What is resilience?
Resilience is our degree of flexibility - how adaptable we are and how much we can bounce back - recover from setbacks - to a balanced state. Our reaction in the face of difficulties or unexpected circumstances is what exposes how much we let things affect us adversely. Resilience is a skill we can learn, defined by our outlook and response, which enables us to develop it.
There are three types of resilience:
Psychological - this is our combined mental and emotional resilience.
Physical - the resilience of our body
Community - the collective resilience.
Why do we need resilience?
Resilience can be said to be our preparation against overwhelm. If we have resilience we can develop protective mechanisms. This means we are prepared especially for stressful times. We can use it to assist with our creation of balance in our lives. When a situation arises we are able to quickly manage it, adapt, bounce back and then grow and move forward.
What happens if we don't have resilience?
If we are able to bounce back and revert to our original state after a potentially stressful event then we can prevent a build up. If a build up occurs - when we don't revert after the event - then we restart, after the event, in a different and less favourable state. This state can make us less prepared for the next time and so we begin to get a buildup and the effects of the events begin to compound.
This compounding can lead to long term effects which can also lead to some mental illness and hence further complications in our lives.
Therefore lack of resilience can lead to long term mental effects that can then become harder to overcome.
Tiredness and stress can all eat away at our resilience. So ensuring good care of yourself is imperative (if you are new to this area you can go to the blog - You First - for more information)
How do we become more resilient?
As we can see from the above, it is advantageous to have resilience and prevent the effects of lack of resilience compounding. The good news is that we can learn resilience and practice it to become better at it. Think of resilience like a muscle - the more you use it the better it will become.
Below we look at the five steps to building up resilience.
Awareness. This is the first step and by reading this we have started on this step. We have now begun conscious awareness. Begin by asking ourselves in what areas of our life our resilience low. Start to notice the events/cluster of events. Notice what happens before, during and after the event. It may be helpful to make notes after an event. We may well notice similarities - so give as much detail as possible - especially asking how we are feeling during each stage. Also what makes us feel this way. Asking what that means to us/for us. This makes us conscious of our emotions.
Making a decision that we wish to work to improve this area of our life - setting our intention - is the second step. This is showing ourselves that we are taking control. We are no longer leaving the control outside of us.
Having clarified the events, or groups of events, and detailed the process we can begin to decide how we'd like the process to be.
Write the list in three columns - before, during, after. And for each one, write down your feelings.
Next ask what positive end outcome is desirable. And then the positive feeling(s) relating to this.
For example: we can ask ourselves - how can I see this differently, what choices might there be, how would I like to feel about this. We are careful here not to get caught up in the "what ifs".
At this stage we can talk about this to others. We can ask for support - as support aids resilience. Remember here we need to focus on what we can control.
The next step is to review past events with this new light and rehearse how we realise we could now have felt and behaved. This will build confidence and trust in ourselves. Our aim is to realise that "future me" has this covered. By doing this we have become aware of where our attention and focus is and this awareness leads us to choices. It helps to prime our brain to look for optimism and positive actions and feelings in similar situations.
If a situation is perceived as being overwhelming then we may consider breaking it down into smaller aspects and taking small steps. The bigger the overwhelm, or potential overwhelm, the smaller the steps. It's also about bringing things into our control.
For each of the events or experiences above write down a new version - with us in the controlling seat to drive how we'd like it to be and feel.
Putting it into practice. Now we practice practice practice. After each practice we review and refine the event or experience. This will lead us to creating a new belief about ourselves. That we have the confidence to get through this and begin to build the trust in ourselves.
So, in summary, we need resilience to help us keep our heads above water in life. Its something we can learn and improve. With practice we are aiming at becoming so good that we don't even notice we are doing it.