Life is full of ups and downs, and we will all inevitably face unexpected setbacks or mishaps from time to time. You might come up against something with far-reaching significance in your life, like the end of a relationship, or it may be several little things all at once: the office printer that decides to stop working shortly before an important meeting at work. Whatever the situation, we all need some amount of resilience to cope when things don’t go to plan. This is particularly relevant in the current climate, as we face up to the challenges, both personal and professional, posed by Covid-19, and our need for resilience has rarely been in greater demand.
Being resilient is not simply a case of being unaffected by issues and challenges and moving on as if they never happened. It’s about recognising and acknowledging the stress and difficult emotions that we feel, and using both our inner strength and support systems, such as friends and family, to work our way through the difficulties that they present. It is wielding each setback as a learning experience and becoming stronger each time. Knowing that you are resilient enough to go through the crucible and come out the other side will give you the self-confidence to do it the next time you have trouble.
However, we often have a tendency to think that we are more resilient than we actually are. A recent study from Ohio State University showed that while 83% of participants said they had ‘high’ levels of resilience, only 57% actually scored as such. This mismatch can partly be attributed to the fact that our level of natural resilience is hardwired into our subconscious minds, stemming from the experiences in our early life. Some of us are naturally resilient, finding it easy to carry on when things go awry, whereas others find this a lot harder and can require much more time and support to move past challenges in life. And some people can also have a little too much resilience: the person whose gut reaction to a setback is simply to ‘get on with it’ may be pushing away the self-reflection necessary to deal with it. Our innate level of resilience is determined – through no fault of our own – by the unique and formative combination of events that make us who we are.
But this is not to say that our ability to be resilient is set in stone throughout our lives. Our resilience is contextual to a certain extent: we all respond to different situations in different ways, and what might be a highly stressful situation for one person may be relatively easy to bounce back from for someone else. By delving into the subconscious roots of your resilience you can begin to understand yourself and the particular situations which may trigger you out of your comfort zone. This can then help you to form strategies to mitigate the effects of these stresses in the future. For example, you might work on your ability to communicate your feelings to others when facing a setback, allowing you to deal with it more effectively.
Traditionally, there has only really been one way of exploring this sort of embedded subconscious activity: therapy. Be it time, money or even the stigma attached to it, most of us have been prevented from getting help one way or another. It is more accessible than ever to infiltrate these personal insights but still in a professional way: we can Skype with psychologists and even use new technology with online tests like The Cambridge Code to achieve this ‘X-ray of the mind’.
The world is changing faster than ever. Uncertainty remains high and nobody truly knows what life after Covid-19 will look like – financial, emotional and social worries are likely to loom large for many of us for some time to come, not to mention all of the other issues that we face as a ‘normal’ part of our day-to-day lives. Given that you can’t control what life throws at you, take solace in the fact that a large part of the solution lies within yourself.
While our subconscious mind does shape how resilient we are naturally, this certainly doesn’t mean that it has to dictate your response to every pitfall you encounter. By taking control of who you are and working to improve your resilience you will be able to prepare yourself for life’s challenges in the best possible way.