What is Resilience?
Resilience is your ability to cope in the face of adversity.
We can be good when things are good, but how do you react when things are not so good?
Resilience allows us to make positive changes in an environment where others may not be able to. Resilience is a process rather than a condition, so it's something we each can learn to build. It gets put to the test during times of adversity and is developed by a conscious process of changing how you think and how you behave at such times.
When resilience is high, we experience flexibility, perspective, patience, open mindedness, humour, energy, a sense of calm and positive mind-set, confidence, motivation and concentration, a desire to set goals, willpower and endurance, good sleep and a healthy appetite.
Building your resilience often involves physical activity, positive relationships and activities, good nutrition and exercise, work-life balance, a sense of clarity and purpose, me-time and good rest.
Why is Resilience so Important?
Coping in the face of adversity
Resilience is only tested by adversity and is developed by a conscious process of changing how you think and behave at such times. Adversity is inevitable and therefore resilience is essential if we are to thrive.
Resilience has a powerful effect on and helps us manage our psychological well-being, happiness, health , stress, anxiety and depression.
Even in some of the most severe cases of abuse and trauma including long term childhood trauma, research and clinical practice has shown that there are five key factors that repeatedly showed up and are critical to building personal resilience.
Five Pillars of Resilience
Self-care includes all the things you do to take care of your well-being in four key dimensions – your emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Self-care is essential for managing stress, preventing burnout, and mitigating fatigue.
For instance, adequate nutrition feeds the body essential nutrients, supporting gut health, and reduces the release of toxins such as cortisol. Sleep also allows time for the body to heal and neutralises and consolidates information learnt through the day.
Exercise releases endorphins - a natural pleasure biochemical - and burns off residual anxiety, increasing the amount of oxygen in your brain and body.
Our brain and neural activity requires oxygen, blood carries the oxygen. A stronger heart and lungs means greater capacity to absorb oxygen and increased brain function capacity.
Exercise also increases our window of tolerance by creating a positive association between physical sensations experienced in the body, such as sweating, nausea and increased heart rate, with a sense of achievement, encouraging us to be calmer in general.
We are born to connect. Having relationships that fulfil a sense of belonging and connection is not only a fundamental part of how we are wired as a species, but fundamental to our wellbeing.
You can be in a room full of people and still feel like the loneliest person on the world. We need to ‘feel felt’; to feel truly understood by another person. This is also why bullying, exclusion and neglect has such an impact on our mental health and physical wellbeing.
A sense of belonging is a far greater human need and predictor of wellbeing and resilience than being free of adversity. People who don’t feel a sense of belonging are often far more vulnerable than those that face adversity that feel loved.
STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE
When we develop a structure and routine around the things we enjoy we are ensuring we are being stimulated by the world and others, have a sense of safety and predictability and a sense of purpose.
Structure and routine does not have to be rigid – it can be as simple as "I will eat, sleep, exercise and explore".
Traumatic incidences shake our sense of safety and control. Similarly, beliefs and expectations help us feel safe and in control of our lives.
FINDING NEW AND STIMULATING EXPERIENCES
Novel and stimulating experiences create new neural pathways to help us become dynamic, adaptive and attention focused. Thus, providing mindfulness and reprieve from stressful mind chatter.
New experiences permit a sense of mastery or achievement, generates myelin - insulating the neurons in your brain and the creation of new stem cells; both of which enhance brain functioning.
Your brain can’t tell the difference between mental, emotional and physical stress. It all activates the same stress responses. People are known to smash their body at the gym then immediately rush to work in a high- pressured environment, thinking they are doing good.
However, nutrients, rest and recovery are equally important requirements of achieving health and fitness. Longer-term stress can lead to learning difficulties, sleep deprivation and disorders, disease, weight gain and poor gut health; high acidity can cause reflux and heart burn, lower back pain due to toxicity in your kidneys, poor mental health and disease.
Ready to reach out for support?
When should I seek professional help?
Persistent feelings of stress for more days than not over a period of months, lowers our resilience and can make it hard to cope with daily life. When stress crosses over from a 'normal' stress reaction into an 'unhealthy' state (eg. chronic stress, frequent 'fight-flight') this can have a negative impact on managing our health and well-being and limits our ability to cope effectively.
When our resilience is low, we will experience symptoms like fatigue, lack of motivation, lack of concentration, burnout, changes in sleep and appetite, etc. Drainage often includes work, finances, health problems, or relationships.
If you're experiencing stress over a long period of time and it feels hard to re-balance and take rest, or it's interfering with you enjoying a healthy and meaningful life, it is worth seeking professional help.