How to Bend, Not Break!
Have you ever come across the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (also known as the frequency illusion or recency illusion)? This is when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced, been told, learnt or been thinking about crops up constantly. It is everywhere. Has that ever happened to you?
It is happening to me now with ‘resilience’. It’s in the media, on social media, webinars are being delivered on it. In these challenging times it seems that everyone is talking about resilience.
Let’s face it, these are difficult times. And whether we are still working, have been ill, furloughed or unemployed, are living alone or with a number of family members, we could certainly use some resilience right now as we all adapt to a change that we didn’t ask for and don’t control. If we have responsibilities as parents and/or carers we must also prioritise our own mental health so that we can continue looking after others who rely on us.
Even before coronavirus arrived, I had been thinking a lot about resilience. What is it? Where does it come from? Why do some people seem to be more resilient than others? Is it innate i.e. something you are born with, or can it be developed?
What does resilience mean to you? Would you describe yourself as resilient?
The Collins dictionary definition is:
My view is that resilience is about how robust you are, how you can ‘roll with the punches’. You may get hit, blocked, buffeted, worn down by certain things in life – but being resilient means that you remain standing, you keep going, there is not only a physical toughness but more importantly a mental strength. You refuse to give up.
I was chatting with a friend on Whatsapp about this last week. I asked him how he was getting on with the lockdown and then said that I thought those with reserves of resilience were coping a little bit better. He doubted how resilient he was, and I had to remind him that he had in recent years swum the English Channel. Amongst other things, imagine how much resilience is required for that! Another friend is a paramedic, and again one can only imagine how much resilience is needed in that role, day in day out.
Resilience is the result of everything you’ve been through. All your experience.
For me, having considered my own resilience I believe it has come from a number of sources over the years, the most important being the way I was brought up by my parents and the values instilled in me, which provided the basis for everything else that followed. From there my childhood experiences, playing in football teams, being in the Scouts, going to University (having failed the first time), moving away to live and work, becoming a parent, experiencing a number of changes in my professional and personal life. It’s all part of my story and etched into my persona. And it all built my resilience.
Like all of us, I don’t know what is around the corner, especially right now. But I do feel relatively well equipped for what might happen – and even if I am not, I feel confident that I will soon learn to adapt and deal with it.
How resilient are you feeling at the moment? If you need more resilience, how do you get it? Are there things we can do to build our resilience?
It is thought that resilience is not an innate trait or a resource that can be used up, it can be built and developed, with practice, and over time. As you would expect, there is plenty of material and research on resilience available online. Some links to further articles that could be of interest to you are below:
My own ideas to boost resilience that might be worth considering include:
- Think about who you are, what you have achieved, everything you have done, and all the difficulties and adversity you have overcome to get to this point in your life. Write these down if it helps. It could be that there are many things that you have done and experienced that you have forgotten about (as with my Channel swimming friend) – take strength from these. When you had setbacks, what did you learn?
- Set small goals for each day – at the moment these could be as simple as getting up and dressed, ensuring you have food in the house, planning work, home-schooling if you have children, and other activities. Tick them off as you do them if that works for you. The process of setting and then achieving these goals will bring meaning to life during lockdown and encourage you to do more each day. If you can set goals for a week or a month, that’s great too.
- As well as limiting access to the news and social media which can be damaging to our mental state, it is important to question and not believe everything we are reading and seeing. Consider what is really going on. What does your gut instinct tell you? Be your own expert.
- Draw on people and speak to friends, family and colleagues, feeling connected is so important right now and there are many ways to do this.
- Consider the most resilient person you know. What’s their secret? What can you learn from them and adopt for yourself?
- Get out into nature. This is part of your resilience toolkit!
- Try to do some exercise and get your body moving, whether this is the Bodycoach at 9am, a walk, run, cycle, gardening, dancing, yoga, or playing with your children.
- Listen to music – there is a reason we are seeing so many artists such as Gary Barlow and Chris Martin performing online from their homes. Music makes us feel better!
- Try to maintain a positive outlook and keep going. We’ve already got through 4 weeks of lockdown. This proves we can do it! Whether it is another 3, 4 or 12 weeks or whatever it is – we just need to stick with it, keep doing what we’re doing and focus on the positives.
All of our lives have changed significantly in a short period of time. It is affecting everyone and is probably the largest single change that the World as a whole has ever faced. How we deal with and come out of this period will to a large extent depend on how resilient we are, but there are things we can all do to improve how well and how quickly we adapt and improvise to the situation and environment.
Having read this blog, what are your reflections on resilience? What things are you doing at the moment that are draining your resilience? How can you do less of these things? Conversely, what are you doing that is making you feel stronger? How can you do more of this?
I hope that this has been a useful read and has given you some ideas that will stand you in good stead over the weeks, months and years to come.
‘I bend, but I do not break’
Jean de La Fontaine
Darren Lawrence is a qualified Personal Performance Coach and works with individuals and organisations to help them to be more productive, manage change and transition, and improve their wellbeing. During this pandemic Darren is offering a FREE introductory coaching session to anyone wishing to explore how to move forward effectively, whether from a personal perspective or in business. Please get in touch using the ‘contact’ tab above.