Being resilient through changing times

07.08.18

Change is one of the few certainties in life. Whether it’s at work or at home, a shift can sometimes bring with it anxiety and/or stress.

Being resilient through times of change and being able to adapt quickly can help us manage pressure and stress, and develop strategies to pull from when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes it might feel that resilience is ‘easier said than done’, but there are small steps we can take to help build our resilience and manage the tough times.

Why resilience, and where do we get some?

According to Dr Tim Sharp, consultant psychologist, “resilience is the ability to bounce back from or work through adversity; to cope with change and challenges. We all have the ability to do this, but some have a greater mastery of the skills than others. The good news though is that we can all learn to become more resilient and as a result, to function better through difficult times.”

Organisational psychologist Stuart Haydock agrees, saying that we all have a threshold for pressure and stress, and that going beyond it can start to wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. To Sharp’s point, Haydock says we can extend this threshold with a few lifestyle changes as well as emotional and cognitive strategies. Here’s his tips on how:

 

Embracing change

Professor Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania suggests one approach to managing the type of changes we encounter on a day-to-day basis. She explains that navigating change and challenges can benefit from a strong passion and purpose; knowing what’s really important and why is vital to keep striving for the professional end goal – whatever that may be.

Duckworth emphasises the importance of hope, or the belief that nothing bad lasts forever and that taking positive action can help to achieve better outcomes in the workplace and across careers. While we also need to learn to deal with difficult emotions and circumstances, and not just push them away, Duckworth suggests that also making positive change through ‘deliberate action’ can make a big difference. She suggests:

  • Identifying what will make a difference
  • Working out what needs to be done; and
  • Consciously focusing on it until the desired results are achieved.1

Another leading researcher in this field is the ‘Father of Positive Psychology’, Professor Martin Seligman. He also places importance on the idea of hope, and developed the PERMA model that describes the key ingredients for lasting wellbeing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment / Achievement.2

 

Tips on how to cope with change

If change is inevitable and something we’ll all have to face, then the more equipped we are to cope with it, the better-off we may be. Positive emotions play an important part here, as some research has shown that they could help in reducing stress and depression.3

Researchers from the Universities of Buffalo and California have also concluded that change and stress might not be all bad. In fact, they have observed that many people who experience difficult life events go on to report feeling stronger and better about life afterwards. Though this may not be the case for everyone, incorporating more of the positive may be one strategy that could help us manage life’s challenges and uncertainties.

 

Reframing the negative as a positive

By building more resilience we help make the most of some difficult situations, and perhaps gain some insight from our struggles.

To start incorporating more positivity when it comes to change, Dr Sharp’s suggests:

  • Remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing. Keep things in perspective and do whatever you can to keep sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Taking care of your physical health and wellbeing. It’s hard to stay strong if you’re exhausted. So, keep active, eat well and ensure you get enough sleep and rest.
  • Looking for the positives. This isn’t to suggest you should deny the reality of the situation you’re facing, but there are always different ways to look at situations and seeing the good, even if it’s in the longer term, can help.
  • Not feeling you need to do it all on your own. Reach out and ask for help when you need it, even if it’s just talking things through with someone you trust. Coping with change, especially in a work situation, is often a team effort.

You can read more on building resilience here.

  1. Duckworth, A. Grit: why passion and resilience are the secrets to success. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Harper Collins (2016)
  2. Harvard Business Review. Building Resilience [Online] Accessed June 2018. Available from https://hbr.org/2011/04/building-resilience
  3. Fredrickson, B., Tugade, M., Waugh, C. and Larkin, G. What good are positive emotions in crises? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, Vol 84 (2) 365-376.
  4. Seery, M., Holman, E. and Silver, R. Whatever does not kill us: cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability and resilience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010, 99 (6), 1025-1041.