties, what do you tell yourself?

  1. Which inner voice is loudest?

Those questions form the backbone of understanding your ‘default’ pattern when it comes to resilience.  Pretty much all of our behaviour follows patterns and it makes sense that how we react to adversity, set-backs, hurts, disappointments, etc. will follow a pattern as well.

So here are a few more questions that you may need to think about a bit deeper than simply having an immediate response.

  1. How far back can you go it terms of remembering how you dealt with difficulties when you were young? I have a very clear memory of when I was three being really upset about something inside and making a conscious decision about how I was going to outwardly react to it which was not to let anyone see how upset I was.

  1. Is there a thread you can follow that, looking back, set the tone of how you now react to difficulties?

  1. Has it changed at all?  I know that one thread in my early years was that I would be inwardly distressed and often outwardly ‘OK’. This proved a liability because it led to depression.  It was only as I got older (and wiser??) that with greater understanding I sort of reversed things. Now, I do react outwardly, often immediately, but inside I’m actually really OK with most things that happen. I trust my coping abilities.  Do you trust yours?

  1. If how you behave has changed as you’ve got older, how much was conscious choice? 

To me, this question is the crux of how we can become more resilient. Let’s face it, when we’re younger we’re more often than not buffeted by events and don’t feel we have much choice in the outcome. If you’ve ever had a child (or witnessed a child) erupt in a lavish temper tantrum, it’s usually because they cannot control events and aren’t getting what they want. Without resilience, we, as adults, can have the ‘grownup’ version of a lavish tantrum when we believe we have no choice and events are conspiring against us.

When we consciously choose our behaviour we are definitely more in charge, and the more we feel in charge, the greater our resilience is.

  1. Now let’s get specific. Can you think of a time recently, where you consciously chose behaviour that demonstrated greater resilience? It doesn’t have to be anything major; the key is that the behaviour choice was conscious. 

Here’s an example.  Recently, and for some unknown reason, I no longer could get access to my personal email account. I tried ringing the company but that was as successful as climbing Mt Everest without a Sherpa or warm clothes. I was able to have an on-line ‘chat’ with someone in a far off place who didn’t have a clue and no matter how many times I tried to explain the problem she kept telling me to do the same thing.  In other words, I got absolutely no where.

I was sick to my stomach when I realised that not only did I no longer have access to all my emails but that I would have to set up a new email account and contact as many people and organisations as I could remember. The task really felt like I was facing my own personal admin Mt Everest. I wanted to climb into the computer and rip at the throat of the far off person and I also wanted to cry.

I did none of those. I didn’t rail at anyone; I didn’t snarl via the on-line chat with the woman who didn’t have a clue. I chose not to get upset, and I chose to simply get on with it. It’s been a lot of work and still unfinished, but I didn’t feel undermined, singled out, poor me. I didn’t have a tantrum, accuse anyone. I drew from my pool of resilience and it has made the task so much easier because I’m not carrying around frustration and angst.

My final question for this piece is:  if you could change one thing to become more resilient, what would it be?