Key Characteristics of Resilience | Laurel Alexander, Wellness Professionals at Work
Continuing on the topic of “Stress: are we coping?”, Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I’m delighted to introduce Laurel Alexander and to include her article, Key Characteristics of Resilience.
Laurel was my coaching tutor back in 2011. As I gradually lifted one foot off London and placed it tentatively onto the south coast, Laurel was kind, welcoming and has been ever since. Her manner, blended teaching methods and professional practices are ever warm and engaging.
Laurel Alexander is the founder and Director of Studies for Wellness Professionals at Work (www.wellnessprofessionalsatwork.com).
Wellness Professionals at Work was born from Laurel’s lifelong interest in health, wellbeing and her own experience of breast cancer.
Laurel has developed methodologies for integrated healing which she has written and taught about – and continues to do so.
KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF RESILIENCE
(adapted from The Resilience Coaching Toolkit by Laurel Alexander)
Resilience involves a range of behaviors, thoughts, and actions, all of which can be learned and developed.
Factors which contribute to resilience include:
- Developing mindful awareness: Mindfulness, as a psychological concept, is the focusing of one’s attention and awareness based on the concept of Buddhist meditation and popularised in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Practicing mindfulness can help you begin to recognize your habitual patterns of mind, allowing you to respond in new ways and so build resilience.
- Taking ownership: Personal responsibility is the belief that successes or failures are determined by your talents and motivations as opposed to external forces such as luck or good timing. Those who take ownership believe they control their destiny and attribute events to their traits. Rather than relying on external factors such as luck to achieve objectives, they look inward to their talents and motivations and attempt to exert control over situations.
- Understanding personal values: Who we are is what we become and do. If we are to be authentic, our personal values need to underpin our choices and actions.
- Managing strong emotions: We are a mixture of thoughts and feelings and sometimes one is stronger than the other. For example, we may hide our emotions behind a rational persona, or we may become over-emotional at the expense of rationality. Resilience is a balance between these two states.
- Effective questioning: Effective questioning enables us to become informed so that we are better placed to make decisions and take action.
- Active listening: We have one mouth and two ears, suggesting that we need to listen more than we talk. Active listening is crucial to resilience. If we don’t understand something or we are in conflict with another, we need to engage in effective questioning and active listening to inform and measure our response.
- Building perseverance: Grit, tenacity, endurance, persistence – these are the essence of resilience. It’s not about a lack of problems. It’s not about always feeling happy, confident and positive. Perseverance has the spirit to keep moving forward.
- Developing a non-judgemental mindset: We’re all full of judgment. Even as you read this, you’re making a judgment of yourself as to whether you’re judgemental! We judge ourselves and others, which often results in internal and external conflict. Resilience is the absence (or reduction) of a non-judgemental mindset.
- Developing problem-solving skills: Most of us tend to focus on problems, wasting time on the whys and wherefores; on weakness and failures. The resilient person focuses on solutions.
- Improving confidence and self-esteem: Confidence is the outer shell to self esteem. We can appear confident outside but have low self-esteem on the inside. A resilient person is someone who experiences high self-esteem but on bad days knows how to support themselves with self-compassion.
- Assertive communication: Assertiveness and self-esteem go hand in hand. When we feel good about ourselves, we show our resilience through assertiveness.
- Fostering self-care: Self-care comes in both psychological and physical forms. For example, by taking a mental time-out, through having a healthy diet and taking appropriate exercise. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
- Improving self-compassion: A resilient person is kind to themselves. They know that everyone has foibles and failings, occasionally falling but always getting back up and moving forward.
- Changing perspective: Sometimes our mindset becomes fixed, and we can’t see the wood for the trees. A resilient person can move their mind, tries to see things from different perspectives, and so finds fresh vision and new approaches to problems.
- Improving adaptability: Challenges occur on a daily basis, and when life presents you with one that is insurmountable, resilient people accept the circumstances that cannot be changed while focusing on circumstances that they can influence. A more adaptable mindset allows us to evaluate and adjust to the different challenges we have each day.
- Viewing change as an opportunity: Things change from second to second. Rather than being resistant to, or fearful of, change, resilient people embrace change and see it as an opportunity.
- Increasing pro-activity: Taking decisive action rather than detaching from adverse situations is a trait of the resilient person. Although it can take time to recover from a set-back, knowing that your situation can improve if you work at it can help. Resilient people pro-actively work on solving a problem rather than letting themselves get paralyzed by negativity.
- Personal networking: Good relationships with family members, friends, and others strengthen resilience.
- Increasing optimism: Resilient people possess an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions, even in difficult situations. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative events than positive ones. However, in reality, we experience positive events more often. One key to building resilience lies in noticing and appreciating those positive experiences with more frequency.
- Increasing empathy: Empathy is an ability that contributes to resilience by helping us appreciate other points of view, which can then help us to get our problems into perspective.
- Laughter and humor: Humour is a subjective matter and what one person finds funny will not necessarily be shared by another person. Laughter can make the unbearable bearable and so builds resilience. As psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning about surviving Nazi concentration camps: ‘Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human makeup, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.’
Laurel Alexander is the founder and Director of Studies for Wellness Professionals at Work (www.wellnessprofessionalsatwork.com)
The Resilience Coaching Toolkit by Laurel Alexander, published by Pavilion Media and Publishing is available on Amazon
Mental Health Foundation: Mental Health Awareness Week
Taking the Lid off of Stress and Mental Health | Carole Spiers, Chair of The International Stress Management Association [UK]
Mitigating Stress | Sam Pont, Strength & Conditioning Coach and Personal Trainer
Is Stress Merely a Word? | Dean Dickinson, Registered Osteopath and Chartered Physiotherapist
Understanding Stress and How it Affects your Emotions | Mark Vahrmeyer, Registered Psychotherapist
Elite Sport and Mental Health | Ian Braid, MD, DOCIAsport