Resilience – how to bounce back better.

Resilience is the ability to not just bounce back from difficulties and challenges faced in life. Resilience is bouncing back better, more self-aware and stronger mentally than you were before. Some people snap, some people snap back better. Are we born with it or can we learn it? Research suggests that resilience can be a learned skill. Stress seems to be the pre-cursor to testing our resilience and how we experience and manage stress strongly influences our resilience. Learning how to tame and master what we term “stress” is the key to becoming a resilient person. Resilience is an active process not a passive quality.

A resilient person tends to be flexible, adaptive, has effective coping skills, learns from experience and is optimistic. They are also more likely to recognise what support they may require to bounce back. In the workplace context, this may include increased support from colleagues or workplace adjustments. A resilient team is one that is based on mutual trust, social norms, participation and social networks as well as resources to adapt positively to change.

Southwick and Charney outline some strategies to train your brain for resilience in the workplace:

  • Be Optimistic – optimists believe the future will turn out OK, that good things will happen and that with enough hard, work they will eventually succeed. They can cut their losses and turn attention to problems that can be solved but are rational and fact-based in their assessments.
  • Do what scares you – doing something new or challenging can vaccinate you against stress. By consciously taking on increasingly difficult challenges, you’ll gradually learn to handle higher levels of “stress” or level of demand.
  • Have a strong moral compass – altruism (concern for the welfare of others) is strongly related to resilience. The most resilient people possess a solid sense of right and wrong, and articulate a core set of moral principles and stick to them especially under duress.
  • Be mindful – practicing mindful awareness, learning to observe the mind and body, and direct attention to the present moment allows you to face whatever comes at you calmly and courageously, knowing you have flexibility to weather any storm.
  • Social support – in order to thrive in this world and in the workplace, people need other people. Actively reaching out to family, friends and colleagues for their advice, assistance and emotional support enhances your resilience during times of high stress.
  • Exercise – getting enough regular exercise is key to improving your mood, thinking, regulation of emotion, immunity, and overall self-esteem.
  • Find meaning, purpose and growth – the ability to see work as your calling, or having a clear and valued purpose in life dramatically strengthens resilience.
  • Train your brain – managing and building emotional intelligence, rational thinking, moral integrity, and physical endurance can all help deflect stressors. Adequate sleep is also central to all aspects of brain re-wiring.

“Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not.” (Dianne Couto, 2002) This is the essence of resilience, and we may never completely understand it. We are living in times of rapid change and uncertainty politically, economically and therefore personally. Resilience has perhaps never been so important.

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