Personal resilience is essentially our ability to overcome the challenges that life throws at us, to bounce back and critically, to maintain a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

 

We all have some innate resilience but this can be developed; we can train ourselves to deal with unexpected disappointments or even really serious issues that challenge our health. We all know of people that have come through dreadful experiences and have not only survived the experience but have become psychologically stronger as a result, how do they do this? Where does this mindset come from? For most of us we face challenges in our daily lives that may not be catastrophic in isolation, but the cumulative effect of failing to deal with stress can have quite severe consequences for us. So how do we build personal resilience? Here are some tips:

 

Be self-aware

We all have a view of ourselves and of the world around us that is unique to us. This view has been developed throughout your life. Largely through experience. We all have strengths, weaknesses, prejudices, interests, vulnerabilities and so on. It is really important to understand ourselves, why we are the way we are. Have a look in the mirror and identify what the good and bad parts of you are. What stresses you out and why? If you understand the way you are likely to react to stress you can do something about it. Know the things that make you feel bad, reflect on why that might be and think how you can manage your emotions.

 

Resilient thinking

When under stress or when things aren’t going our way it is easy to become negative, angry or even despairing. We can become cynical or frustrated, particularly if the scenario has arisen before. It is entirely understandable that we tend to fall into negativity when disappointed but there is a key stage before we become negative. There is an opportunity to examine what is happening to us emotionally and to make a decision. We can decide not to be negative, to find hope or a positive in every situation. We can tell ourselves that the situation really isn’t that catastrophic, focus on a positive and move on. Negativity is easy and contagious. DECIDE not to be negative and make an effort. You’ll find that it becomes natural, you will automatically stop yourself sliding into total negativity. Remember pessimism and negative thoughts become actions, actions become our character. It’s a choice, MAKE IT.

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Restore some balance in your life

You are probably a highly capable, competent and driven person. You work much longer hours than your contract defines, you go that extra mile and put others before yourself, you take on extra work that you shouldn’t. You take work home with you, you stay late and you often come in early. Funnily enough you really enjoy your work; you know it is stressful but you have been doing it for years even though it occasionally causes some family friction. Sound familiar? If so you may be displaying ‘superhero’ behaviours (just doing too much, voluntarily, being the go to person, the dependable one etc). If you don’t restore some balance you could be heading for a fall. There is a direct link between the levels of stress that we endure and our physical and mental health. Restore some balance, I don’t just mean that two-week annual vacation, I mean every day. Set a reasonable routine, learn to say no, leave work at work and put up some boundaries, focus on those you love and the really important things in life. The graveyards are full of wealthy executives who never spent time with their families, every day is precious.

 

Listen to your body

Take the time to analyse your health. Are you constantly tired, run down or irritable? Are you losing your motivation? If so act; you could be heading towards a serious problem like depression. Are you constantly anxious or worried about deadlines etc these type of thoughts if unchecked can be a real problem so learn to recognize when things aren’t right. If you are putting on weight is it because you are no longer exercising? Lost your motivation? Do something now. We generally know if we aren’t getting enough sleep, are adopting a sedentary lifestyle or aren’t eating healthily. STOP NOW put these things into your conscious and make a decision to do something before it is too late. If you aren’t feeling right then you probably aren’t, go and speak to your Doctor and make some changes in your life. Taking control is liberating and achieving small goals like completing that jog/walk/cycle or losing a couple of pounds makes us feel good about ourselves and fuels positivity and resilience.

You can influence your life by taking positive actions. Getting control is the key, DO SOMETHING to influence the direction you are taking and remember negativity is easy and contagious, don’t let it rule your life, find the positives and feed them. Above all, if you are struggling, don’t delay, get some professional help. Any illness in its early stages is easier to treat than when it becomes chronic.

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About Richard Dorney

Richard Dorney, MBE, MStJ, MSc is the Director of Strongmind Resiliency Training Ltd, a UK based company that specialises in post incident trauma management, mental health awareness and resiliency training. Richard served for 39 years as an infantry officer in the British Army and was a Non- clinical expert in military mental health and wellbeing. He holds an MSc in War and Psychiatry from Kings College London and has studied psychotraumatology, mental health first aid and suicide interventions. He is a published author and has a wealth of experience in the delivery of resiliency training to a wide range of civilian, law enforcement and military organisations.