- 5 Ways to Build Resilience During Tough Times
- 1. Talk it out
- 2. Focus on the things you can control
- 3. Ask for help from others
- 5. Participate in networking and engaging in positive activities
- 4 Ways to Boost Your Resilience
- Are We More Resilient Than We Think?
- What Are 4 Ways We Can Start Boosting Resilience Now?
- Starting Small
- What Is Resilience? Definition, Types, Building Resiliency, Benefits, and Resources
- Top Factors of Resilience
- Why Is Resilience Important?
- What Are the 7 Cs of Resilience?
5 Ways to Build Resilience During Tough Times
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Editors Note: This guest post by Nick Hedges originally appeared on LinkedIn. His opinions are his own.
Life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. You may think you are on a path. Things are going well. All your ducks are in a line. And then when you least expect it, everything changes.
Let’s suppose you recently commenced a new job. You are excited. The role is challenging but well within your skill set. The work seems interesting. The office culture appears to have all the hallmarks of a friendly, upbeat vibe. Your boss comes across as supportive. You are really feeling good about the move.
And indeed during the first few weeks everything is going ever so well. Until suddenly it isn’t! Your boss starts to be more critical and you start to feel undervalued and negative. These negative thoughts start to dominate and they start to become self-fulfilling.
You are suddenly in a bad place and need to find ways to deal with these feelings.
If you are an employer reading this post, stop and think for a moment whether you could potentially be “the boss” in the above scenario.
It reminds me of a recent investigation that I was involved in undertaking.
An employee (let’s call her ‘’Julia’’) was working in a small team. She was a high achieving manager but suddenly found herself faced with an allegation of bullying by a colleague (let’s call her ‘’Jennifer’’) with whom she had worked for several years. This evolved into a really challenging situation for Julia and her team.
The complaint led to an externally run investigation where her whole character and professional reputation were suddenly under scrutiny. Julia was left feeling totally overwhelmed and distressed, particularly because she had not been aware of any issues between Jennifer and herself prior to the complaint.
The investigation process was most challenging for Julia. She felt that her personality, work style and colleague relationships were being investigated and analysed. It was not an easy time and Julia had no choice but to pick herself up and keep going.
Julia’s response to this situation is the essence of resilience and this has made me realise that we can all learn strategies to cope in times of adversity.
Here are my 5 tips on how to build resilience in difficult times:
1. Talk it out
One of the best ways to cope with adversity is by talking with others.
Research put out by the NSW Mental Health Association has shown that talking through our challenges with another person enhances resilience. There are several factors that can impede on resilience – working in unsupportive environments; lack of connectiveness with others; and not looking after ourselves physically and emotionally.
Talking it out with others is particularly beneficial to ensure mental wellbeing. RUOK Day took place a month ago on September 14th 2017. The message is very relevant to the example of Julia and Jennifer (both for employers and employees a), and no doubt also applies in other workplace environments and even with our friends and family at home.
More on RUOK later.
2. Focus on the things you can control
We often spend far too much time worrying about other people and situations or environments which we cannot control. If we resolve to focus rather on what we can control i.e. the way we behave and react to people and situations then we will find ourselves spending a lot less time trapped in negativity and feeling overwhelmed.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could find an ‘on/off switch’ for focusing on the negatives and things we have no control over!
In the earlier example, Julia really had to focus on the elements she had control over, such as the way she behaved toward Jennifer and her team mates during and after the investigation and this proved to be helpful. Ruminating over the situation would have been counterproductive.
3. Ask for help from others
The message of RUOK is a really simple and great one. Sometimes we are afraid to talk to people we work with for fear of seeming unstable or weak.
The RUOK message is about listening without judgement and offering assistance if you notice another person who is needing to be heard and understood.
Julia tended to stay alone in her situation as she was so devastated at the way in which her unintentional behaviour had been misconstrued.
It’s all too easy with the hectic schedules and demands in busy life to get caught up with work and career, household tasks, children, family and friends while neglecting our own physical and mental health.
When was the last time you exercised, did yoga or meditation or even sat down and ate without rushing? We are so time poor that focusing on me is usually the very last priority on the list.
This is where workplaces can help with wellbeing initiatives as a means of building a resilient work culture through activities provided in the workplace such as massages, yoga, team sports, healthy food options readily available and opportunities to engage with team mates.
5. Participate in networking and engaging in positive activities
Put simply – Have fun!
Did you know that laughter is really good for you? The benefits have been proven to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormones), lower blood pressure, work your abdominal muscles and create an overall sense of wellbeing. (Dr.
Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan, Loma Linda University California). So, in fact doing something silly, watching comedy, having a laugh with friends are some of the best things you can do to feel good and cope in difficult times.
So there you are. Some practical ways that you can feel more resilient when times are tough or seemingly so anyway … yes even if you are an employer.
Don’t forget to ask your friends, family, colleagues and team members, RUOK? Not just on RUOK Day … but every day.
