Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some to be knocked down by life and then bounce back stronger. How to overcome stress seems to be a key factor to being able to successfully ride the waves of adversity. So why is it that some people can handle incredible amounts of stress, while others fall apart quite quickly?
Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient. Among them is a positive attitude and optimism. As well as the ability to regulate emotions and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback.
How to build Resilience
Living resiliently is more than just ‘bouncing back’ or handling stress well. It is about shifting our perceptions, changing our responses, and learning something new. Resilience involves building a set of personal strengths. The intention of which is to help us not only cope but thrive across all areas of our lives.
According to Dr Barbara Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina and author of Positivity: Ground-breaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity and Thrive, we need to become more mindful. This leads us to broaden and build several inner resources which help us to strengthen resilience. These include compassion, acceptance, openness and creativity.
Being Mindful Helps Us
Being mindful is about cultivating our awareness in the present. It involves practicing self-compassion and being conscious as well as intentional in our choices and actions. Mindfulness is a tool for re-contextualising and reframing experience. This is important because true balance is not about finding stability. It is ever shifting and dependent on what needs to be prioritised most. Therefore, it’s about proactively creating what works for us and achieving a dynamic balance. Rather than reactively responding when we feel overwhelmed by things.
Being reactive is a symptom of operating within a fear-based survival framework when viewing a challenging situation. By using a fear-based survival framework, we filter what’s happening through an internal lens of what we feel. Therefore, our evaluation of a situation is coloured by our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and body sensations. The result is we aren’t able to easily, rationally think through things to find a way forward. Instead, our fear creates our reality, locking us in anger, powerlessness, panic and blame.
It’s understandable why we might react from fear when facing the prospect of a challenging situation, e.g.: losing a job. However, cultivating mindfulness can be a powerful tool that offers us the opportunity to make a radical shift in orientation. And in doing this, help us to be less reactive and more level-headed when we put in a tight spot.
Live in the Moment
We live in a world that’s rapidly changing, especially when one factors in the continuous evolution of technology. Within this shifting landscape, life in general is often already uncertain, ambiguous and inconsistency is almost to be expected. When things are unpredictable, it becomes important to resist the need to impose order and control so as to direct future events. Instead, we need to develop a reflective process and bring ourselves back to where we presently are.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing our awareness on where we currently are. To be fully present in a moment we need to be aware of what we are internally and externally experiencing. It’s an awareness without judgement and reflective in nature. Doing this allows us to become conscious of the ways we perceive and respond to life’s situations.
Using a mindful approach in life enables us to shift our entire ground of being. This clarity of self offers us an opportunity to explore how we show up in the world. In doing so we become more comfortable with uncertainty. We are also better able to thrive in ambiguity, overcome stress and step into challenging roles.
Be Fully Engaged
Wholeheartedness is key to achieving a dynamic balance. It’s about fully engaging in life despite the risks and lack of guarantees around us. Wholeheartedness involves having the courage to be vulnerable and authentic rather than shutting our hearts down when things are challenging.
By living wholeheartedly, you become the one that has the readiest ear rather than the loudest voice. This enables you to be better aware of the overall system. And thereby understand its dynamic web of relationships. When you can do this, you are able to live with vision and live out your own values. When faced with chaos, you’ll be able to think clearly. It also helps evoke creativity and initiative so that overall, we become more resilient and adaptive. Thereby we are also able to become better at overcoming stress.
The Role of a Coach
Using the expertise of and working alongside a coach can be very helpful during the process of building resilience. Coaches can help ease your cognitive load as well as help you get ahead faster. They assist in figuring out what you want and how to best leverage your particular skills. A coach will then help you map a way forward towards achieving your goals. Thereafter they can provide external support, encouragement and accountability to help keep you on your intended pathway. The advantage of involving an independent person is that they can often see our blind spots better than we can. They’re also able to assist us with ways to expand the skill sets necessary to help us accomplish our goals. Furthermore, they are in a position to help keep the expectations we have of ourselves, others and situations continuously realistic.
If you are passionate about helping people, then look at studying coaching at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). SACAP’s coaching courses are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and aligned with COMENSA. For more information, enquire now.