What is resilience and why is it important?
Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned.
Says Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services here at AXA PPP
Resilience can also help you manage various mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and can help offset factors that increase the risk of mental ill health, like lack of social support, being bullied or previous trauma. If you have an existing mental health condition, being resilient may help lessen the impact and help you recognise when you need some help and support.
How can we build our resilience?
Resiliency isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t have. Like any skill, resilience can be developed, it just takes some practice. So if you aren't as resilient as you'd like to be, you can build on your existing skills to become more so. There are some simple things you can do that can make a big difference. For example, moderate exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting plenty of good quality sleep and some ‘me time’ are great things to start with.
With this in mind, Dr Mark Winwood has come up with five ways to help you not only survive, but thrive in work, rest and play.
1. Improve your energy
A physically or mentally demanding lifestyle can leave us feeling drained, especially if we don’t balance this out by getting enough good quality sleep. This, in turn, affects how resilient we may feel. To help reduce sleep disturbance and help us feel more alert we can try:
2. Create meaningful relationships
Having meaningful relationships through a support network of family, friends, colleagues and other social groups helps us feel connected and valued. Loneliness can take a real toll on both your mental and physical health. This is important when you’re facing tricky situations because you know where to find support, advice and comfort.
- Supporting and comforting others (either friends and family, or volunteering for a local group or charity) can nurture and strengthen our relationships and enable us to learn from each other.
- Who is your support network and what types of support they offer? If you’re not getting the types of support you need, consider where this could come from.
3. Get some perspective
When your attitude towards something is balanced and rational it can support your resilience as it helps to have a clear view of reality and see the bigger picture. Stepping away (emotionally, mentally and physically) from a challenging situation – perhaps by taking a short, brisk walk – can help you think about different ways of viewing it. Allowing yourself some time to reflect can give you clarity of thought and help with problem solving.. It can help you to:
- Recognise that it’s the way you view a situation, rather than the situation itself, that is making you feel sad / anxious / afraid.
- Challenge negative beliefs and focus on positive ones.
- Reflect on your successes – take time to acknowledge and celebrate what you’ve done well.
- Focus on what you can control and change rather than those things that you can’t.
4. Think about your priorities
Having a clear sense of purpose based on your values and strengths is vital to developing and maintaining a positive outlook. This includes understanding what matters to you most – from what makes you tick, to how you spend your time and who you want to spend it with. It’s important to take time for yourself in order to relax and think about our goals in life. Consider things like:
- What’s your purpose both inside and outside work?
- What is most important to you?
- What changes can you make to give you more time to focus on what matters most to you at work / at home?
- What are your strengths – how can you use more of these at work or home?
5. Work on your emotional Intelligence
What is emotional intelligence? In short, being able to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as identify other people’s emotions. This can help you to see things objectively and to respect others’ views. Emotional intelligence comes when you are able to feel it (an emotion), name it (anger, love, jealousy), and then express it to others.
This can help when you feel threatened or when you have a disagreement with someone. Our interpersonal skills also help us connect emotionally with others, developing closer relationships and a shared understanding. To help you become more aware of your emotions you can try techniques such as mindfulness.
“An important aspect of building resilience is learning to ask for help when you need it”, says Dr Mark. “Don’t be ashamed or afraid to admit that you need the help of friends and family from time to time – asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It’s also important to look at what you’ve achieved in your life, rather than focus on the negative things – think about what you have the power to change in your current circumstances and prioritise these things.”
If you would like more information about stress, anxiety or depression, our mental health hub has articles, useful resources and NHS factsheets to help you.