In our last article we looked at why we need to build resiliency in our working lives. So what can we do to build resiliency? Fundamentally the difference between a resilient person and a person who feels weak and fearful is the way the two people view the situation. Some call this optimism. But it could just as well be called learned optimism. In psychological circles they call it cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). When something bad happens instead of seeing it as something to be ashamed/scared /humiliated by you turn the thought around to see the event as something to learn and grow from. Now some people do this naturally. And for others it’s a skill they can learn. And if you’re one of those people that don’t do it naturally then it’s a skill you want to get onto pronto. Because it’s the type of skill that will change your life. CBT helps you to reframe situations.
It also helps you to put a stop to racing thoughts that over dramatise events. It helps you read events from a neutral standpoint rather than from a pessimistic one. And once you stop viewing events cataclysmically, you can start to see them for what they are and then frame the event as another opportunity to learn something about yourself, or the world around you. In fact it takes scary, awful events and starts to make them something more akin to an adventure. And that is what life is, one adventure after another. If you chose to view it that way. And here’s the tip. Resilient people do.
“More than five decades of research point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone. Factors that lead to resilience include optimism; the ability to stay balanced and manage strong or difficult emotions; a sense of safety and a strong social support system. The good news is that because there is a concrete set of behaviours and skills associated with resilience, you can learn to be more resilient,” says Richard Fernandez of Harvard Business Review
Mindfulness – that’s about being aware of the thoughts you’re thinking. It’s a lot like CBT, you can’t stop that negative self defeating stream of dialogue if you’re not even consciously aware you’re doing it. When you’re mindful of the thoughts running through your head you’re in charge of what you think. It’s not your thoughts thinking for you. You are in charge of thinking your thoughts!
Mindfulness is also about being present. It’s about taking time in your day to breath, to be aware of what’s going on around you. Being full present. Don’t just let the day happen around you. Stop. Take a moment a few times a day just to feel yourself sitting in your seat. Or stopping to watch yourself follow your breath in through your nose, feel it travel down your throat and fill your lungs, then watch it slowly come back out.
Gratitude – it’s so easy just to see everything as a hassle, as difficult, to focus on difficult work colleges or a demanding boss or a hectic work load. When we take time out to appreciate what we have, we start to build resiliency. Instead of focusing on how unreasonable your deadline is, maybe focus on how lucky you are to have a job that pays the bills. Unemployed people are far more unhappy1 than those will full time employment. You’re one of the lucky ones fortunate enough to be employed, which means you can buy dinner out, presents on birthdays, a car…
Exercise – look, it’s an oldie but a goodie. People who are under stress typically reach of the same things to help dull their pain; alcohol, drugs, smoking, Netflix, PlayStation. Sure it makes you feel better short term but the side effects are rubbish. Being hungover doesn’t make your stress any easier to deal with the next day and zoning out playing a computer game only leaves you feeling isolated and empty. Exercise on the other hand pumps you full of endorphins, releases serotonin and dopamine, helps reduce cortisol levels, makes new brain cells, fights depression and anxiety, honestly it’s just like a superdrug! The list of its virtues are simply endless… JUST> START> WALKING.
Resiliency is about training yourself. Your mind. Your body. Your spirit. But it takes commitment and practice. It’s easy to open a bottle of wine and drink it to the bottom. It’s far harder to monitor your thoughts and get yourself to the gym three times a week.
But if you put in the effort, you will build resiliency.
And while you’re at it, get some sleep.
Everything is just that much easier when you’ve got a decent 8 hours under your belt.