How to build resilience in changing times

Resilience is not just about bulldozing through, doing more, or even being more productive in the face of adversity. It is about enabling you to function in times of stress, with less of a negative impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. Everyone experiences stress differently, and everyone has different coping mechanisms.

What are the signs you need to build more resilience?

  1. getting angry or irritated quickly – with kids, loved ones or even at work;
  2. constantly becoming ill – can be a sign of nervous exhaustion;
  3. becoming increasingly being dependent on family or friends; or conversely
  4. isolating yourself from other people more;
  5. experiencing mood swings within a day;
  6. overreacting to normal stress levels – consider the window of tolerance;
  7. being forgetful;
  8. overusing alcohol, drugs and/or engaging in other risky behaviour

How to build resilience

Too often, when struggling with our resilience, we focus too much on the thing that is creating the pressure or stress. Focus on everything else outside the area in which you find yourself needing more resilience and it will take the pressure off and enable you to look more widely. 

  • Build a sense of purpose

Having a sense of purpose is about seeing meaning in your life and the things that you do. You can find this meaning by finding ways to connect the things you do to something that matters to you. This sense of purpose helps you get through difficult experiences. Believing in what you are trying to achieve can also help you overcome obstacles and not crumble under pressure.

  • Build your perseverance

Perseverance is your ability to stick to your goals and not give up even when things are difficult. By developing this ability you’ll find it easier to get through rough patches and achieve your long term goals. Related to that is your ability to rely on yourself – the feeling that you can change what happens to you and that you have the ability to deal with difficult situations. It’s the opposite of feeling helpless, which is a hallmark of depression. Improving your self-reliance will lead you to be more confident, more resilient.

  • Build equanimity

Equanimity is about being able to not feel overwhelmed in the face of a stressful or unpleasant experience, about accepting your circumstances and dealing with the hand you have been dealt. Cultivating this attitude can protect you against developing anxiety or depression.

  • Build your social network

Having a group of people to share things with and who you believe you can depend on is known to contribute to your overall health. Lots of studies show that having a good community of friends and family increases your ability to cope with stress at the same time protecting you against common mental health conditions. Studies also show that having a strong social support network makes it less likely that you will become physically ill.

Remember…in order to build resilience, you need more balance overall in your life.

Relaxation can help you to de-stress, so learning how to trigger your body’s relaxation response adds another skill to your resilience toolkit. Even if you think you have a good idea about what helps you relax we recommend you take a moment to learn and practice a few techniques.

Have fun, schedule it in your diary if you have to! Laughter has been shown to help you reduce your stress while making you feel more positive about life. Both these things contribute to your resilience.

Actively do things that help you build up your social network. This can be hard, do one small step at a time and leverage other people to do things with you if this would help.

Good sleep can improve low mood and reduce stress but also help you think more clearly, have more energy, and feel better about life.

Originally published on 3 November 2020 on Episode 12: How to build resilience – Thrivership Coach