Newsletter: Building Your Resilience

Break, Topple, or Bend and Recover

Resiliency has become a buzzword among parents of over-scheduled and over committed children, among admission officers and professors contending with frazzled college students, in the arena of workplaces the word applies to individuals, teams, and companies which is where our focus is today.

Resiliency:  1) The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.  2) An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Let’s look at the American Psychological Association definition of a resilient person:  One who may bend but does not break when confronted with adversity, enabling him or her to bounce back relatively quickly. Biologically, resilience is the ability to modulate and constructively harness the stress response—a capacity essential to both physical and mental health.

Because resiliency levels can be built up and improved, let’s look at the benefits of straining a body with a stressor.

Remember the Bio-Sphere 2 experience? Biosphere 2, located in Oracle, Arizona was designed to be a closed ecological system to explore the viability of such a closed system to support human life for a period of 2 years. Though neither attempt in the 90’s was successful (click here to read more details on Biosphere 2) , we can learn about the benefits of stressors in building resiliency.

It turned out that trees in Biosphere 2, as they grew and matured within the protected windless, storm-less, environmental cocoon of Biosphere 2, failed to grow a sufficiently stable root system and the trees failed to grow strong trunks with reaction wood. When the trees reached a certain height and mass, they simply toppled to the ground.  It turns out that without the stress of the wind moving the tree and causing the growth of reaction wood, the tree did not have the resiliency to support its own weight.

So it is with individuals, teams and organizations.  Stress and setbacks are part of any endeavor an they serve to strengthen us….and those who react to them productively make progress and grow in their ability to cope. The difficulties cause us to bend under the burden, but then we recover and build the strong roots and frame that will benefit us in the next storm. Sheltering outside of a stressful environment for a period of time rather than experiencing and developing strategies to manage set backs and stress, dwarfs strength needed to grow and maintain posture until we are also in danger of breaking and toppling over.

Boosting Your Resilience

Strategies of boosting your resilience include becoming more mindful, reinterpreting negative events, enhancing positive emotions, becoming physically fit, accepting challenges that will provide stretch opportunities and relevance, and maintaining close and meaningful contacts within your social network.

  • Mindfulness:  How much are you aware and focused on the present moment, acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, sensations. Mindfulness can be increased through meditation and is correlated to well being and perceived health and decreased worry and rumination. Journalling, reflection, or sharing experiences with another are all ways to become aware and increase your mindfulness
  • Interpreting Negative Events:  Failure and tough circumstances are often pre-cursors to breakthroughs that lead to success. The key is to be confident that there is something to be learned, and therefore gained from the experience and to keep moving forward despite the current tough circumstances.
  • Enhancing Positive Emotions:  Engage with your thoughts and circumstances at the present. Determine what you can be thankful for and habitually enter it in a journal. If you are not likely to journal, share what your are thankful for with another person verbally.  Challenge yourself to be consistent and deeply search for the unique things that you are thankful for each day.
  • Physical Fitness and Health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( report that as little as 3 to 5 sessions weekly of 30-60 minute aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities can reap huge benefits.  “Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better”, thus increasing resiliency.
  • Relevance and Challenge: Doing work that matters and being challenged by the tasks that are a part of that work helps build resilience in individuals and in teams.
  • Meaningful Social Connections:  No matter your own personal degree of introversion or extraversion, we are social beings and building meaningful social connections can increase resilience by helping us by building on common challenges and experiences while decreasing isolation.

Personalize your approach by evaluating what your triggers or points of stress are or are likely to be.  Consider how to plan for a healthy and appropriate reaction to a stressful trigger. The more that you anticipate and plan, the greater your resiliency in the midst of crisis.  Complete a free survey worksheet to evaluate your resilience in various areas of your life (click here for worksheet). How did you rate yourself in these areas? What are your priorities that should be addressed in the area of resiliency? What goals arise from those priorities?

We at T Squared Leadership recognize the pressures and challenges modern day working and living yield because we’ve been there too. We offer customized coaching and training designed to build resilience in individuals,  your teams that will benefit your organization.