If you’ve ever wondered how to be more resilient, you’re not alone. Research shows that resilience is one of the main predictors of success in life. Across the world, the ability to regulate one’s own behavior is both a byproduct of resilience and a contributor to it.
Resilience is so important to the success of communities, recent research states that it’s critical to strong emerging workforces. We need to get these skills into our workplaces, and fast. Not only will this help you personally, it will also help our country and our world.
What is resilience, exactly? According to Merriam-Webster, resilience is defined as the ability to adjust to change or misfortune. Interestingly, the primary definition comes from physics, where its definition is the ability of an object that experiences force to rebound from compression.
The main idea, from the hard sciences to the soft, is that something or someone can return to their original shape after experiencing less-than-ideal circumstances. Of course, such circumstances might comprise an accident or injury, but most often the term is used to refer to psychological stressors. These range widely, but some of the most common include:
- The death of a loved one
- The loss of a job, or a downgrade in responsibility or pay
- The birth of a child, or a child leaving the house
- The end of a relationship or friendship
Resilience is also applicable in less overtly traumatic situations. Think a stressful work environment, where the expectations change too frequently for comfort or a boss is demanding and rude. Indeed, many people want to learn how to be more resilient because they specifically want to know how to build resilience at work.
If that’s you, you’re in the right place. Here are 5 ways to build resilience right away, no special tools needed!
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1. Understand Your Own State of Resilience
This might seem like a silly step, but it is key.
Imagine you’ve just gotten back from a hard day at work. Your boss didn’t like a project you worked hard on. She also blamed you for a bad report from a client, even though you couldn’t have prevented the situation that generated the feedback. You don’t think it’s fair, but no one on your team stepped up to save you.
Home life isn’t going to offer much comfort. Two kids need to go to an evening doctor’s appointment. Your partner is home late that night. You rush through it all, say a quick hello to your partner, drink a glass of wine, and crash.
Now here’s the question: have you dealt with the situation effectively? Have you really processed it and learned from it? Have you made it a case study in how to be more resilient later on?
Many people assume the answer to these questions is “yes,” but they are often incorrect. How do I know?
Because studies clearly show that most people overestimate their own ability to adapt to changing circumstances in healthy ways.
Everyday Health put together a study in partnership with Ohio State University that surveyed 3,583 people ages 13 to 73. They found that most Americans actually overestimate their own resilience. Where only 57 percent scored as being resilient, a full 83 percent believe that they did have high levels of resilience.
The report went on to outline the downsides of a lack of resilience:
- Worse outcomes in times of crisis
- Reduced management of chronic disease and pain
- Compromised emotional and physical health
The good news? With mindfulness, you can put resilience into practice right away. Stop denying your feelings, and just start feeling them.
2. Practice Mindfulness Every Day
Life gets lifey, as the old-timers say. When work throws you a curve ball, for instance, there’s not much you can do about it. Ditto getting laid off. Even exiting college with the knowledge that you must enter the work force can be very stressful.
A crucial part of how to be more resilient is to practice mindfulness. That means removing yourself from the emotional mire that a situation causes. Instead, try to become an outside observer.
At first, this will require substantial effort. Say to yourself, “I am upset right now” or “I don’t think that was fair and so I’m reacting strongly.” You can even make observations such as “I’m hungry but I have to deal with this first and that frustrates me” or “It seems like this person doesn’t care that it’s my lunch hour.”
You might feel like Captain Obvious, but these observation statements work. They make you feel as though you’re being heard. Even if you’re the only one listening, your brain feels as though its emotions have been validated, and that allows you to relax.
To get the full benefit of mindfulness, you need to fully embrace what happened and process it all the way through. Often, this will happen later. You can do this through talking with friends, or better yet, journaling.
Mindfulness exercises don’t have to take all day. Simply record what happened, how you felt, and how you wish you’d responded. Next time, you’ll have better luck doing so in the heat of the moment.
If you want prompts, check out mindfulness journals such as this one or this one.
3. Take Deep Breaths
Sound like boring advice? Maybe so, but learning how to be more resilient means learning how to breathe. Yes, really!
Slow breathing acts on your central nervous system in positive ways. You become more relaxed and feel a sense of comfort. You become better able to control your emotions, and heart rate variability goes up – the less consistent the intervals between your heart beats, the healthier and less stressed you are.
You can practice slow breathing techniques by inhaling deeply, making sure your stomach expands. Too often we keep breaths trapped in our chests rather than pulling them all the way down. Instead, take the air in fully.
Inhale for four beats, wait four beats, then slowly exhale for eight. You can try different patterns on your own and find what works best for you.
4. Counter Negativity with Positive Experiences
If you sometimes think learning how to be more resilient at work is a fool’s errand, you’re not alone. But it isn’t impossible! The trick is to look for the positive.
I don’t mean the tired “glass half full” attitude. Rather, the point is to actively seek out experiences in your workplace that make you feel good. That might include:
- Going to coffee with coworkers on breaks
- Bringing a surprise basket of muffins to a meeting
- Volunteering for a project that seems fun, even if you’re already busy
- Participating in holiday decorations …
- … or initiating them if they’re not yet a tradition!
At first, overcoming how you feel about your job might make this hard. But by consistently forging positive experiences for yourself, you can build a tougher skin against the bad times. Your boss is less likely to bring you down if you’re still high on all the compliments for your blueberry streusel muffins.
Seek out positivity outside the workplace as well. That means:
- Family and friend time
- Delicious meals
- Treats, like the movies or a day at the rock-climbing gym
Although they don’t relate specifically to work, you’ll feel their effects even during the workday.
5. Make a Checklist of How to Cultivate Resilience
According to an article published in the American Psychological Association’s PsycNet, being behaviorally resilient allows people to be more effective at home and at work, able to focus on tasks and carry them out with minimal interruption or distraction. This is the core idea at the heart of resilience practice. You need to learn to experience hard circumstances without caving under the pressure, grief or other negative emotions. If you can, you will grow at work and in general.
This takes practice, though. Make a checklist of the above steps to put in your wallet. Pull it out when you feel stressed so you remember to journal, breathe deep or plan a fun activity. Even seeing that you have options can significantly reduce your stress.
Now that you can answer the question “What are the 5 skills of resilience?” you’ve got a much better shot of making it in the workplace. Your responses will become more measured. Your brain and body will buzz less. You will sleep better and feel better.
You might even be surprised to find your relationships with your boss, coworkers, partner and kids improve. Same goes for family and friends, even those you see less often. Even if all you have is a better attitude at work, that’s certainly worth it.
Ready to become more resilient? Put these five steps into practice today!
Read More: 15 Best Examples Of Resilience At Work