These days we hear a lot about resilience, the essential ingredient for dealing with difficult work and life events. Because it enables you to bounce back when under pressure. To retain your equilibrium and stability and maintain strength and capacity to cope.
What's interesting about resilience is of course that it's learned. It takes adverse circumstances to develop it because you can't be resilient in a bubble when you don't interact with anyone or anything. So you need to wrestle with tough stuff if you've going to build this precious resource.
Now you might think that resilience has been worn down by the recession and its aftermath. But here's what's really interesting. We've been gathering data about resilience for the past five years and we recently examined what's been going on for people. Now I was absolutely expecting that the resilience data would show is that it's taken a massive hit for everyone pretty much everywhere.
I was wrong.
When we looked at the data we had before the recession and compared it to the resiliency data during the recession, we saw that people actually felt that they were more resilient when things were toughest. They reported that their capacity to be resilient actually increased - by about 12%. Now that figure has recently dropped back: in the data we've been collecting this year we're seeing that people are about 5% less resilient than they were pre-recession. But let's get some perspective here: resilience is only down by 5%.
I think that's amazing.
It tells us that despite everything, despite high levels of uncertainty and rapid change, most of us have a huge and untested capacity to cope. And it reminds us that we are highly adaptive to our environments. In fact we're much tougher than we think.
But if you're feeling wobbly and there's no doubt that some people are here are some handy hints for becoming more resilient:
1. Ask yourself ‘have I got a learning history?' If you don't think you have, sit down and reinterpret your life story through this lens and show yourself that you do.
2. Analyze your problem solving strategies. Are you aware of the processes you actively use? Stand back and think how you set about managing difficult issues because being aware of them will mean you can quickly access what you need when confronted with adversity. In turn that will mean you'll be less likely to freeze and do nothing rather than fight to manage your situation.
3. Assess how you build proactive coping into your working life? Proactive copers are people who:
- Make connections before the proverbial hits the fan so they know who to turn to for help when they need it
- Interpret events in an upbeat way
- Focus on the process and not the outcome because that's what they can influence
So what are you doing to cope proactively with the situation you face?
4. Connect with the people who give you strong social support and foster those links so they are there for you when you need them.
5. Stand back and think about negative emotions. How do you manage them when they come along and how do you force yourself not to get swept up by them? Develop some strategies like exercise, listening to music, taking a walk or visiting a museum or gallery. Because forcing yourself into another environment will give you a perspective that you can't have when you are up close and personal.
6. Decide when you're going to master negative events by simply not dwelling on them. The old Freudian notion that if you don't vent, you'll burst isn't actually correct. A recent study showed that people who didn't express any thoughts and feelings post 9/11 reported better outcomes than those who did. Those who'd ventilated the most emotionally, coped the worst and this was true two years later .
7. Analyse how well do you take care of yourself? Lack of sleep and poor health will of course make you feel less resilient. Go to bed early and try to make that routine.
8. Ask yourself ‘how much do I believe that I bounce back? If you think you do, you probably will. Because you'll engage in the very behaviors that mean you do.
9. Understand that you don't need to ‘manage' your stress: it's there for a reason, because it's telling you that you need to do something different. What does that difference look like?
10. Decide that you will get through this, that you'll learn and that as you do so good things will emerge. Start by reflecting on all the things that this opportunity is giving you and what you have to be grateful for.
I'll have another top strategy for building resilience and optimism in my next blog, along with the fascinating story of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of this generation.
Meanwhile if you want to find out more, come and visit our resource center at www.iopener.com