How to Strengthen Your Personal Resilience
Given all the benefits of resilience, the big question is how you can increase it. Here are just a few of the many ways.
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When faced with a difficult situation how well do you cope or adapt? COVID has tested us all. Its global impact is undeniable and seemingly without an end. For some, the uncertainty has been the most traumatizing part of the whole thing.
As entrepreneurs, you're used to uncertainty. You're used to handling whatever comes your way. In fact, you pride yourself on it. But lately, it's been harder to keep showing up and keep working towards the dreams and goals you've been fighting for, for years. While it may not feel like it, this is a normal reaction.
Studies show that uncertainty can often be harder to deal with than the negative consequences that follow. It is part of one of our many evolutionary "bugs" that haven't kept up with changing times. While we no longer need to predict the saber tooth tiger waiting to turn us into dinner, our striatum (also known as the reward center) has evolved to anticipate good and bad consequences, trying to calculate the odds of those consequences and then immediately reacting when it hits at around 50 percent. Given our human tendency toward a negativity bias our tendency is to focus on the bad even when these experiences are seemingly insignificant or inconsequential.
So how do we cope in a world that is now filled with potentially dangerous decisions all day long? Our brain goes on high alert. Is that person 6 feet away? Is it safe to go to the office? Should I really try and cut my own hair (talk about consequential decisions)? Enter resilience.
This now somewhat over-used word references our ability to adapt well in the face of threats, trauma, or significant sources of stress or your ability to "bounce back" after difficult experiences. A very useful skill given the current situation
While we all know people who seem to be handling things amazingly well (or are in massive denial) and see the pandemic as an opportunity for growth, the majority of us are just doing our best to get by, with good days and some bad, and seemingly little control over which one it will be.
Working to increase resilience can help. The great news is that resilience is a buildable skill that can vary from situation to situation. Because no matter how un-resilient you're feeling today, there's always the possibility or hope that you can do a little bit better tomorrow.
Given all the benefits of resilience, the big question is how you can increase it. Here are just a few of the many ways:
Studies show that optimism is only about 25 percent inheritable, with other factors that you can influence affecting overall positivity. There are many simple ways you can improve it, from keeping a gratitude journal to consciously reframing scenarios in a positive light to not watching or reading the news (no more doomscrolling through the latest tweets).
Optimism while at times challenges has been shown to improve resilience to stressful life events, reducing levels of depression and anxiety.
Emotion awareness and control
Resilient people are comfortable with and express their feelings. Whether it be happiness, joy, fear, or sadness, understanding your emotions and feeling comfortable talking about them with the people you trust will make you more resilient and better able to handle things when you're going through a difficult time. The ability to share what's going on makes it less likely you'll get "stuck" in a negative emotion when it happens.
Self-efficacy: move toward your goals
An important part of resilience is self-efficacy, your belief in your ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. When people believe that they are effective in the world and are able to move toward their goals they become more resilient. Like other aspects of resilience, your self-efficacy can be increased. In fact, Jane McGonigal PhD, a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games, created a game called Super Better for just that purpose. She created the game to increase optimism, self-efficacy, and social support in order to improve overall resilience after suffering from a serious concussion that didn't heal properly and took away many of the things she loved most.
Resilient people connect with others. Studies show that good social relationships help protect against stress reactions. In fact, they found that even people just thought about those relationships it had a beneficial impact. According to the American Psychological Association, "the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance, help bolster a person's resilience."
While it's more difficult to connect in person these days and the last thing most of us want is another Zoom call, there are more opportunities than ever to connect virtually. In 2019, even before COVID, 61% of Americans said they were lonely. So, if you're feeling a bit lonely, chances are your friends and family are too – connect with them, you'll both be glad you did.
Take care of your wellbeing
A critical part of resilience is how you feel both physically and emotionally. What you eat, how often you move, and perhaps most importantly, how much you sleep matters. It's important you find time to engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. And, if you can get outside and get some vitamin D. Low vitamin D was found to put you at greater risk of depression.
While it's easy to work longer days now that you're working from home, it's even more important that you take the time to manage your wellbeing and energy so you're able to fully engage. Investing in your wellbeing will help bolster your resilience and ensure that you're ready to deal with whatever situation comes your way.
The importance of a resilience toolkit
In these challenging times, we all need a toolkit, resources we know we can rely on to get us through the difficult moments. Sometimes, that's all it takes, just some small thing to get through a particularly difficult moment. Then, often without reason, something shifts and you're ready to take on the next challenge. Increasing your resilience isn't that different from creating a business. If your foundation isn't strong inevitably things start to go wrong and your clients (in this case, your body) become dissatisfied and then, they may start making even bigger demands. It's time to start making your most important investment, in yourself.