Do you have ‘a set of flexible, adaptive behavioural, cognitive and emotional responses to change, challenge or adversity’? The answer is quite likely to be ‘no’. So what? People react differently to the same events, influenced largely by how resilient they are. It could be the difference between feeling emotionally overwhelmed and this impacting on your relationships and work, or remaining calm and in control. In other words, it is an important ability to develop.
It is often helpful to consciously reflect on how much capacity you have. Is your ‘jar’ filling up? When it becomes full we don’t have the ability to cope with additional demands and so the smallest thing can cause our emotions to overflow.
We think we need more time when we’re stressed. We don’t. We actually need more space to think.
Thinking about what control we do and don’t have is a good starting point to improving resilience. We spend a huge amount of time worrying and feeling unhappy about things outside of our control. The only outcome this achieves is high emotional arousal. Contrast that with being able to identify having no control and then seeking help from someone who does, or ditching it, accepting that ‘stuff happens’. You might be able to influence other things so instead of fretting about the big picture, break it down and identify specific aspects you can do something about. And then do it. Where you have complete control, the path to reducing stress is in front of you.
To create more mental space, it is helpful to use our observing self. We can increase our capacity to think clearly by ‘zooming out ‘ to see the big picture. This helps us be more objective. An easy way to achieve this is by taking a break – have you noticed how you suddenly have a great idea when you’re in the shower or making a coffee? You’re giving your brain some down time which means your cognitive function improves. So, when you’re feeling tension is on the up, stop struggling on and instead, take some time out.
Ask others how they see the situation. We’re conditioned to be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help or to admit not getting it right. But we’re often too close to be objective and we struggle to see a way out. By involving others, you’re more likely to find a win-win resolution and it increases empathy that strengthens relationships.
Seeing things from others’ points of view is powerful. Step into the shoes of others. What is their motivation? What are their pressures? New insight can reduce stress by changing your perspective.
Finally, zoom back in and refocus on your CHOSEN route which is quite likely to be different one to that which your fight/flight response created.
What are your zoom out questions to ask yourself at the end of each day? They could include: What did I accomplish? Was I on purpose? What would others say about today? How can I do that better next time? What is coming up tomorrow, how am I planning for it to be successful, do I need to ask for help?
Tomorrow I’ll be writing about another feature of resilience: Standing up to your inner critic.
To chat further, drop me a line. email@example.com