How to Build Resilience and Wellbeing
Some 6 months along in a time of COVID, the novelty might have worn off. As we adapt to a new way of living, its’ important to build strategies for resilience and wellbeing.
What Makes Someone Resilient?
We have discovered that resilience is a trait you can cultivate and develop. We have observed this for leaders who adapt to change and challenge, who strive to learn in the midst of disruption and who continuously seek possibility, no matter their circumstance.
Most fundamentally, resilience reflects our capacity to ‘bounce back’ when we face disappointment, failure, defeat or something we may not have expected. COVID presents as one such ‘setback’.
A resilient person may look at this time of COVID a little differently. They accept what’s happening – even if they don’t like it, they look for the lessons and adjust what they’re doing (day in day out) to adapt, they look forward with confidence in their ability to adjust and achieve and they work on the story they’re telling, shifting any negative narratives to boost mood and generate more positive emotions. They’re more likely to be benefitting from reflective practice, in constructive communication with others and looking for new and innovative ways to adjust course.
How Does Resilience Relate to Wellbeing?
Wellbeing reflects how you feel about yourself and your life. Wellbeing includes your physical, mental, emotional and social health.
A person with good wellbeing may demonstrate positive relationships with others, family and friends, fulfilling work, a nutritional diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, good work-life balance, healthy self-esteem, a sense of enough money, an optimistic outlook, a sense of realistic and achievable goals, purpose or meaning in life, the ability to adapt and a sense of living in a fair society.
We’ve identified that resilience supports wellbeing and good wellbeing enhances resilience. What’s common to both is the quality of narrative you’re ‘living in’ as an individual, the corresponding emotions and moods that you’re generating and a sense of being ‘with others’ to gain perspective, buoy optimism and expand possibilities. We offer high a few leverage strategies that enhance both below.
Strategy 1 – Create a Positive Narrative
As human beings we live in stories. We are born into narratives that help us make sense of our lives, our purpose and what life is all about. We rarely take the time to reflect on the quality of this narrative and whether it serves us in generating the life we most want.
COVID is one such opportunity. For many, this time of reduced business or employment has created the chance to reflect on what really matters, and how satisfied we are with the lives we’ve been busy crafting. If this reflective time has been hard to find in recent years, perhaps you’ve found yourself in new questions about what makes your life meaningful and fulfilling? This is perfectly normal. You may have also identified parts of life that you’d like to change or invest in differently in the future.
If we asked you to write a story about your what’s happening now, would it be more positive or negative?
Would you adopt an optimistic stance about what’s happening and your hope for the future, or would it be more negative in nature and focused on what’s missing and what’s not working?
If you find yourself more in the negative domain, the good news is that this is something you can change. Because you are the generator of your story or narrative, you get to question it, reflect on how the quality of your narrative has been ‘playing out’ in your life and above all, you get to change it.
To begin, try switching the negative phrases you have about yourself and the future with more neutral or generative ones. For example, instead of ‘this is a nightmare’ try ‘this is an interesting challenge’, which automatically kickstarts your imagination into ‘solving the challenge’. Or, instead of ‘there’s no chance we’ll get through this’, what if you said ‘I wonder what ways we can get through this?’
When you ‘try on’ new ways of interpreting what’s happening you can open possibilities in the future.
Reinterpreting your story is a choice you can make any day and one of the most powerful moves you can make to begin shaping your future, building resilience and wellbeing.
Strategy 2 – Shift to a Constructive Mood
The quality of your story impacts and generates your mood. Some moods and emotions open you towards innovation, opportunity and action and others have the opposite effect, seeming to close things off. For example, the mood of acceptance has you be able to ‘work with’ what’s happening in your outside world, whereas the mood of resentment has you opposing or fighting what’s happening, feeling frustrated about not being able to influence what’s happening.
Moods typically reflect the ‘story’ or narrative you have about yourself and the world. They can reflect your habitual thinking patterns and play out in the way you speak, think and feel about your future and what is /what is not possible.
To discover your mood, begin by asking whether you are opposing what’s happening around COVID, or are you in more of an accepting mood? If you’re opposing, you might find yourself feeling frustrated, angry, feeling no hope, or feeling anxious and wanting to control matters. Conversely, if you’re in a more accepting space, you might find yourself feeling open to what’s happening, actively searching for opportunities despite what’s presented, in a space of curiosity, or wonder or feeling as though you’re ready to meet the challenge.
Do you want to remain in the opposing position, or would you prefer to be more able to ‘go with’ what’s happening in a more adventurous mindset?
If you have discovered your mood is more opposing by nature, that’s OK, but it need not be this way, and there are ways you can shift it. In order to shift your mood, you’ll need to be willing to revisit the narrative you’re generating, and this can be tough. You might have been living with this story and built your identity around it – you can often be blind to unhelpful moods like anxiety, resignation and resentment.
We have a few questions you can use as a self-coaching option to help shift your mood. This process begins by tuning in and being present, and then following the questions in a deliberate way to identify a new way of seeing an old situation, event or person.
- What is happening for you now, in this moment?
- What story are you telling yourself about the situation?
- Is what are you telling yourself absolutely true?
- What other ways could there be to interpret this situation?
- What are you opposing/fighting against – what are you not accepting?
- How would it be for you ‘now’ if you stopped opposing or fighting against the situation?
- Is it possible for you to accept what’s happening?
- What new mood are you now present to?
By asking these questions in succession, taking the time to reflect, and really challenging your own story, you can begin an important mood migration. This will help you feel differently. Moods of acceptance, hope, wonder and ambition will help you better navigate these COVID times.
Strategy 3 – Stay Connected, Explore Possibilities and Communicate Often
Right now, is a good time to stay in constructive conversations and to explore what you’re thinking and feeling with your support network. Think of the people who offer you positive ways of interpreting what’s happening, who encourage you to be your ‘best self’ and who can find possibilities no matter what they’re dealt.
This does not mean that every day should be a ‘great one’ and that others exist to validate your ideas. What it does mean is that the community you surround yourself with can offer a good balance of conversation, reflection and on occasion, challenge you to see beyond what you can and what limits you.
Consider connecting with or forming a group friends and colleagues and creating space and time each week to engage in conversations for wellbeing. This just needs to start with a ‘check in’ on how each of you is going in the various aspects of life and each person offering generous listening. These conversations by nature can be generative. They may focus on a special theme, a topic of interest, world events, or even a book you choose to read together.
When we say generative, we mean that ‘what comes up’ in conversation can create new possibilities for you and others. New ways to think and new perspectives. Depending on who you converse with or who’s in your group, making the space to have these kinds of conversations can be a way to normalise what’s happening and create different futures together. This may also shift your narrative and mood at the same time?
There are many more strategies we can offer to enhance resilience and wellbeing, but for now try these three and see what difference a new story, a more constructive mood and new conversations can make.