I’ve just put down the telephone after a twenty minute call with a potential client. That call – which she initiated and wanted – happened after ten days and three cancellations. She apologised and said, “We are so busy – I never stop and even finding time for a call is difficult!”
In this age of change and stress and being ‘on the go’ the whole time, how do we help people to develop resilience – that ability to thrive on positive stress and avoid distress? How do we manage the situations that create stress (lack of control, ambiguity, feeling overwhelmed by demands etc) and recover from these with motivation and a sense of well-being?
Resiliency experts suggest that people are helped by a particular pattern of attitudes and skills that helps them to survive and thrive under stress. These relate to commitment, control and challenge.
- Commitment means you believe that it is best to stay involved with the people and events around you rather than pulling out.
- Control means that you continue to try to influence the outcomes in which you are involved rather than giving up.
- Challenge means that you focus on discovering how you can learn and grow through the stress rather than giving in to despair or complaining about your misfortune.
Part of resilience comes from the knowledge that you have choice; you can respond in an intentional way that reduces your stress or you can be victim to your circumstances and react to what is happening around you.
Easy to say and to write but incredibly difficult to do!
Here are some suggestions, based upon the content of a new Resilience Workshop product we are developing that may be helpful in building those key dimensions of commitment, control and challenge.
- Develop mindfulness and self awareness. Using mindfulness activities such as MINDFULNESS UNRAVELLED helps to develop awareness of the internal signals that your body is sending out and noticing the physical manifestations of stress. This awareness enables you to recognise these signals more quickly when they surface under pressure and also allows for the rehearsal of mental and physical relaxation techniques.
- Develop an atmosphere of compassion: an ability to notice the distress of others, offer support and collaborate. Build positive and supportive relationships. Cherish social support and interaction. Working with others, on an activity such as IMAGES OF RESILIENCE enables supportive colleagues to explore these issues together. The images focus on how we respond to stressors and challenges and initiate dialogue about what it means to you, personally, to be resilient and what support you may need in this.
- In practical terms, it can help to compartmentalise thoughts and tasks: cluster similar and related tasks and group together things that are connected and require a similar type of thinking. Avoid context switching. Deal with similar tasks within an agreed time period before moving to a different type of activity. A simple, experiential learning exercise that can illustrate the effectiveness of this and provides a perfect metaphor for ‘information and activity overload’ is WORKSTATIONS
- Take regular breaks. Experts recommend that you step away from focused mental and physical activity and change the frame after around 90 minutes maximum. This helps to reset your energy and attention. At RSVP Design, we recommend that these breaks can be used for reflection and learning. We recommend that you build regular learning reviews into planning – completing the experiential learning cycle rather than jumping to conclusions or repeating ineffective behaviours. Visual and metaphorical reflection and coaching tools such as VOYAGE MAPPING can help with this process and enable you to look both backwards and forwards, learning from past experience and using that new learning to inform future planning.
- Treat problems as a learning process. Become more aware of how you learn from experience and challenge the personal assumptions that might be holding you back. Sometimes we need to challenge and let go of what we think we know in order to deal with uncomfortable change. CHALLENGING ASSUMPTIONS is a perfect illustration of how powerfully we hold onto old beliefs – some of which help us to deal with stress and many of which may be limiting our ability to learn and move forward through challenges.
- Develop realistic life goals for guidance and a sense of purpose and do something each day to move towards them. Working with others, or with the stimulus of coaching cards such as these BUILDING PERSONAL RESILIENCE COACHING CARDS can be very helpful. Celebrate your successes. This trains the mind to look for success rather than dwelling on negativity and ‘failure’. Take time at the end of each day to review what went well and congratulate yourself.