Visiting Penny Brohn recently I learnt about their Bristol Whole Life Approach. It encapsulates the idea of building whole body resilience and strength during difficult times. Mind, body, emotions and spirit are all strongly linked to the body’s ability to heal and build resilience. Other aspects that are also important are our connections with others and the environment. In learning more about the work of the charity and their approach, what struck me most was a comment made about how the body is hardwired to heal, and that we can boost our resilience to face and defeat challenges that come our way.
I was asked to blog for Penny Brohn on how we can increase resilience during times of change. The concept of resilience is found in all aspects of our life and as such supports the whole life approach. My work as a coach is to support people through change by using person-centred coaching psychology approaches; including cognitive behavioural coaching and solution-focused coaching. To have techniques that fit your personal journey is worth its weight in gold. I hope you will take what you need from this blog and reflect on how to apply the ideas to your own life – strategies always need to feel like a good fit to your personal situation.
When challenges come our way we can feel that we are knocked out of the comfortable balance that we are used to in our daily lives, and our wellbeing can be threatened. I am going to draw on the ideas of psychologists Kloep, Hendry and Sanders, 2009 with their idea of: ‘wellbeing as the pivotal point in the middle of a balance, with resources at one end and challenges at the other.’ On a beautiful day out at a local beach my partner took a photo of stones balancing which perfectly outlines the concept. The stones at each end of the flat stone represent challenge and resources with the mid-point representing wellbeing. ‘Each time an individual meets a challenge, the systems of challenges and resources comes into a state of imbalance, as the individual is forced to adapt his or her resources to meet this particular challenge’. (Kloep, Hendry, Saunders, 2009).
So, if you have more challenges than resources it can feel that everything is out of kilter and your wellbeing is tipping out of balance. However, the good news is, even when we are going through THE most challenging of times you can increase our resources and resilience to cope and get back into balance.
The word resilience comes from the Latin route ‘resili’ which means the ability to spring back. Have a think about the times that you see bulbs coming up early in your garden or at the roadside totally at odds with the weather, or even sprouting up through the pavement – they are the resilient plants bursting through tough conditions. Dandelions come to mind! We are the same. As a coach I took the name mariposa which is Spanish for butterfly, a creature which encapsulates change. I see the most amazing changes where people become more flexible in their thinking, manage emotions differently, and effectively, and act in helpful ways to emerge like the butterfly from the chrysalis, stronger. I see them being more determined and adaptable, to be wiser in ways that at a time of challenge they never imagined they could. Let’s look at how we are in a better position to manage change when we draw on our resources and increase resilience.
The international Resilience Project (2003-2005) defines resilience as what you have in terms of social supports, what you are – as in inner strengths and what you can do or develop. So to increase resilience we have to increase what gives us strength.
How good are we at deepening social and interpersonal supports at times of challenge?
Have a think about the people in your life? Often they are connected to certain activities and the roles to which we are accustomed. We might go to the gym and have friends there, play in a band and go for a few drinks after, we might be a parent or grandparent, who has to be active and responsible for children, or we may have a caring role. This can all change when we go through challenging times and we might have to be in a position where we ask for more support and help than we are used to.
Being aware of what we need and being able to shape this within our relationships to ensure we have the necessary social support is all important. As we go through change other people around us do so too and it is important to keep the channels of communication open. This means reaching out to others and saying more often how we think and feel. In being resilient we may need to become more skilled at talking about frustrations with trusted friends, family members or colleagues and finding out what other people might need in order to provide support. This involves getting better at putting our needs first which is often what we tend to shy away from as not wanting to upset people or thinking we are putting other’s out. Really this is the opposite. Those that care about you will understand that if you have support you are more resilient and want to be there. Sometimes we need to take a step back so that others can step up!
Resilience is about inner strength
When was the last you sat down and considered your strengths? Humans are quick to focus on being self-critical and focus on weaknesses rather than qualities. It is often difficult to see our positives, but if you ask someone they will often be able to name them. Go on try it, ask for five strengths that others see in you.
Your strengths might include being flexible with a natural ability to adapt to change. It might be that you are good at managing emotions when feeling pressured. You may have a strong value base or spirituality that can you can draw on. Perhaps you have a good understanding of what is important in your life. Are you able to hold onto a sense of perspective when facing challenges and have a general sense of optimism to draw from? Do you have a sense of humour? Can you appreciate the good things around you and be able to accept what you can’t change?
The list is endless but if you sit down and have a think about your inner strengths these will help with the idea of increasing resilience to get you through anything.
Resilience may mean changing what you do
Dealing with problems head on rather than hoping they will go away demonstrates a good level of resilience. It’s helpful to work out any stressors in your life. Have a think about any current pressures that might be affecting your responses. This is the first step to changing how you act as you can then develop more self control which is a helpful resource in times of difficulty.
Have a think about how often we keep doing the same thing and expect a different result – Einstein’s definition of insanity. We can change direction when things are not working. This might be changing our circle of friends, changing our diet or doing more exercise. Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his excellent book ‘The 4 Pillar Plan, 2008 Penguin Random House UK’, describes how to relax, eat, move and sleep your way to a longer, healthier life. Small steps are important but can have deep consequences. Chatterjee talks about the importance of having a happy body and mind which links to the whole life approach.
We can increase our ability to focus on actions that move ourselves towards longer term goals. In times of challenge we can see things much clearer than we ever did. Have a think about goals we have left by the wayside. It can bring things into a sharp realisation that our lives have become a little boring or humdrum. What did you used to like doing that you now keep putting off? Could you start to be more creative to get goals that excited you back in your life? How can we use our intelligence in ways that are constructive? We don’t always have days where our resilience is high but we can learn from those days when it is and change our approaches accordingly.
I hope that this article has been of use and has helped you to reflect on the different approaches to being more resilient and increasing a wealth of rescources when challenges come our way. We can change how we access support, recognise our strengths and also take new actions to increase resilience. Finally don’t forget to be kind and compassionate to yourself.