Developing resilience strategies – it’s more than just coping

Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, the demand for resilience workshops has never been higher.

Resilience tends to be something we all think we need to develop during times of adversity, rather than something we may rely on during more settled phases.  Yet I think there would be strong evidence that those who have previously invested in developing their resilience will have recovered more quickly during this crisis.  My previous blog talks more about the concept of resilience in general.

What’s the difference between resilience and coping?

Coping is managing, dealing with, tolerating, or minimizing stress and is more of a reactive process.  Some of our coping strategies will be adaptive ones – exercising, planning our time well, sharing our anxieties with others, essentially confronting the problem.  Other coping strategies may be maladaptive – eating more, drinking more, withdrawing from others, over-working, over-exercising.  They don’t address the root cause of the stress.

Resilience, on the other hand, is more focused on developing mental fitness, proactively taking things a step further to enable you to better respond to situations in the future.  This will include some of your adaptive coping strategies.

I like the analogy of going to see the physiotherapist.  When you have an injury you visit a physio to try and find a way to deal with the injury and rehabilitate you back to your previous state.  My experience of physiotherapy has always involved me being discharged at the point at which I’m no longer affected by the injury, then left to my own devices to build my own strength and fitness further.

Relying only on coping strategies is similar to going to the physiotherapist.  Your coping strategies may help return you to your previous state but don’t always equip you to maintain it.  Developing resilience takes it a step further – it’s the point at which you open a Strava account and decide you’re going to push yourself further, get stronger, fitter, faster, whatever your sport requires.  Resilience is training your mind to deal with situations in the future in a better way, adapt more quickly to changing circumstances and recover faster when knocked down.

How are you coping?

This must be the most common question we’re all hearing at the moment.  We’re all no doubt having good and bad days.  The situation is unprecedented and none of us were prepared for it.  Therefore, many of us are unlikely to have a bank of adaptive coping strategies to deal with it.  Most of us are making it up as we go along, particularly the homeschooling part!  This is likely to push many of us to use maladaptive coping strategies on the bad days, just to get us through or to escape the demands.

Below are five simple ways you can think about to start building resilience – moving from rehabilitating to building fitness mentally.  This is about trying to move out of survival mode and to a place where you can think about thriving.  Given the long haul we’re all looking to have to endure during this crisis, survival will only get you so far.

Five quick ways to start building resilience:

  1. Work out your maladaptive coping strategies – try not to rely on these and swap them for more adaptive ones on the bad days.
  2. Focus on thinking optimistically – when bad things happen, focus on the temporary nature of this and don’t let it affect other areas of your life or take it too personally.
  3. Use your strengths – write a list of your strengths and make sure you use them, this will help to build your confidence to confront situations rather than avoid them.
  4. Practice thought awareness – listen to how you talk to yourself and rationally challenge the unfounded negative thoughts.
  5. Keep a stress diary – log the thoughts that wake you up in the middle of the night or take over your mind during the day. Look for the patterns that emerge – you should be able to see the most common and most damaging thoughts. Tackle these as a priority.

If you want to learn more about building resilience strategies for your teams contact us as we have a range of webinars on offer.