We live in a full-on world.
It feels like everything is on the go 24/7. We’re faced with competing demands from work and home, overloaded with information from social media and TV, adverts clamouring for our attention to buy, to be, do and have more. Our senses are being bombarded with noise in its widest sense. We’re in political turmoil, we’ve experienced recession, and the pace of technological change is unrelenting. Phew!
The lines between work and home life are becoming ever more blurred as we expect instant responses to our communication. It can seem like everywhere we look or go, more is expected for less. On top of that we’re still deluged with images of perfect people living perfect lives that don’t even exist!
Is it any surprise that the incidence of mental health conditions is on the rise?
If you keep hitting something hard enough, eventually it breaks. That is, unless the defenses have been built up and created a strong core.
This is one of the best antidotes to modern living: creating a strong core with solid defences against the 24/7 assault on the senses. In other words, building your resilience quotient.
Your resilience quotient is the capacity you have to cope with anxiety, overwhelm, stress and tough times. It can be measured, just like your IQ (intelligence quotient) or your EQ (emotional intelligence). In fact, it’s now even become a key skill tested by companies during the recruitment process (and not always for the right reasons!) Plus, you can even go online and test yourself.
If your resilience quotient is low it means that you’re at risk of serious ill health if you face challenging times. Low resilience levels can often also indicate low self-esteem. Consequently your defences can be easily breached and if you sustain too many attacks, you can easily crumble or even shatter.
What does resilience look like?
We can probably all think of people we regard as resilient, or we might call them tough or mentally strong. Perhaps they are people you’ve worked for, friends or members of your family. Of course others spring to mind too, like Olympic and Paralympic athletes, people who’ve survived catastrophic events or those who’ve experienced tragedy.
Why is it that some people cope with challenging and tough times while others struggle?
Well, if you fall into the latter group it’s probably because your resilience quotient is low and this could be due to one of more of the following factors:
Hanging on to guilt and regret
Being unwilling to face your fears
A tendency to blame other people or things for your problems
Thinking, feeling and behaving negatively
Not taking responsibility for your actions
Inability or refusal to make tough decisions or taking action
Unwilling to acknowledge your mistakes
Not learning from what has happened
Focusing on things you can’t control or can’t take action on just now
Thinking about the future in negative terms.
So, is resilience just the flipside of those things?
To some extent yes, however there’s more to it than that.
Resilient people have a more optimistic outlook. It’s not that they’re positive all the time, refusing to see or hear anything negative. It’s that they find something positive in negative circumstances or situations. Resilient people have low levels of anxiety, a high self belief and are pretty sure about their decision making ability. Resilient people can adapt to changing circumstances, they focus on solutions, not problems and take responsibility for making things happen.
Interestingly, they also tend to be people who have experienced challenges in early life, such as family break up, living in poverty or being a young carer. Early-life challenges can instill a determination to succeed and avoid repeating early life experiences . Importantly though they’ve usually had a good strong relationship with a key adult throughout too.
Resilient people know change is inevitable and they’re ready for it.
The great thing about resilience is it can be boosted and learned through changing your thinking and improving your self-management. Like any new habit, at first it might feel like a lot of effort, but with practice, it becomes second nature.
Boosting your resilience quotient
As we experience life, learning and growing from our experiences, most of us become more resilient naturally. However, there are things we can do to help ourselves increase our all round resilience. Check out the 9 positive steps below:
1. Keep an open mind and be flexible
When bad things happen, it’s easy to be reactive, to go on auto pilot, catastrophise and make things seem more awful than they really are. Tune into your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and try to see things from a different perspective. Take stock of the situation - things might seem bad right now, but could there be something positive that can come out of it? Could it be opening another door for you? Can you find meaning and purpose in what’s happened?
If we have a fixed mindset we’re more likely to resist change and this can eat our energy and lower our resilience. If we become more accepting of a situation, we can then choose to act and find a solution or go with the flow. Thus we change our attitude.
2. Look after yourself
This may seem common-sense, yet so many people don’t and somehow expect to stay well. The more we look after ourselves, the more resilient we’ll be. Eating nutritiously, regular rest and quality sleep, spending time outside, moving your body, having other interests, living in the now and being mindful all contribute to intrinsic resilience.
3. Be compassionate
In challenging times, if our resilience levels are low, we can easily find ourselves being overly self-critical. Be gentle with yourself, talk to yourself as you would a friend. Reflect on how you got through a challenging time in the past to reinforce your confidence and belief that you can cope. View mistakes with understanding. This will help you to come up with coping strategies and solutions.
4. Break your problems down
The bigger the issue, the more likely we’re to feel overwhelmed. By breaking the problem down into small chunks and dealing with them one by one, we make it easier to tackle. It also results in feelings of accomplishment as we successfully move through and tackle each part.
5. Cultivate optimism and celebrate success
Resilience is not about false positivity, which often just denies or ignores what is actually happening. However, when times are tough it can be too easy to just focus on everything that’s going wrong. Taking a more positive and optimistic perspective and looking at what’s going right too is far more likely to lead to finding solutions and arriving at a positive outcome.
When you’re able to see opportunities for growth in whatever is happening, life becomes more easy to navigate. When you come out the other end, acknowledge and celebrate your capability and success as this will further boost your resilience levels.
6. Make decisions
Low resilience in difficult times can result in an inability or unwillingnes to make decisions. Hello procrastination! As our confidence and self-belief dissipates we become paralysed. Making a decision and then taking action is always a positive step forward. The more decisions we make, the more control we have and feel and the more our resilience levels go up.
7. Disrupt negative thought patterns
Constantly thinking about challenges increases our negative stress levels (and our circulating cortisol levels). It’s much better to focus on something else to disrupt the negative thought pattern. Go for a walk, exercise, meditate, sing or do something else creative to take your mind off things.
8. Face your fears
It’s completely natural to feel insecure and afraid during times of change or trouble. Whatever is happening is taking us out of our comfort zone, into unknown territory, which makes us feel uncertain. Nevertheless, facing up to fears allows us to learn and grow. Funnily enough once we’ve faced them, they don’t seem so big either!
9. Be present and optimistic about the future
When your mind wanders to worry and anxiety rises, bring it back to the present moment and try to focus on the here and now. When you do think about the future, think about it the way you want it, as opposed to what you don’t want to happen. Focus on having successfully navigated whatever your current challenge is, imagine what you’ll see, hear and feel.
If these steps are ones you find difficult to take, then NLP can really help you. It develops much greater flexibility in thinking, increases confidence and self belief, the ability to achieve your goals and increase your success. NLP builds emotional agility and emotional congruence. It will strengthen your resilience incredibly as your world view expands and you discover your full capability inside you. If you’d like to know more about NLP training or coaching, please get in touch…