‘Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience isn't a personality trait – it's something that we can all take steps to achieve.’ (Mind, 2021)
What can we do to develop resilience for ourselves?
The resources below have been collated to support you to identify and take steps to strengthen resilience and in doing so, reduce the negative impact that stressors have on your performance and well-being. There is no simple fix or ideal self to emulate. There are however activities which can help boost our ability to respond flexibly to challenge and to change. Listen to Ali Brown talking about Resilience here (9 min) or read this Harvard Business Review article about the dimensions of resilience at work (7 min).
Pausing to reflect is important to helping develop emotional agility considered to be the cornerstone of resilience. Bringing to conscious awareness the differences we would like to see for ourselves is an important first step. Thinking about the area(s) of your life in which you would like to practice greater resilience, consider:
What would you be doing differently?
How might you be feeling?
What might others notice?
Note down your thoughts.
Wellbeing and Stress Management
Healthy Mind Platter
Habits are incredibly powerful in reinforcing behaviours we routinely play out. One simple model to help reflect on whether our habitual behaviours support resilience is the Healthy Mind Platter. This model provides a tool to review how we spend the time available to us in reference to the variety and combination of activities which are essential for brain integration and wellbeing.
7 Key Activities - Healthy Mind Platter (3 min)
Healthy Mind Platter Model (1hour)
Healthy Mind Platter worksheet.pdf (20 min)
Self-Care Assessment Action Plan (10 min)
As you reflect on the Healthy Mind Platter, what do you notice?
How many or few activities do you practice within an average week?
What barriers do you face?
What small step could you take to introducing a new activity to enhance your brain health?
Five Ways to Wellbeing
The NHS and the Mental HEalth charity, Mind, promote 5 simple yet profoundly beneficial ways to support well-being which can in turn help us to deal with change and challenge. As you consider these activities, think of a small win that’s just within reach. Take a look at the Five Ways to Wellbeing overview and consider opportunities to practice these both in and outside of work.
5 ways to well-being (5 min)
Five ways to wellbeing overview (4 min)
Reducing Loneliness and Isolation (15 min)
Feel Better, Live More Podcast with Dr Rangan Chatterjee (fortnightly)
Which area(s) might you usefully focus on this week?
What are you hoping for?
With whom might you discuss your ideas?
How might you reward yourself for trying something new?
Recognising stress is an important first step to taking action. The findings of an ACAS study show that we all have a role to play in recognising stress and anxiety in the workplace. Read the report here to learn about the importance of positive working conditions, effective people management and open conversations about mental health.
Mindfulness Breathing Space (3 min)
Interactive Stress Container (15 min)
What's In Your Stress Container? (3 min)
How Can I Be More Resilient? (15 min)
Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook (1 hour)
Tips for Staying Well Whilst Working Remotely - Dr Christine Grant (5 min)
BBC Radio 4 Podcast Introduction - Just One Thing - Michael Mosley (1 min) (Each podcast is 14mins, each episode will share “Just One Thing” of what you can do to benefit your mental health
Overwhelm induced by multiple demands and the distractions of technology draws on our resilience reserves. How we then feel about our level of resilience can itself become a source of further anxiety. One of the ways in which we can move forward with clarity of purpose and intention is to focus on the things that matter to us, and the things we can do something about.
Resource: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Interactive ebook
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R Covey talks about the concept of a Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern includes the wide range of concerns you have. These may include health, family, finances, global challenges etc. Outside of this, there are issues that may concern others but are of no concern to you. The Circle of Influence meanwhile is a smaller circle encompassing the things that concern you which you can do something about, or at least have some influence over. Just as resilience itself is like a muscle, our Circle of Influence can expand and enlarge with exercise or weaken through lack of use. When we focus efforts on the things we can influence, for example self-awareness or relationships with others, the circle of influence and our sense of agency increases.
Developing your resilience muscle
An intentional approach to resilience
Adapting to change and challenge also includes attending to:
- Deploying personal strengths
- Living intentionally aligned with personal values
- Setting realistic personal goals
- Reflection and learning from experience
- Exercising self-compassion
When practiced with intention over time, these activities help to increase our capacity to respond with resilience and greater ease and acceptance.
3 resilience development exercises Including ‘Doors Closed, Doors Open’ and ‘the Four S’s to help create a Resilience plan (1 hour).
Our approach or ‘mindset’ plays a significant role in strengthening or weakening personal resilience. Developed by Carol Dweck (1999), the concept of mindset explains what guides how people think, feel and act. Dweck compared ‘fixed’ mindset beliefs such as "success is the result of inborn talent" - with a ‘Growth’ mindset which sees success as the result of effort, persistence and learning. Dweck observed significantly different outcomes around resilience and adaptation to challenge where aspects of a growth mindset were present.
Complete this mindset self-assessment to help identify rigid beliefs that could be hindering your ability to adapt.
