Resilience is a term often used when talking about mental wellbeing, but it’s not useful if it is not understood properly. Here we will introduce the term in four easy steps.

Bouncing back

When we are faced with overwhelming demands, pressures at work and home and challenges managing our different roles and commitments, we can feel overwhelmed and as though the situation will never end. Being resilient is about bouncing back from these situations.

Let’s use resilient metals as an analogy. They are able to bend under the pressure that might be placed on them and then, when the pressure is released they spring back into their original shape. When we talk about resilience in people we are referring to the ability to quickly recover from pressures and demands and ‘bounce back’ to be our normal selves.

Resilience and bouncing back are about managing stress and getting back to normal, not being completely floored by the challenges we face.

Flexibility

Resilience is also about being flexible and adaptable. When we are dealing with difficult situations, we experience physiological arousal and negative emotions. This makes it hard for us to think clearly and find solutions to the problems we are facing.

By building up a set of skills that help us to calm our physiological responses to threat, manage our negative emotions and switch on our thinking brains we can take a measure of the situation and work out what needs to be done.

Resilient people experience all the same physiological and emotional reactions as the rest of us. But they are able to calm themselves down quickly, think flexibly and problem-solve to find ways to adapt to the challenges they are facing.

Thriving

Because resilience helps us to manage our reactions and adapt to difficult situations it opens us up to the possibility of thriving in the face of adversity. Not only does resilience enable you to bounce back to your original self, it actively draws on skills you never knew you had, to help you come through challenging situations and build confidence in yourself.

Research has shown that people who have successfully navigated some threat or adversity in their lives are more confident and more resilient when facing future challenges. Through understanding our own skills and capabilities we learn self-belief and this confidence helps us to grow and thrive through difficult times.

Growth

Research tells us that those resilient people who have come through highly stressful life events to adapt and thrive, also grow and develop new skills along the way. For example, the climber Joe Simpson who experienced a catastrophic climbing accident and was told he would never climb again, not only bounced back and did start climbing again, but also found new skills as a writer and an inspirational speaker as a result of this experience. How do we know this? He wrote a book about it.

Resilience is all about bouncing back, managing emotions, thinking flexibly, building self-confidence and thriving in the face of challenge or change. Not only this, for the most resilient people among us, adversity serves as a springboard to growth and development.

This may sound completely out of your reach, but resilience is something that can be learnt, even if the skills don’t come naturally to you. This is what we teach through our training. Follow us on Twitter for regular tips on how to build your resilience.