Expressions of Resilience

Resilience doesn’t look the same in everyone, or even look the same in a person from one day to the next. Rather than a “have or have not” situation, it is a spectrum. A spectrum through which we can advance with practice and intention. Humans are natural born adaptors. Building resilience in ourselves and our teams is possible with a little training.

In order to achieve the goal of resilience, we first need to understand its dynamic nature. There is no stagnant target for us to reach. Defined in psychology terms, resilience is a process. It is expressed through a combination behaviors, comprising our attitudes towards, thoughts about and actions on a source of resistance. Most simply, resilience is a measure of how well we adapt when faced with adversity. Psychologists recognize four areas of resilience. A person may have extreme resilience in while area, while they struggle in another. The four areas are emotional, physical, mental and social. Let’s discover how to bolster resilience in each of these areas.

For emotional resilience, find meaning.

This area comprises our moral compass, fears, and resolve. When our fight or flight response is triggered, emotional resilience allows us to make a rational decision. It is our stamina, the voice in our head which says, “Have courage. Think it through.” We strengthen this by focusing on our purpose.

Emotional resilience can be illustrated through two drastically different scenarios. On one extreme, we have an ancient ancestor facing a saber toothed tiger. On the other, we have a teenager learning to work a reception desk. Both individuals face something scary, be it a death bringing hairy beast or a frustrated adult needing you to solve a problem you haven’t encountered before. Both individuals have an emotional response to their situation. However, reacting with a first impulse doesn’t assure success. Emotional resilience is shown when emotions are not given the keys to our actions.

Cultivate emotional resilience by intentionally choosing an optimistic attitude and preparing yourself for tough situations. Practice mindfulness exercise to train your prefrontal cortex to react with calm and logical actions. Reflect on past outcomes, and plan steps needed for success in the future. Find others who inspire you. Challenges are temporary. Remember to have courage, and think it though.

For physical resilience, seek wellness.

Physical resilience is not the ability to lift 500 pounds in a dead lift. It is the willingness to try, again and again. Some people show their physical resilience by working on their feet for a long shift. Some show it by chasing around after a toddler all day. Others show it by sitting through chemotherapy treatment. It is telling yourself, “Push a little harder for a little longer”.

Don’t be too eager to show your endurance through physical discomfort. Physical resilience includes sustainable behaviors. Employers can help their teams by encouraging practices that allow for quality meal breaks, rest and sleep patterns. Pay attention to heart and respiratory health. Remember, a key factor in physical resilience is the aspect of play. We push harder and longer when we enjoy what we do.

For mental resilience, maintain healthy thinking.

What we say inside our own heads has more impact on our life than anything we ever say out loud. We are defined by our perspectives, the permissions we give, and the labels we assign to ourselves. Words have power. When we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we prove ourselves right. Mental resilience is telling yourself, “You can do this.”

An absolutely adorable, and relevant, illustration of mental resilience is the song by Kenny Rogers called The Greatest. It tells the story of a little boy who tells himself he is the greatest baseball player of them all. Several times, he throws a baseball in the air and swings his bat, missing the ball each time. Undaunted, he continues to throw the ball, with a swing and a miss each time. Even so, he maintains his perspective that he is the greatest baseball player of them all. He gives himself permission to fail at hitting the ball, and instead changes his label, from hitter, to pitcher. The song ends with him saying, “even I didn’t know I could pitch that good.”

His flexibility of thinking allowed him to find a success to celebrate. For ourselves and our teams, we can foster our mental resilience by doing the same. Choose your words carefully. Offer constructive comments and exclude demoralizing language. Reflect on outcomes and celebrate the small and foreseen successes.

For social resilience, make connections.

The rule of three tells us we see long term detrimental biological changes after 3 minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food, and three months without companionship. Deep in our biology, we are social creatures. Ture, introverts value alone time much more than extroverts. No matter your preferred level, we all benefit from social interaction. Strong social networks provide us with reduced stress, lower rates of depression, and decreased memory loss, while increasing our dopamine production, also known as the happy chemical. Social resilience is knowing “I belong”.

This past year has seen a large scale switch from the traditional communal office atmosphere to a home office. Despite “Zoom fatigue” and isolation, it is important to maintain the sense of understanding and connection which was afforded to us when our coworkers were only a few steps away. Employers must work to find ways to sustain workplace relationships. Its time to get creative and find what works for your team. Lake Geneva Team Building Adventures is here to help! Call on us to help your team stay resilient.