4 Ways to Boost Your Resilience
- Resilience is the ability to bounce back and even thrive, despite hardships.
- Researchers have found that resilience can be increased or strengthened a muscle.
- There are specific small steps people may start taking today to become more resilient.
For many of us, individually, and for our community more broadly, the past few months have brought several losses: lives lost to gun violence and illness; confidence in our ability to overcome COVID-19 lost to a barrage of alarming news; a nationwide loss in our collective confidence that we can hear and respect each other’s perspectives–to name a few.
While we know that it is not healthy to stuff our anxiety or grief, pretending it’s not present, we also know that it's detrimental to focus solely on what frightens and upsets us or delve exclusively on feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
The truth is, we need to balance anger, mourning, and disappointment with a sense of hope, faith, and purpose.
Source: Graphic by Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D.
During this turbulent and uncertain time, we need to focus more on our collective and individual resilience.
Are We More Resilient Than We Think?
Think about what the concept of resilience means to you. How do you define it? What are examples from your own life where you have witnessed or experienced resilience?
When I asked myself this question, I was astounded with how many examples of resilience I could come up with rather quickly. From family members who had lived through WW2 to people I know who have overcome serious illnesses to entire groups of people who were thriving despite great odds, I saw resilience in action all around me.
My definition: To me, resilience is a cork that pops back up a deep body of water no matter how much life pushes it under or a rubber band that is strong and stretchy enough to bounce back after you pull it shape.
Most of all, resilience is about overcoming the odds to thrive rather than survive.
Fancy definition: The American Psychological Association defines resilience as:
The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves 'bouncing back' from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
What Are 4 Ways We Can Start Boosting Resilience Now?
Scientists have found that resilience can be strengthened, a muscle, by focusing our attention on four main areas:
- Purpose: Pursuing purpose and meaning in our daily lives.
- Relationships: Cultivating deeper, more nurturing relationships.
- Habits: Shifting from less healthy to more healthy habits ( how we respond to stress).
- Beliefs: Shifting our mindset from cynicism and hopelessness to possibility and exploration.
- What Is Resilience?
- Find a therapist near me
Over the next 4 months, we will explore how we can notice and cultivate resilience in ourselves and others (e.g., our students, family members, and employees).
You might be thinking that the four areas outlined above seem a lot of work to add to an already overflowing week; that you are too tired to take on another self-improvement project, no matter how worthwhile.
I have found, however, that any lengthy journey can be broken down into smaller steps.
If resilience is something you want to explore together over the next 4 months, here are some small ways to start right now:
1. Purpose: Purpose is the “why” behind what we do–the reason we want to be an educator or volunteer coach; we have for getting up every day. Suppose you are having trouble connecting to your «why,» no worries. Happens to lots of us.
One small step you can take toward accessing your purpose is to start a list of things that you enjoy, things that seem to nurture you (gardening, playing with my dog, walking in the woods, watching old black and white films, eating raspberries with chocolate, working with wood). Pay attention to what you want to do for free–the things you may actually pay to do.
Often, these hobbies, activities, and nurturing actions are the first hints toward a bigger purpose. The first step is to start paying attention and writing them down.
2. Relationships: Text or email someone you haven’t talked to for a while who lifts your spirits, makes you laugh, or reminds you of your better self. Tell them you’re thinking about them and would love to have coffee/lunch/phone date soon. If they are responsive but vague about their schedule, be the brave one and don’t give up until you get something on the calendar.
3. Healthy habits: Come up with something healthy you’d to increase (not something unhealthy you want to decrease). Maybe you want to add one green vegetable to your day; maybe you want to add a 20-minute walk; maybe a brief daily gratitude practice. Now, make it into a challenge.
Reach out to a friend, colleague, or family member who would enjoy a little healthy competition.
Create a text thread or other accountability system and update each other every day (“one green salad at lunch; check”; “20 min evening walk after dinner; I’m crushing it”; “gratitude list first thing in the morning and you were on it!”)
4. Beliefs: Beliefs underlie how we see the world, how we act with others, and whether we actually think something can or cannot be done. One small step you can take in this arena is to list three or more examples of resilience in your own life–with at least one being a personal story of resilience.
For instance, when I did this exercise recently with a group of teachers, one talked about his grandfather, who had returned from the war with his sense of humor, warmth, and love still intact. Once you prime the pump, start to notice–throughout your day–examples of resilience around you.
Notice, as well, when you might be shutting out the possibility of your own or someone else’s resilience and rewrite that script.
As we return to school with both excitement and anxiety this fall, let’s balance the reality of our lives with the belief in our ability to bounce back, recover, and even grow from the hardships we face.
Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today.
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What Is Resilience? Definition, Types, Building Resiliency, Benefits, and Resources
People face all kinds of adversity in life. There are personal crises, such as illness, loss of a loved one, abuse, bullying, job loss, and financial instability.
