Resilience is a word we have heard a lot lately, especially since we have been dealing with an atypical situation that forced us to stay home for months. By and large we have all experiences periods of worry or anxiety. However, if they are still negatively impacting your life, you may want to re-think how to cope with them and help your resilience grow. This month, we will share with you some tips, exercises, and resources to help you on your journey to becoming resilient, so you can learn to bounce back from stressful situations and successfully adapt to stressful circumstances in your life. These tips are practical, easy-to-implement and highly effective.
What is resilience?
First, how would you define resilience? Some may say being flexible and being able to adopt different strategies to meet stressful demands. Some may think resilience is overcoming whatever life puts on your path. Love and strong relationships are also important elements in resilience, as well as optimism… Now, some of you are probably thinking “oh, come on!”. How could the way you think, your beliefs about the future and about why bad and good things happen to you predict good bottom line outcomes in relationships, physical health and performance at work? Well, here is everything explained.
The bright side
Contrary to what popular opinion is, being optimist does not mean pretending it is only rainbows and unicorns. Optimism is a set of thoughts that actually enables people to better identify “real” problems. When they face difficult situations, optimists try to identify what they can or cannot control. In front of a problem, optimists are more skillful at saying “I can do something for this piece of this problem”; whereas pessimists are more likely to focus on the aspects that they can do nothing about. It is also important to be able to accept the aspects of the situation a person cannot control. Understanding which the battles you should really fight for could positively impact your energy. Being approach oriented makes optimists walk towards the problem and coming up with strategies to affect change. Identifying what they can influence or leverage leads optimists to tackle a difficult situation more as a challenge then a threat that they can’t cope with. On this same line, optimist people consider what is happening as an educational resource. Learning from your own mistakes is one of the most efficient ways to improve yourself and your resilience. When you face a stressful situation, do not focus only on your mistakes, but also on the details of the case. There are often many lessons to be learnt that will help you to better tackle similar situations in the future.
If it is hard to let in ONLY the good vibes, here are some challenges you can try out when you have to deal with negative situations that might hinder your resilience.
“Spot the optimism” challenge
We want to challenge you to spot optimism! When you see an optimistic behaviour in yourself, name it. Noticing your own optimistic reactions to negative situation will help you build your awareness about how you cope with things. Also, spot the optimism in others! If you are an employer, when you see optimism in people that work for you, don’t let them go unnoticed. Praise those behaviours because you are going to get more out of people, and you are all going to get happier, healthier, and more productive.
“Visualising the bright side” challenge
Start by identifying a situation that is hard for you. Apply the skill of optimism: take some time and list out all aspects of that situation that you can control. Try to push yourself, don’t just identify the first things that come to mind. Are there other aspects of this situation that you can control/influence/leverage? An optimist also identifies and lets go of the things that they can’t control. Try that as well! Maybe you are looking for a job and have been receiving rejection, and rightly so you are starting to get frustrated. However, there are surely aspects of the situation that you have to just accept. Now that you have the list, you can start to make some decisions about how to use your energy and resources. The last step of an optimist is purposeful action. An optimist does not just identify the problem but comes up with solutions. Challenge yourself to come up with some actions to affect the variables you just identified. What will you start doing differently? What will you change in the way you are handling the situation so that you get a more positive outcome?
“Real Time Resilience” challenge
This skill can be exercised in the so-call about to moments. You are about to be interviewed for a job or deliver a briefing to your boss. You want to be at your best, but at the same time you risk to fall in counterproductive thoughts. Identity an about to moment, and think of three to five counterproductive thoughts you might have in that situation. Now you are ready to use the skill of real time resilience, so challenge those negative thoughts using these three strategies:
- Evidence – think about vivid and concrete evidence that you can marshal to prove to yourself why that counterproductive thought is not true. To express your reaction to the counterproductive thought, start your sentence with “that is not true because…”.
- Re-frame – Re-framing the situation will enhance your optimism. Start your sentence with “a better way of seeing this is” and then challenge yourself to re-frame how you perceive the situation. Remember; make it a challenge, not a threat.
- Plan – Start your planning with “if x happens then I will y”. Make sure it is a powerful plan and that you actually believe it.
We hope these challenges will be useful for you to get out of any anxiety you may experience and will help you grow your resilience. Stress does not allow us to respond at our best and it can be a barrier between you and your best life. Building up your resilience is a crucial life skill that will enhance your ability to mitigate stressful situations and bounce back quicker each time.