How do we Build Resilience?

Or, is it innate?

I’ve always thought I was pretty resilient, capable of working long hours with little sleep. Juggling multiple projects, constant travel, relearning how to use my iPhone after an update, facing major setbacks in my life and still carrying on with a smile and with energy.

I feel ashamed when I think of my judgment of others, in the past, who haven’t seemed resilient … who have said they are too tired to engage, too weak to continue, too defeated to fight … I always thought you simply needed mental resilience to overcome physical depletion.

And to some degree I do think this is right. The thing is though, everyone’s mental resilience is different. And like any difference, some of which may be more visible, we need to embrace it and accept other’s boundaries and appreciate that if we were all the same life would be dull!

I find myself in an interesting situation right now where my resilience is and has been fully put to the test during this year. Coronavirus, and its myriad complications for me, took me out of work for 7 months this year so I have had to find true resilience to fight through that, to remain positive and optimistic for my health and my work. It’s been tough. Here I am, still with some ‘long Covid’ symptoms, getting back to work only to find there is very little of it to get back to.

As organisations tighten their belts to settle in for a recession that will follow the global pandemic, storing funds to protect them and their people for the rainy day that surely will appear in a few months, my service offer is seen mostly as a luxury. Leadership development, while understood as vital in more buoyant times, is seen, understandably to some extent, as less necessary than protecting jobs in the medium term.

So, I’m in an odd space, my identity, which hitherto has been wrapped up with my work, is being challenged. Little to no work, my purpose being called into question, my financial stability in a place of uncertainty, all forcing yet more resilience to be drawn down from my resilience bank. And I have to be honest, the bank is becoming a bit depleted.

I have been distracting myself with more creative pursuits — illustrating a dear friends stories that he has written for his new granddaughter, writing a short play for a group of friends to perform for another friend’s special birthday, penning blogs that come from the heart and hopefully start an honest and open conversation amongst us so we can find mutual support in very difficult times…however, none of this, while emotionally fulfilling, puts food on my table or pays my mortgage.

How many of us are in this situation? And what can we collectively do about it? Talking is a good thing, sharing our situations honestly and openly. I don’t feel ashamed of my worry and concern about where I am, I don’t feel like I am to blame nor that I am a failure … I see this for what it is, we are in an unprecedented time that is bringing with it unprecedented actions and protections (in every way — from lockdowns to reducing spend).

In a way, I am lucky! There are people in many industries who have literally no work and no financial support … at least I have a trickle of income. So, resilience for me in this situation is to always see the silver lining.

Where am I going with this? Well, I guess that I am leading towards an offer and an ask.

The offer is that if any one of you reading this is feeling in a similar place to me — fighting to remain positive and content, please be open about that and please reach out to me, to others, to someone … let’s share and talk to protect our mental health, my email is at the bottom of this blog. Mutual support is a big thing.

The ask is that we all take time to understand that resilience is a finite thing — we all have it to some extent although to differing degrees. For some it is strong, for others it is less present and there are many places in between — and I see now, with more clarity than ever before, that it is contextual. I am a strongly resilient being who can be positive in the face of adversity and fight off the most difficult of situations — mentally, physically and actually, and yet even I am being challenged at this moment in time!

Take care of those around you — be more than kind. Pay attention to what might lie behind the story being presented to you, because in that story there may lie a truth that is difficult to utter aloud (and that may contain a cry for help!).

So, how do we build resilience? I think, potentially, through not being or feeling like we are alone…(in the first instance).

Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at tania@twcreativecoaching.com.

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