There is the shared reality of tragic events in the news, such as terrorist attacks, mass shootings, natural disasters, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic.
People have to learn to cope with and work through very challenging life experiences.
RELATED: How To Build Your Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Resilience theory refers to the ideas surrounding how people are affected by and adapt to things adversity, change, loss, and risk.
Being resilient does not mean that people don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Some people equate resilience with mental toughness, but demonstrating resilience includes working through emotional pain and suffering.
RELATED: Are You Making Choices That Help or Hinder Your Resilience? Take the Quiz.
Resilience isn’t a fixed trait. Flexibility, adaptability, and perseverance can help people tap into their resilience by changing certain thoughts and behaviors. Research shows that students who believe that both intellectual abilities and social attributes can be developed show a lower stress response to adversity and improved performance. (1)
Dr. Sood, who is a member of the Everyday Health Wellness Advisory Board, believes that resilience can be defined in terms of five principles:
Top Factors of Resilience
Developing resilience is both complex and personal. It involves a combination of inner strengths and outer resources, and there isn’t a universal formula for becoming more resilient. All people are different: While one person might develop symptoms of depression or anxiety following a traumatic event, another person might not report any symptoms at all.
A combination of factors contributes to building resilience, and there isn’t a simple to-do list to work through adversity. In one longitudinal study, protective factors for adolescents at risk for depression, such as family cohesion, positive self-appraisals, and good interpersonal relations, were associated with resilient outcomes in young adulthood. (2)
RELATED: 20 Tips for Building and Cultivating Your Resilience
While individuals process trauma and adversity in different ways, there are certain protective factors that help build resilience by improving coping skills and adaptability. These factors include:
- Social Support Research published in 2015 in the journal Ecology and Society showed that social systems that provide support in times of crisis or trauma support resilience in the individual. (3) Social support can include immediate or extended family, community, friends, and organizations.
- Realistic Planning The ability to make and carry out realistic plans helps individuals play to their strengths and focus on achievable goals.
- Self-Esteem A positive sense of self and confidence in one’s strengths can stave off feelings of helplessness when confronted with adversity.
- Coping Skills Coping and problem-solving skills help empower a person who has to work through adversity and overcome hardship.
- Communication Skills Being able to communicate clearly and effectively helps people seek support, mobilize resources, and take action.
- Emotional Regulation The capacity to manage potentially overwhelming emotions (or seek assistance to work through them) helps people maintain focus when overcoming a challenge.
Research on resilience theory shows that it is imperative to manage an individual’s immediate environment and promote protective factors while addressing demands and stressors that the individual faces.
(4) In other words, resilience isn’t something people tap into only during overwhelming moments of adversity.
It builds as people encounter all kinds of stressors on a daily basis, and protective factors can be nurtured.
Why Is Resilience Important?
Resilience is what gives people the emotional strength to cope with trauma, adversity, and hardship. Resilient people utilize their resources, strengths, and skills to overcome challenges and work through setbacks.
People who lack resilience are more ly to feel overwhelmed or helpless, and rely on unhealthy coping strategies (such as avoidance, isolation, and self-medication). One study showed that patients who had attempted suicide had significantly lower resilience scale scores than patients who had never attempted suicide. (5)
Resilient people do experience stress, setbacks, and difficult emotions, but they tap into their strengths and seek help from support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. Resilience empowers them to accept and adapt to a situation and move forward.
Resilience is “the core strength you use to lift the load of life,” says Sood.
What Are the 7 Cs of Resilience?
Pediatrician Ken Ginsburg, MD, who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, developed the 7 Cs model of resilience to help kids and teens build the skills to be happier and more resilient.
The 7 Cs model is centered around two key points:
- Young people live up or down to the expectations that are set for them and need adults who love them unconditionally and hold them to high expectations.
- How we model resilience for young people is far more important than what we say about it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics summarizes the 7 Cs as follows:
- Competence This is the ability to know how to handle situations effectively. To build competence, individuals develop a set of skills to help them trust their judgments and make responsible choices.
- Confidence Dr. Ginsburg says that true self-confidence is rooted in competence. Individuals gain confidence by demonstrating competence in real-life situations.
- Connection Close ties to family, friends, and community provide a sense of security and belonging.
- Character Individuals need a fundamental sense of right and wrong to make responsible choices, contribute to society, and experience self-worth.
- Contribution Ginsburg says that having a sense of purpose is a powerful motivator. Contributing to one’s community reinforces positive reciprocal relationships.
- Coping When people learn to cope with stress effectively, they are better prepared to handle adversity and setbacks.
- Control Developing an understanding of internal control helps individuals act as problem-solvers instead of victims of circumstance. When individuals learn that they can control the outcomes of their decisions, they are more ly to view themselves as capable and confident. (6)
The 7 Cs of resilience illustrate the interplay between personal strengths and outside resources, regardless of age.