Wow, what a year it has been.
The pandemic has really tested every single person in this world in one way or another.
Some of us have been hard at the grindstone, putting in long hours, frantically trying to keep business moving whilst supporting colleagues, family and friends with the impact to mental health.
Some of us have been furloughed for very long periods of time and struggled without the routine of going to work. Questioning our value to our respective businesses in “the new normal” and facing the anxiety of entering back into the workforce when this finally comes to an end.
As they say, the only thing certain in life is change, but this year it has been incredibly rapid, and the direction of that change has varied.
I was fortunate during the midst of the first UK lock down (and when I needed it most) to be studying about personal resilience and leading teams to become more resilient through times of change.
What does resilience actually mean?
Let’s define resilience first of all – there are several definitions some of which focus on bouncing back from adversity, but my favourite is that we grow from it. I like this because it makes me feel that our challenges are not for nothing and that we actually get to become better and stronger from facing them.
Understanding the ways our body responds to adversity dependant on the way we perceive our challenges, and whether we believe we have a sufficient “toolbox” to overcome them, was incredibly enlightening as somebody who has experienced anxiety in the past.
Let’s apply some science
Essentially, we decide whether we see adversity as a challenge or a threat, and if we see it as a threat our physiological response is to release cortisol and adrenaline, the former of which creates a negative impact on the body and makes it harder for us to have a positive and proactive response to the threat.
However, if we perceive adversity as a challenge our body has a similar reaction but does not produce cortisol, however it does still produce adrenaline. This reaction actually has a positive effect on our ability to overcome challenges by giving us the feeling of more energy and helps us to think a little sharper.
Understanding that you can take control of that response felt like I’d discovered a golden ticket that I’d stashed away in my bits-and-bobs draw and forgotten about!
Here are three simple techniques I have used this year to increase my personal resilience that have added value to my life.
1.) Strengthen your social support system
Your social support system can offer three key types of support that strengthen your resilience: emotional, esteem and informational.
These types of support can be drawn from any of your social groups, but you are likely to receive more of a certain type of support from each group. Some examples might be, emotional support from your family, esteem support from social interest groups such as if you are part of a sports club, and informational support from your professional network.
We don’t tend to apply much analysis to our social circles as it feels so transactional, but it helps to actually visualise your support system by mapping it out and identifying where you draw these types of support from. You may realise that you are lacking in one particular area and putting a strategy into place to strengthen that area can really help you.
For example, I realised I was lacking informational support, and have strengthened that by building better relationships with those who work in similar conditions to me such as those in my MBA cohort and exchanging advice and guidance more frequently with my friends who are business owners.
You can do this by strengthening your professional network with those who work in similar conditions to you and sharing and supporting each other through your challenges.
2.) Identify areas where you can cut yourself some slack
If you are a business leader, then you are likely to be highly driven. From personal experience I know that being driven can be a bit of a double-edged sword as we expect so much from ourselves and can be very hard on ourselves if we don’t achieve what we set out to do.
I have always seen myself as a very rational thinker but completing this short assessment helped me to identify some key areas where I was putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself and then awfulizing what I perceived to be failure.
Using this tool, you can identify if you are placing any irrational demands on yourself and replace them with a healthier expectation.
3.) Use the REBT approach
Rational Emotional Behavioural Therapy (REBT) focuses on strengthening our perception of our “toolbox” for dealing with adversity and draws from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques.
You can use your smarter thinking profile to identify where some of your unhelpful beliefs are prominent in adversity situations and think about how they might affect outcomes that are important to you.
You can use a simple technique called the ABCDE framework to identify what is worrying you about a particular adversity and replace those fears with more effective beliefs that will put you in a better position to create a positive outcome.
For example, if you have to deliver a pitch which could secure a considerable growth opportunity for your business, you may start to worry that you might not be able to achieve the desired outcome of this pitch. You might have an irrational or unhelpful belief that you are not good enough to secure the opportunity, which will likely decrease your performance during the pitch and increase the likelihood of you failing to secure it. Recognising this and replacing it with a more Effective belief that you are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity by considering the evidence of your successful career to date and examples of when you have delivered similar successes, will increase your chances of success.
Get back in a more comfortable driving seat for 2021
Combining these three techniques should create a noticeable difference in how well prepared you feel to deal with difficult situations in the future and I hope that this helps to add a couple of extra tools to somebody’s toolbox and puts them back in the driving seat.
What have you found has helped you become more resilient in 2020?