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Being resilient in difficult times

Written by: CABA
Published on: 2 May 2019

bunch of friends sitting in countryside

Pic: Matteus Ferrero, Pexels

There are any number of definitions for resilience, most of which refer to the ability to 'bounce back from adversity' and 'withstand stressful situations'. However, you can only do it so many times before you are exhausted and no longer have the resources to cope. 

Being resilient is also difficult if you’re currently at work, as your working life has likely turned upside down from a change of work environment or you have been placed on furlough with a threat of redundancy over your head. Your work life balance is just as important to building your resilience.  

If you’re finding it hard to stay calm during the coronavirus outbreak and other tough times, here are some tips for emotional resilience to help you cope with the pandemic, including reframing and self-care. 

What is resilience? 

In basic terms, psychological resilience is the ability about developing behaviours and habits to help you remain calm and move forward without negative consequences. Developing resilience doesn’t mean that you never feel pressure or stress during a situation or times of crisis, but it means you will be in a better position to cope with stress and have effectives ways of dealing with it. 

Resilience is also about recognising the approach of the difficult situation(s) and doing something about it before things escalate to the point of a stress response which leads to negative thoughts and feeling overwhelmed. It’s about stopping what you’re doing, and re-evaluating it to have positive effects. 

In the same way that a physically healthy person has a better chance of recovering from injury or illness, someone who is mentally healthy and equipped with sufficient mind tools will be better placed to recover from difficult, stressful and traumatic situations and this is resilience. 

"A good half of the art of living is resilience". 
Alain de Botton 

Building your resilience 

Whether being resilient at work or in general, everyone of us can increase our resilience, all you need is to be prepared to try. Things won't change overnight, but with determination and practice you can develop a new healthier way of thinking and behaving, increasing your resilience and improving your chances of remaining mentally healthy and staying calm and confident in difficult times. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

1. Evaluate your situation 

Ask yourself: 

  • Could there be another way of looking at this? 

  • Do I need more information? 

  • How will i benefit from the way I am thinking/feeling/doing? 

We all have a tendency towards negativity, called negativity bias. So ask yourself, how else could I interpret this event? What is the evidence for and against this thought? How might things improve if I adopt a different interpretation? 

2. Rest 

We all know how important it is to our physical and mental health to get a good night's sleep. Current advice suggests 7 – 9 hours for the majority of adults.  Sleep improves cognition, concentration, productivity and performance, it maximises problem solving skills and improves memory. 

Rest isn't just about sleep. Around every 90 minutes take breaks away from your desk, your computer, your phone. Research shows that brief (as little as 5 minutes) mental breaks will help you stay focussed on your task, help you to retain information, make connections and generally be more productive. Not taking breaks leads to confusion, emotional pain, increased pressure and eventually stress. 

3. Stay hydrated 

Your brain is mostly water, so drinking it provides you with a number of benefits, it: 

  • Helps to balance your mood and emotions  

  • Reduces stress 

  • Maintains memory function 

  • Improves concentration and cognition 

4. Reflect on your successes/achievements 

Keep a success diary, write down the things you have achieved, that have gone well for you today or this week. The more we reflect on the positive, the more positive we become. You could even reward yourself in some way or simply tell yourself well done. 

5. Developing a Strong Social Network 

While it can be difficult to talk about, it’s important to have people you can confide in. Having a network of caring and supportive people can help you during the tough times. Talking to a friend or family member won’t make troubles go away, sharing your feelings will help you process your thoughts and feelings. Getting support and feedback will help you come up with possible solutions to your problems. 

There are many people out there having the same thoughts and feelings and social networks can be a place to connect with like minded individuals. By reaching out and sharing your experiences, you can get the support and feedback you need to build your resilience.  

6. Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It improves mental health and functioning and increases emotion regulation and self-control. 

CABA has an online mindfulness course for beginners you can access here.  

7. Ask for help 

It is a sign of strength to know when you need help and be able to ask for it. CABA offers free confidential counselling. Other support may be available through your organisation or check out the BACP website for a counsellor near you. 

And finally… 

Practice resilience rather than inaction. Use some of the ideas above and persevere to make them a habit rather than your habit becoming one of living with stress. 

Resilient people live longer, happier, healthier lives. 

CABA provides lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members. 

If you’re worried about the impact of the coronavirus on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you