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Resilience and Self-Compassion

Following the difficulties of the past few years, from the pandemic to political change and the current war in Ukraine, we have all had our resilience tested, whether through adjusting to new ways of working, getting to grips with technology, or adjusting to uncertainty that the current situation brings. Research has shown that some people seem to be resilient more naturally while others may struggle. This can have an effect on their wellbeing and we may lose some of our resilience when circumstances place demands on us that overwhelm our inner resources and coping mechanisms. Thinking about your resilience and how you can build upon this for yourself, along with supporting others with their resilience and wellbeing is important for everyone, how we get through the forthcoming weeks and months is crucial for us all.

The following are just a few of the techniques you can focus on in order to foster your own resilience, your team's, your family's and friends'.

Top Tips

1. Build Positive Beliefs in Your Strengths and Abilities

Research has demonstrated that self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stressful situations and recovering from difficult events.

Reminding yourself of your signature strengths and accomplishments is important to having strong self esteem. Nurturing and developing both your strengths and those of your team will help you all to become more confident about your strengths, and obtaining the ability to respond and deal with challenges and adversities is a great way to build resilience.

Try journaling the skills, experience you have used, or indeed the new skills and abilities you are learning in the current situation. Some people are taking the time to develop new skills and knowledge, such as 'I am starting a sign language class and hope to be able to use this in the future.'

2. Find a Sense of Purpose in Your Life

Having a sense of purpose, clear values, and drive helps individuals to achieve in the face of setbacks.

Having a sense of purpose after significant adversity is crucial to ‘bouncebackability’. Research has shown after a crisis, tragedy, or significant adversity, finding a sense of purpose can help play an important role in the recovery. There is a Japanese concept called Ikigai (pronounced ee-key-guy) that essentially means 'a reason for being.' It's made from two Japanese words: iki, meaning 'life' and kai, meaning 'effect, result, worth or benefit,' which combine to mean 'a reason for living.' Ask yourself 'what is my purpose at the moment?'

  • What do I love? Your meaning / purpose / reason for being

  • What am I good at? Your skills/ knowledge/ attributes / your hobbies / things you love

  • What can I be paid for?

  • What does the world need? Your skills set, e.g. doing some voluntary work, something for your community etc.

There are a lot of videos on ikigai. Here are just a few:

3. Developing and Maintaining Strong Social and Professional Networks

We all need to keep connected during and after lockdown, and maintaining and building good relationships with others and seeking support can help overcome adverse situations.

Keeping connection with others is important. One of the key resilience competences is the ability to be able to create connections with others, whether this is family or colleagues. New networks can be a protective factor during times of challenges. It is important to have people/colleagues/networks you can confide in or talk to when you may not be feeling okay or need a connection to have a laugh and a joke with or share some fun.

While simply talking about your situation will not make the challenges go away, it allows you to share your feelings, gain support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to your issues. I would also encourage you to re-connect or build new networks during this time, connect with people you may not normally do. For example, I have emailed some of my older networks and asked for a virtual coffee as in the past I haven’t had chance to catch up with them.

4. Embrace Change

Flexibility and adaptability to changing situations is an essential part of resilience.

By learning how to be more adaptable, you'll be better equipped to respond when faced with significant change. Resilient people and businesses often utilise the change as an opportunity to be innovative, diversify and look at new ways to work. While some people may find that constant change and a lack of clarity feels difficult, those who develop their resilience are able to adapt and thrive on the edge of chaos can reap the rewards. Put your energy into what you can control and try not to worry about the things you cannot control (Stephen Covey) this will help you feel that you are responding and dealing with what is important to you.

5. Be Optimistic

Staying optimistic during challenging times can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook and focusing on the positive aspects is an important part of resilience. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problems or challenges but in order to focus on positive outcomes, it means understanding that setbacks are transient and a part of working life.

Focusing on the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face will support your resilience. What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it is important to remain positive and optimistic about the future. Take action when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck - it can help to identify just one concrete step you can take to improve your situation and help you get moving again.

6. Nurture Yourself - Develop Your Health and Wellbeing

When you're stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise, and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to a stressful situation.

Focus on building your self-nurturance skills, even when you are troubled. Make time for activities that you enjoy, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, being compassionate to yourself, keeping to routines, socialising (having a laugh with colleagues and friends can also be a great way to build resilience). By taking care of your own needs, you can boost your overall health and resilience and be fully ready to face life's challenges. Please see the end of the blog for links to wellbeing resources

7. Develop Your Problem-Solving Skills

Research suggests that people who are able come up with solutions to a problem are better able to cope with problems than those who cannot.

Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some of the potential ways you could solve the problem. Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. By practising your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge emerges.

8. Establish Goals

We don’t know how long this pandemic will continue to impact on us, so constant chaos and crisis situations are daunting. Resilient people are able to view these situations in a realistic way, and then set reasonable goals to deal with the problem.

When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, take a step back to simply assess what is before you. Brainstorm possible solutions, and then break them down into manageable steps. Another tool is one called STOP:

S = Step back and take a moment to think

T = Think, take a moment to think, go somewhere quiet/look at alternatives

O = Organise your thoughts (bring some order to your thoughts/priorities and actions/what is it that you need to focus on?

P = Proceed when you are you clear/what are my next steps

STOPs can be of any duration. A short STOP may last no more than a few seconds or minutes during a working day. However, it can also be useful to use at the beginning or end of the day when maybe you have a little more time. Using it at the start of the day gives you a better chance of working consciously throughout the day.

9. Take Steps to Solve Problems

Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the issue. Instead, start working on resolving the issue immediately.

While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful. Focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished.

10. Keep Working on Your Skills

Resilience may take time to develop, so do not become discouraged if you still struggle to cope with problematic events or adversities. Research has shown that resilience can be developed.

Resilience may take time to build, focusing on practicing some of the common characteristics of resilient people, but also remember to build upon your existing strength. Understanding and honing your signature strengths is an important resilience factor.

There are lots of ways to develop your skills currently there are lots of webinars on offer/we are all using technology that maybe new to us try and gain further skills or invest time in a new hobby. Take the time to nurture yourself and have dedicated time for you.

Jackie Barringer

Health and wellbeing resources

Please see the Prospect tool kit and worksheet to support developing resilience.

The NHS is using the following health and wellbeing resources all are free. I have used this myself and found it useful.

Resources – Links




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