Fiona is a leadership development specialist and qualified executive coach with over 20 years of experience of developing leaders at all levels. During her career, Fiona has worked across businesses and sectors including financial services, food, media retailing, telecommunications, education, insurance, and professional services.
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Resilience, or ‘bounce-back-ability’ is something we hear about a lot and is applicable in any situation or circumstance that we find ourselves in, whether dealing with the impacts of coronavirus or challenging work or home situations. Of course, it’s particularly relevant now as we go through a period of unprecedented change with uncertain outcomes. I’ve written this blog post to talk you through what resilience is, how to develop it and what to do if your resilience is being tested.
What is resilience
Resilience is the ‘ability to bounce back’. The definition of resilience from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is:
- The act of rebounding or springing back; rebound, recoil
- Elasticity; the power of resuming the original shape or position after compression
This is what we mean when we talk about ‘resilience’. It is not the same as strength, which enables you to remain calm, unaffected or ‘stony’ in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges. Rather it is that you are moved emotionally by those difficulties – you feel pain, anxiety, fear, sadness, even despair – but you can recover to your original state.
Recognising your stress (what’s testing your resilience?)
The two main psychological stressors are:
- The need to be liked; and
- The need to be in control.
The current situation we are all finding ourselves in will press the ‘need to be in control’ button. There are a number of things that we are not able to control, including other people’s behaviour and supermarket queues and stock. However, when your resilience is being tested by these scenarios, it’s important to look at what you can control or influence, for example staying inside, online food shopping, using the time to start a new hobby or learn a language. Consider what you can control or influence and this will help you stay mentally-well during these challenging times.
Where possible, have a plan and a focus for each day or hour (depending on the situation you find yourself in). Doing this will help you feel like you have control and that you are taking steps to improve or cope with the situation you find yourself in right now.
Ways to help build your personal resilience
So, what can you do to help support healthy resilience and that ‘bounce back-ability’. Here are some suggestions:
Minimise stress (where possible)
Maintaining resilience requires both energy and well-being. The more stressed we become the more energy we use up, this then impacts on both our physical and emotional well-being, thus in turn making us less resilient and unable to handle the stress. It’s a vicious circle. Think about what you can control and influence and make a plan based on this. Small steps are better than giant leaps.
Focusing on well-being
The more you can focus on both your emotional and physical well-being the more you can improve your resilience. Take time to walk outside or sit in the garden (green space is very good for us) and try taking a few deep breaths. I would recommend the 3-4-5 breath. In for 3, hold for 4 and out for 5 seconds. The breath is so important, as our brain responds to it, and will be preparing for the fight/ flight/freeze or flock response. By taking our breathing down, we send a message to our brain that it does not have to be ready for action!
Eating the right foods
Maintain or implement a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Look at food as fuel, the better quality of fuel you put in, the better you will perform both physically and mentally. The immune system can quite often be compromised when our resilience is being tested, so eat foods containing a high content of vitamin C. Both oranges and kiwi fruits are a great source of vitamin C.
Create a plan
Plan your activities for each day, for example are there books you have always wanted to read, new skills you want to learn or space in your house that needs tidying up? Stick to the plan and adjust if necessary. Set yourself small, achievable goals that you can tick off at the end of the day. This will help you feel in control and lower your stress levels.
There has never been a better time to practice mindfulness and there are plenty of apps you can use to help you do this, for example Headspace and Calm. Mindfulness has been proven to lower stress and anxiety levels and all you need to do is a daily practice of 15 minutes a day to feel the impact and benefits of having a clearer and less cluttered mind.
- Rise: A first-aid kit for getting through tough times – Sian Williams
- Thrive – Arianna Huffington
- The Stress Solution – Dr Rangan Chatterjee
- Resilient – A podcast series that features authentic, engaging and thought-provoking conversations with CEOs, board members, executives and people outside the business world and how they lead through crisis, navigated through disruption and managed through significant risk events.
- Ted Talk – The three secrets of resilient people by Lucy Horne