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Building Resilience: The Antidote To Stress

Resilience is a hot topic lately. From parenting books to workplace management to international development, the concept is getting a lot of attention.

So, what’s the big deal?

Resilience is the capacity to cope with stress and change. It’s the ability to adapt to setbacks and recover from disappointments. Resilience doesn’t make problems go away, but it does help you have a more balanced, healthier perspective as you face them.

You can’t change the fact that you’ll face stress and difficulties, but you can change your response. How you weather those challenges affects your ability to thrive.

Without a doubt, resilience is a valuable quality to have. But how do you develop it?

Last month, at the annual South by Southwest Conference, I attended a compelling talk based on research into work-life balance that identified six areas of your life that contribute to resilience. By attending to each of these areas, you can increase your overall sense of resilience:

  • Physical wellbeing – builds health and fitness for sustainable action

  • Mental wellbeing – creates greater capacity to cope when under stress

  • Spiritual wellbeing – provides a depth of inner resources and cultivates self-awareness

  • Community of support – strong relationships become a source of support, acceptance and encouragement

  • Enjoyment and pleasure – renews energy, fosters relaxation and generates positive feelings

  • Priority management – determines where you spend your time and energy in your life

Let’s pause for a moment to do a quick self-assessment on your building blocks of resilience.

How well do you attend to your…

(Poorly? OK? great? You can be honest here, no one will know!)

1. Physical wellbeing

  • healthy habits – eating healthy, regular exercise, enough sleep

  • clean and organized/uncluttered living and working spaces

2. Mental wellbeing

  • embracing growth and learning

  • practicing flexibility/openness/acceptance of change

  • living aligned with values

  • orienting toward positivity and hope

  • kindness and service to others and self

3. Spiritual wellbeing

  • reflection, meditation, prayer

  • yoga, nature and outdoors

  • solitude/alone time

4. Community of support

  • quality of relationships with and time spent with friends/family

  • asking for and accepting help

5. Enjoyment and pleasure

  • vacations and fun experiences

  • hobbies and creative outlets

  • relaxation and laughter

6. Priority management

  • time management

  • setting boundaries

How did you do? If you scored great in all six areas, you are a rock star of resilience. Congratulations!

If you found some areas were poor or OK, and you want to improve your ability to be resilient, the good news is that you can give these areas more attention.

Contrary to common belief, resilience is not an innate quality. It’s not like some of us have it and others don’t, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Resilience is an inner strength you can cultivate, and in doing so, improve your ability to adapt to and navigate the stressors and challenges in life.

For each area where you want to improve, ask these two questions to create your resilience-boosting plan:

  • What’s one thing I will start doing to become stronger in this area?

  • What’s one thing I will stop doing to become stronger in this area?

Begin by taking small steps. Seriously, steps so small you almost can’t not do them. For example, if you want to start exercising, declaring you will go to the gym for two hours every day is a habit unlikely to hold.

Instead, start with, say, walking to the end of your driveway and back. Ridiculously easy, right? Chalk up a success! Then take your next small step.

This way of identifying intentional and deliberate actions will help you stay focused on making a positive impact on your capacity for resilience. In fact, you may be able to double your impact because these areas are not mutually exclusive. For example, taking a walk provides both exercise and time outdoors; getting enough sleep improves physical and mental wellbeing.

Creating your own path to resilience means you get to choose what works best for you. It’s not a matter of IF you will face challenges, but when, and knowing you have the inner resources to navigate these rough patches will help you cope rather than crumble.

"I get knocked down, but I get up again

You’re never gonna keep me down" - Chumbawamba

I created a free worksheet to help you take a closer look at your six building blocks of resilience and develop your personal plan for building resilience. Contact me to get your own copy!

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