We asked Anna Glynn, Positive Psychology teacher and expert on wellbeing her advice
Despite us all dealing with the challenges that have been brought about by the Coronavirus, are you finding that some people seem to be coping better than others? Rather than wallowing in negativity, they appear to be getting on with their lives and may even be doing better now than before. Do you ever question what sort of super-power they must be drawing upon that enables them to rise above the perils of this pandemic?
The answer might not be a super-power after all. These people’s ability to not only survive but potentially thrive during tough times may come down to their levels of resilience.
Resilience is thought of as our ability to adapt well and even ‘bounce back’ from trauma, tragedy, significant stress or constant change. Masten and Reed (2002), two key resilience researchers, suggest that resilience can be seen as “a pattern of positive adaption in the face of significant adversity or risk.” Resilience can help us not only recover from difficult experiences but it can also enable us to learn valuable experiences, and grow and develop in the face of challenges like those we are currently facing.
The good news for all of us is that resilience is not a fixed trait that people have or do not have. But rather, it can be learned and developed. Yet like a muscle, resilience needs to be strengthened through our actions, thoughts and behaviours.
How can I intentionally build resilience?
Firstly, it’s important to consider the thinking habits or the explanatory styles we adopt in relation to the difficulties we face.
According to Martin Seligman, a clinical psychologist, who has studied resilience for over 30 years, if you have an optimistic explanatory style, you will view bad events as temporary challenges to overcome, that you can quickly bounce back from. On the other hand, if you have a pessimistic explanatory style, you see bad events as permanent and catastrophic, and you are more prone to restlessness and to give up.
Our explanatory style comes into play when we think about why bad things happen and what impact they will have on us. And they are not necessarily accurate assessments of the situation. Depending on which thinking habit we adopt, this can either help or hinder our ability to respond resiliently to bumps in the road.
Right now, we need to be mindful of the stories we are telling ourselves in relation to the Coronavirus crisis. Do you tend to be more optimistic or pessimistic in explaining the current challenges to yourself? Remember, you have the capacity to choose your own thoughts and the actions you can take to get through and potentially even grow during adversity.
What else strengthens resilience?
In addition to considering your explanatory style, you can increase your resilience through the following intentional activities:
- Develop your internal resources such as your strengths, and try and use them as much as possible each day
- Build your connections with others who can provide you with social support
- Foster your wellbeing by taking care of both your physical and mental health
- Find opportunities to contribute to something bigger than you by connecting to your purpose
- Increase your experience of positive emotions as negative emotions can decrease your ability to cope
- Infuse positive meaning into the negative events you experience
- Understand the opportunity of post-traumatic growth.
We can’t forget however that the challenges provided by COVID-19 will impact everyone differently. Some of us will adapt more easily to the changes to our work, school and lifestyle, and potentially even grow from this experience. Yet others will suffer much more and struggle for a longer period of time.
For all of us, it is important to be kind to ourselves and self-compassionate whilst we adjust to this new way of living.
Although negative events like our present reality are awful to go through, by building our resilience, we will be more able to cope not only now but when we face other difficulties in the future.
- Hone, L. (2019). The 3 Secrets of Resilient People. Ted Talks.
- Ryan, M. J. (2014). How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For. Conari Press
- Sales, L. (2019). Any Ordinary Day.
- Seligman, M. E. P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Alfred A. Knopf.
- Steinberg, G. (2015). Super- Resilience – How to FALL UP. Ted Talks.
- Van Cuylenberg, H. (2019). The Resilience Project. Ebury Australia