Opinion: The resilience workout

We must intentionally regulate our inner world especially during difficult times by giving ourselves the space to call things as they are, says the author

Feb 14, 2022 09:42:00 AM | Article | Pallavi Mathur Lal

Let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself fit? How do you improve your fitness? 
I love working out. The days I miss a workout I feel a significant gap in my day and my energies.
 
But here, today, we are not talking about physical fitness. We are applying the workout philosophy to build resilience.
 
As the past two years have shown us, resilience is such a powerful skill and capability to cultivate. 
 
The traditional definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficult experiences. It may be easier to visually imagine it as the ability of an object to spring back into shape - elasticity.
We deal with adversity, setbacks, negative events in our lives, and we have been doing a lot of this since the pandemic started. In today’s workplace, it is not enough to just quickly recover ourselves but also do it with empathy and consideration for others around us. In tough times, showing support for others, celebrating recovery/ progress is important. In fact, work has become more collaborative and harmonious than ever in the past two years as we have found better ways to work to the advantage of all parties involved. It is also about how we cope, adapt, learn, and grow from these challenges and setbacks and find ‘make-it-work’ actions. 
 
The more you improve on these aspects, the more you build your resilience muscle. Let us see what aspects and ‘exercises’ you can use in your workouts:
 
Self-trust and building on strengths
 
Dr. Rumeet Billan, an authority on resilience and emotional intelligence in Canada, found through her research with thousands of people in organisations, everyone wanted to further develop their self-confidence and self-trust.  
 
One of the aspects at the workplace that is critical is the obsession with the negative feedback we get. Even if the positives that are working in our favor outweigh the negative feedback overwhelmingly, we still focus on the miniscule negative feedback that shakes our confidence in ourselves. Rectifying this needs us to consciously shift the focus on our positives. This is the pillar on which positive psychology stands – building on your positives and strengths can lead to greater confidence and well-being. Self-talk is how we make our emotions real, so make it positive!
 
Know this: Self-confidence is knowing that you can rely on your own strengths and abilities in any given situation. 
 
Objective reasoning
 
By managing your feelings and emotions and being able to use objective reasoning when confronted with obstacles, you will be better able to deal with difficult situations more positively. We do not do this enough. Emotionally charged, we botch up the handling of many situations at work.
 
Imagine you have a virtual team meeting, and you hear an update which you should have been involved in, but you weren’t. How many times do we take a step back when you’re emotionally invested and ask - could I be wrong? Am I looking at things objectively? What information is missing? 
 
Know this: Recognising and acknowledging that you may not have all the facts; not making assumptions is how we practice objective reasoning.
 
Possibility thinking
 
Let’s explore the concept of what happens in the brain when we're faced with a dilemma using the following experiment in Dr. Rumeet Billan’s social entrepreneurship course. When she flashed a picture of a physically disabled man in a wheelchair and asked if he could drive, many of her students didn’t think he could. But later the question was reframed to ask: “How can he drive?” All the students had some suggestion or the other to give.
 
Know this: Getting stumped by the problem makes us stop in our tracks. The brain needs to be in a possibility searching mode, and then we can power ahead. Just change the question and the problem re-frames itself in the brain. 
 
Perseverance
 
How do we persevere in ways that makes us feel safe and in control, especially when there are changes that we can’t control? It is all about developing FLEXIBILITY. You may have heard of the Growth Mindset (Google ‘Carol Dweck’), or the concept of Neuroplasticity – changing simple routines and adapting to change, rather than rigidly wanting everything to be the same.
The goal is not that we need to completely change our own communication styles and habits - it is truly about being flexible and adaptable at times when it is needed.  Once you overcome and adapt to tough situations, next time you are not so bothered. You tell yourself that ‘this too shall pass’.
 
Know this: Flexibility, brain flexibility is like a muscle… The more you flex it, the bigger it grows. It helps you to work through the problem by adapting to the specific constraints and finding other ways to complete the tasks.
 
Stress management
 
There isn’t one strategy that fits all. You need to find what works best for you and in your own context. 
 
Whether it is balancing work, parenting or even the physical disconnection from our coworkers; when we experience these stressful states, we do need time to recover.  Even if it is only to take a 30-minute break (e.g. stepping away from your desk, closing your door or going for a short walk, having a proper lunch, taking a nap etc.  Because if we do not take that break it can ultimately lead to resentment and burnout. The great resignation that we are witnessing could be a result of such stress.
 
We have seen how empathetic organisations and managers have been – while organisations have been stretching, they have given time off, gratitude or wellness days, and managers have been trained to deal with their team members more sensitively.
 
Know this: Taking a break, managing our reaction to stressful situation, and using stress to better our performance can help in adapting and reaching our goals.
 
 
If you read through, the takeaways of all the points above, what matters most is our reaction to setbacks. Our reactions are in our control, and we can learn to change them. It is what you say to yourself afterwards that is going to determine how quickly you bounce back and recover, especially when we are in the middle of disruptive times like now. Bring your whole self to this exercise of ‘building resilience’. We must intentionally regulate our inner world especially during difficult times by giving ourselves the space to call things as they are. But more important is how we learn and grow from the challenges and setbacks we face in life. 
 
To quote my teenaged son, “Resilience is a stat. Life is a game.” What are you doing to improve your stats? 
 
The author is senior client director, Ipsos India.