Think of the time when you either:
- Bounced back from a challenging situation
- Got through a difficult moment with relative ease
- Challenged yourself and went out of your comfort zone
These are all examples of resilience. Not necessarily the Resilience with a big R, this is what we would call post-traumatic growth, but rather ordinary, everyday resilience with a small r.
Resilience can be described as a relative resistance to stress, as well as present and future adverse events or conditions (getting rejected, running late to a meeting, having an unpaid invoice, etc). In other words, resilience is a capacity to face changing situational demands with flexibility and also to bounce back from negative emotional experiences…. Even though some people are born more resilient, it is also something that can be learnt.
The scientific investigation of resilience increased by 8-fold in the past 20 years, identifying main facilitators of resilience. These include: a) cognitive reframing; b) harvesting the resourcing ‘power’ positive emotions; c) participation in physical activity; d) active engagement with social support networks; e) recognising and using strengths; and f) deliberate optimism in crafting new and positive future perspectives.
Where to start?
Let’s try the first – cognitive reframing. Pick up a recent stressful situation and try a SPARK technique that we developed about ten years ago that can be used to break all stressful situations into five components:
S (stress) – what are the bare facts of the situation?
P (perception) – what do you think about? how do you interpret what’s happening?
A (affect) – how do you feel?
R (reaction) – what do you do?
K (knowledge) – what is the result of your actions?
Now centre on the P, and write down all the thoughts running through your mind. Next, pick up each thought one by one and try to complete a sentence: “Another way of looking at it would be…” As you go down your list, do you notice your emotions changing a little bit?
For example (this is real, by the way!), I have too much work to do, and feel completely overwhelmed and out of control. My thought/perception: “I will never make it” My attempt at re-framing: “Another way of looking at it would be to choose three most important tasks for today and accept that I can’t do it all” Do I feel better? Yes, actually, because I have just given myself a permission to be human.