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Personal Resilience

In this section we will consider what we mean by resilience and how resilient we are, then how we might boost our personal resilience

  • How resilient am I?
  • How can I boost my resilience?

How resilient am I?

The word resilience derives from the latin word 'resiliens' meaning to recoil or rebound. Therefore, when considering people, we might define resilience as 'a capacity to absorb negative conditions, integrate them in meaningful ways, and move forward'.

When you think about people that you consider to be resilient, what is it about them that gives you that sense? Some of the common characteristics of resilient people are listed below:

  • Optimistic
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Self-kindness
  • Self-belief
  • Good connections/networks
  • Makes time for recovery
  • Makes mindful choices
  • Clear sense of purpose
  • Personal growth/learning mindset
  • Seeks positive culture
  • Clear personal values
  • Reflective
  • Flexible
  • Persistent

The good news is that we are not born with an inherent and inflexible degree of resilience. It is something we can learn and build upon throughout our lives. Nor is resilience made up of a single factor - there are a number of elements that contribute to it.

You can start by considering where you sit on each of the following axes:

  • AUTHENTICITY - finding work that matches personal strengths and habits: a proactive element of resilience involving good self-awareness of personal strengths and values, and finding work that aligns with these. Often this becomes more evident when there is a disconnect between a person and their role - when you are working outside of your personal strengths and values, it has a negative impact on your wellbeing and performance
  • PURPOSE - believing in what you do: purpose and a sense of belonging promote engagement, performance and wellbeing, a passion for the job makes you feel connected to your organization and you will be more resilient. Again this can be more evident when it is absent, when your expectation of the impact you can make in your role is not being realized in the way that you anticipated
  • ADAPTABILITY - maintaining perspective and positivity: a problem-solving mindset, rather than a 'should' or 'ought to' way of thinking, coupled with optimism promotes resilience
  • SELF-CARE - developing routines and outlets that sustain you: having effective ways to manage everyday challenges; activities that allow you to switch off, recharge or get in to flow are helpful as are making time for rest, relaxation and recovery. Good workload management such as prioritizing, scheduling or negotiating expectations is also useful here
  • SUPPORT - promoting mutual support and open communication: promoting a climate of openness and mutual support means being mindful of your strengths but willing to be vulnerable and ask for support when you need it, reciprocating this activity in colleagues and offering support without a need to be asked, seeking and acting on feedback
  • ENERGY - investing in your physical health: pay attention to diet, exercise and sleep - straightforward but not necessarily easy
  • NETWORKS - creating a 'team us': positive social connection, investing in relationships at multiple levels, not being reliant on one or two others solely for support, using those networks for support (it is one thing to feel you have a wide support network, quite another to get it working for you and the others within it)

If you rate yourself on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is not at all and 10 is completely), you can plot your results on a spider diagram.

Spider Diagram

By doing this you can start to see where you may need to work on boosting your resilience. What might you be able to do to strengthen or build up areas where you might be more vulnerable? Who might be able to help you with that? Exploring some of these issues with a friend or colleague, perhaps sharing experiences, can be helpful - download the Personal Resilience Worksheet to help you.

Adapted from 'Resilience at Work; A framework for coaching & interventions' - Kathryn McEwen www.workingwithresilience.com.au

How can I boost my resilience?

You will know that sometimes you feel stronger and better able to cope than at other times. Certain situations or contexts feel easier or more difficult to handle. Have you ever stopped to consider why that might be?

Self-awareness is a good starting point here: what is going on for me when I'm feeling challenged around something? How am I feeling? What else is going on in my life? And conversely, when I'm feeling stronger and on top of a situation, what is going on then? Awareness of the personal factors that might make us feel more vulnerable or more superhuman helps us begin to understand the building blocks of our individual resilience. To gain this self-awareness you may have to think back to times when you have been challenged before but managed to prevail. Or if you have been fortunate in life to have escaped needing to practice this, what might you imagine would have an impact on your ability to get through a difficult situation, positively or negatively?

One of the things we could do is draw on our own natural SSRIs. SSRI in this context refers not to medication but to Strategy, Strengths, Resources and Insights; the things we turn to when times get tough, our internal tools that help us through, if you like. They may be tried and tested things that have worked for us in the past and those things are great. However, don't forget that you can always add to these. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better equipped you are to deal with any job - the same goes for your SSRIs.

Here is an example of what we mean by SSRIs:

SSRI Table

Download the Boosting Resilience: SSRI Worksheet to work this through for yourself.

What did you come up with? On thinking back, did anything come up that surprised you? Remember that imagination and memory have been proven to be as powerful as actually doing in terms of building our resilience. If we're not physically able to access some of our SSRIs (for whatever reason) remembering how they looked, smelled, felt, what emotions they evoked in us, is as valuable for us to tap in to.

Why not share your chart with those of your colleagues. It might feel a little odd or uncomfortable at first but consider these questions:

  • What did you have in common?
  • How might you use those to build your resilience as a team?
  • What ideas were peculiar to you?
  • What ideas did others have that you might like to try?
  • How might they help you with that?
  • And how might you help others?

If we were to think about the team that we work within, what factors do the individuals in that team need to be in place for the team to be maximally effective. How might we manage if some members are struggling - what could we do to help? Sharing our own resilience needs with the team can feel a little peculiar and uncomfortable but it could have great positive impacts on team resilience overall (see Staff Room for further information)

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  • Original idea: Roger Crabtree
  • Research and Text: Lynn Collins
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