It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. As we are all experiencing tremendous strain and stress with the Coronavirus impacting on every aspect of our work and homes lives, I thought I’d share some ideas about resilience. So here’s a 10 minute video looking at four tools to help you become more resilient: Building Resilience – Regulation, Reframing, Relationships and Reflection. There are further resources listed at the end.
Some people appear to be coping better than others at the moment – they are more resilient.
Psychology and coaching have a lot to offer those who want to increase their resilience.
So in this short video we will explore what resilience is and look at four practical techniques to help you build your resilience. One of those is my favourite Reframing – but also we will look at regulation, relationships and reflecting on realistic goals.
What is resilience and how can you be more resilient?
(Bouncing red ball)
A Harvard Business School report found that there are three fundamental characteristics that set resilient people and organisations apart:
1. A capacity to face reality
2. An ability to find meaning in testing times
3. An ability to improvise and innovate new strategies for coping with adversity
Psychological resilience is your ability to cope with stress and adversity – whether through bouncing back, not being affected too negatively or developing better strategies for the future.
It’s about recovering quickly from difficulties.
Resilience is a process rather than a personality trait (although scores on psychometric scales for things like anxiety, depression, vulnerability to stress, assertiveness, positive emotion and self-discipline may be indicators of resiliency).
It is a two-dimensional concept spanning both the extent of the adversity and the positive attitude/behaviour adaptations required to adjust. So two judgements are involved – the significance of the risk and the adaptation required.
Most research shows that resilience is the result of individuals being able to interact with their environments and the ways in which they promote well-being or protect themselves against risk factors – whether by themselves or supported by their relationships or policies.
There are many ways to develop resilience. The American Psychological Association suggests 10 ten ways. I’d like to concentrate on just FOUR
Resilience through REGULATION (STOP sign)
When you hit a set back the first thing is to take control of your emotions – don’t let them control you.
I did an earlier video about emotions during major changes.
But there’s a technique from Timothy Gallwey in Inner Game (from sports psychology) that might help – STOP method – it’s like grounding. And a lot of mindfulness techniques use a similar approach.
Step back. Think. Organise your thoughts. Proceed when you know your best action.
Resilience through REFRAMING (Red frame)
This is one of my favourite techniques – which I first learned many years ago during my NLP training.
Here’s a framed photo of my dog Bertie. He can be a real pest always hassling me to play with him. But I can reframe that negative behaviour as him being alert and playful – much more positive!
Right now we see a lot of people framing the current situation in very negative terms – and that’s justified bearing in mind the loss of work and identity, an awful impact on our families, work, home and future. But we can look at the same thing through a more positive perspective – the chance to reconnect with family and home life, time to learn new skills and read and space to reflect on what is really important to us.
Let me tell you a story about my use of reframing to deal with a very challenging relationship. Years ago working with the board – around 12 people – we got on well and were productive and effective at driving the business forward. Changing things and increasing profits and raising profile by a staggering amount. But there was one person who I jarred with and labelled as “difficult”. It started small but grew into a bigger conflict. In the end it was damaging and adversely impacted the effectiveness of the team. So I thought and reframed the “difficult” behaviour as “innovative thinking”. I adjusted my filters to see previously framed negative behaviours in a more positive light. It changed my approach to the person and that – in turn – changed his response to me. The situation improved. Simply because I turned a negative label and my filters supporting that – to a positive one. I choose to think differently.
Resilience through RELATIONSHIPS
No man – or woman – is an island – so says the old meditation by English poet John Donne.
Psychologists tell you that humans are wired to connect with other humans. From our early mammalian dependency on others and our tribal roots.
There’s truth in the saying “A problem shared is a problem halved”
Reach out – even if you aren’t the Four Tops – to other people.
Share the load with family and friends. You will feel less isolated and more supported.
Start by writing a list of all the people you know and care for – and take the first step to contact them and talk. You don’t have to outline or share your problem or feelings – although it will help.
But the simple act of connecting will make you feel less alone….and more able to cope.
Sharing really is caring – for yourself too. Be kind to yourself.
Resilience through REFLECTION on REALISTIC GOALS
Reflection is a vital element of learning.
It also helps with resilience.
Think back to the many times you have coped with adversity – it’s a good exercise to look back over your life and list out how you have coped. What strategies you used in the past. Your strength facing adversity in the past.
Be kind to yourself – self-care is really important – don’t expect too much of yourself.
Take care of your mind and body – you need to be realistic about what you can achieve. You need time to rest and relax and reflect. Sleep is vitally important too. With sleep and less stress you can be more creative in tackling problems.
If we are not careful you can lapse into distorted thinking – black and white thinking, over generalising, catastrophizing, personalising…
Don’t demand too much of yourself – set realistic goals. Take time to explore the different options. When we are stressed we shut down our creativity. We need to relax and let our ideas flow
Find meaning in the situation – and think of meaning in the future too…
I’m reminded of the Chinese saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
And whilst we are on Eastern ideas let’s take a look at something I discovered in my counselling training – he ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi (Picture) – repairing ceramics with gold. Although the item is broken it is more beautiful when you see how it is repaired. So by being resilient – and picking up the pieces from a disaster – we can be more beautiful as people. It’s a lovely thought.
Understanding the Adaptive Third
You know I like threes right?
A related idea is that there is an Adaptive Third – a third of people adapt better than the majority. From separate studies in organisational change and in trauma they found a simple difference between those that adapt fast and those that don’t.
The adaptive third don’t dwell on the past and ask “why did this happen to me?”. They look forward and ask “What can I do now?”
This relates to some others of the APA’s recommendations – Keep a long- term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context. And maintain a hopeful outlook – expect good things.
In positive psychology psychologist Gabriele Oettingen found that people who employ “mental contrasting” combine both optimistic and pessimistic strategies by comparing a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles. Only the mental contrasting method is correlated with actual achievement. Current research supports Oettingen’s WOOP method (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) “by fooling our brains into thinking we are already successful, we lose motivation and energy to do what it takes to actually become successful”.
Inspiration for resilience
One last thought – my business links to stars. And one of the most inspirational sayings I know is
“Per Ardua Ad Astra” – Through adversity to the stars. It is the motto for the British Royal Air Force – the RAF. (RAF emblem). The RAFA was near my home in Whitton for many years.
I like to think of us piloting our planes through life – usually it’s blue skies and sunshine – but we need to know how to fly and land safely through the storms too….
Thanks for watching and listening.
“It’s training Kim, but not as we know it”
Other resilience resources
An eight minute video on managing emotions during major change, loss or bereavement
Reflections on managing change during Coronavirus lockdown
Book review: Crazy busy – Overstretched, overbooked and about to snap by Dr Edward Hallowell (a psychiatrist)
An eight minute video introduction to Kim Tasso (including her psychology qualifications)