Choice and Mindset to Support Learning & Performance (4 min)
14 Growth Mindset Activities (15 min read and reflect)
Using personal strengths
One of the ways in which we can develop resilience is to deploy our strengths, rather than focus ‘gaps’ or ‘weaknesses'. BY identifying development areas, we can then look to deploying our strengths to help amplify that which we want to get better at. This will help to support self-esteem by shifting focus to what is working well.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Interactive ebook
B.J. Fogg Tiny Habits Video (9 min)
Tiny Surprises for Happiness & Health | BJ Fogg, PhD | TED TALK (18min)
Self-talk plays a significant role in influencing how we feel, how we approach and interact with others, and what we believe is possible. Self-talk also connects at a neurological level with our ability to be compassionate and more resilient. Psychologist Susan David argues against the misconception that you need to be tough on yourself to succeed, and that practicing self-compassion makes you more, not less, resilient. Reaching out to connect with others for support is one way of practicing self-compassion. The University provides access to different types of support. Visit the Connections Matter pages for further resources and how to these services.
Psychologist Susan David - Why Self Compassion is so Important (2min)
Psychologist Susan David - Self-compassion for the Self-critical (13min)
Self-Compassion (25 min)
Getting Through Covid-19 Means Rethinking Resilience (5min)
Notice what you say to yourself in times of challenge and difficulty. Consider how different that might be from what you would say to a friend in a similar situation.
Are you more forgiving, accepting, compassionate than with yourself?
Reflect on the logic of this and what might need to shift in your thinking.
Radical acceptance vs Positivity
The power of positive thinking is often cited as means of improving mood and well-being. Psychologist Susan David meanwhile warns against the ‘tyranny of positivity’ when that means actively pushing away our emotions. David argues powerfully that ‘Emotional Agility’ comes from practicing radical acceptance of our feelings, which when labelled accurately for what they are direct us to purposeful action. Listen here for her TED Talk on ‘How to Be Your Best Self in Times of Crisis’ (45 min).
Identifying and setting goals can help direct our focus especially when aligned to the things that matter to us. For those outcomes to boost our resilience, those goals need to be realistic and challenging. This will provide stretch without taking us beyond what is manageable. The compulsion to work harder is a danger to well-being if not kept in check, which we can do by focusing on adding value rather than doing more. Whilst it can be tempting to ‘think big’ , when we fail to measure-up, motivation and resolve can falter. Smaller habit-change on the other hand, contribute to bigger shifts over time. Those small wins can be celebrated just as positively as the overall gains.
To achieve the best chances of success, goals should be both personally valuable and realistic. We also need to anticipate potential barriers and alternative pathways to the goal. Consider the following:
What would it mean to you to achieve that first step?
Who might be an ally in putting this into practice?
Who else might be a positive role model or inspiration as you work towards goal?
Dr Chris Johnstone - Practicing Resilience Through Difficult Times (1 hour)
Resources that we know serve us and our well-being are important t maintain resilience. When under stress, we may reach for short-term fixes to provide temporary relief. However some fixes are short-lived or detrimental to our health, creating dependencies that harm rather than support us.
Activity: take just 10 minutes, and 1 sheet of paper to draw or list the things that nourish and sustain you.
External positive resources: First, think about and note all the external resources you have had in your life. Notice what you feel emotionally and physically as you remember the people, places, activities, pets or organisations that have supported and helped you. It is not unusual for this exercise to continue over several weeks as you remember more resources and add them to your list.
Internal resources: Second, note all your internal resources, for example, determination, capacity for friendship, flexibility, curiosity, openness, talents. Again, notice your emotional and physical responses as you recognise the positive aspects of who you are.
Reflection and learning from experience
"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." Peter Drucker.
Reflection is important for developing resilience, as it creates a pause between stimulus and response in which we can decide how we wish to proceed with greater awareness and intention. According to Susan David, the more we are practiced in exploring our attitudes, thought processes, values and assumptions, the better we are able to decide what we wish to change for the good of our own well-being and relationships with the world around us. Reflection therefore generates awareness which empowers us to make informed decisions about our next step and with greater clarity of purpose.
Activity: Of the 6 R’s for Resilience, the British Red Cross describes reflection as being as simple as pausing to think about how we are, what is happening and how we feel. This could even be done whilst walking or through conversation with a trusted friend or colleague. Journaling also offers a way of clarifying our thoughts and feelings to counteract some of the negative effects of stress. Your journal entry doesn’t need to focus on difficult feelings; it can be used as a space to record what we are appreciative of, both in ourselves and others.
Susan David. 2017. Emotional Agility: Get Unstick, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life. (Penguin Life)
Linda Graham. 2018. Resilience: Power Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty and Even Disaster (New World Library)
Michael Neenan. 2017. Developing Resilience: A Cognitive Behavioural Approach (Routledge)
Carol Hickson. 2021. The Resilience Template: 7 Steps to Improve Your Mental Health (LetGoBeHappy)
Chris Johnstone. 2019. Seven Ways to Build Resilience: Strengthening Your Ability to Deal With Difficult Times (Robinson)
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