There are any number of definitions for resilience, most of which refer to the ability to 'bounce back from adversity' and 'withstand stressful situations'. However, whilst bouncing back is an admirable quality, you can only do it so many times before you are exhausted and no longer have the resources to cope.
What is resilience?
Sometimes resilience is about recognising the approach of the difficult situation(s) and doing something about it before things escalate to the point of a stress response, and sometimes it's just about stopping whatever it is you are doing and re-evaluating.
In the same way that a physically healthy person has a better chance of recovering from injury or illness, someone who is mentally healthy will be better placed to recover from difficult, stressful and traumatic situations and this is resilience.
"A good half of the art of living is resilience".
Alain de Botton
In simple terms, psychological resilience is about developing behaviours and habits which help you to remain calm and to move forward without any negative consequences. Of course, being resilient doesn't mean that you will never feel the pressure or stress of a particular situation or event, but it does mean that you will be in a better position and have effective ways of dealing with it.
Building your resilience
Every one of us can increase our resilience, all you need is to be prepared to try. Things won't change overnight, but with determination and practice you can develop a new healthier way of thinking and behaving, increasing your resilience and improving your chances of remaining mentally healthy and staying calm and confident in difficult times.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Evaluate your situation
- Could there be another way of looking at this?
- Do I need more information?
- How will I benefit from the way I am thinking/feeling/doing?
We all have a tendency towards negativity, called negativity bias. So ask yourself, how else could I interpret this event? What is the evidence for and against this thought? How might things improve if I adopt a different interpretation?
We all know how important it is to our physical and mental health to get a good night's sleep. Current advice suggests 7 – 9 hours for the majority of adults. Sleep improves cognition, concentration, productivity and performance, it maximises problem solving skills and improves memory.
Rest isn't just about sleep. Around every 90 minutes take breaks away from your desk, your computer, your phone. Research shows that brief (as little as 5 minutes) mental breaks will help you stay focussed on your task, help you to retain information, make connections and generally be more productive. Not taking breaks leads to confusion, increased pressure and eventually stress.
3. Stay hydrated
Your brain is mostly water, so drinking it provides you with a number of benefits, it:
- Helps to balance your mood and emotions
- Reduces stress
- Maintains memory function
- Improves concentration and cognition
4. Reflect on your successes/achievements
Keep a success diary, write down the things you have achieved, that have gone well for you today or this week. The more we reflect on the positive, the more positive we become. You could even reward yourself in some way or simply tell yourself well done.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It improves mental health and functioning and increases emotion regulation and self-control.
There are numerous books on the subject as well as some interesting TED Lectures available on line. Check out the 'Headspace' app for 10 free audio sessions on meditation, it is well worth the time.
CABA run 'Mindfulness courses' around the UK, book yourself on one.
6. Ask for help
It is a sign of strength to know when you need help and be able to ask for it. CABA offer free confidential counselling. Other support may be available through your organisation or check out the BACP website for a counsellor near you.
Practice resilience rather than inaction. Use some of the ideas above and persevere to make them a habit rather than your habit becoming one of living with stress.
Resilient people live longer, happier, healthier lives.
Written by: Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins is a Behavioural Psychologist with a particular interest in Resilience and how we can make simple yet often life-changing adjustments to the way we think and behave to improve personal wellbeing and performance. As well as running a counselling and hypnotherapy practice he is a frequent speaker on the subject of resilience, writing and delivering training, talks and seminars in the UK and abroad.