The playing out of recent events has had us all going through a roller-coaster of emotions. Some of us will have felt anger perhaps taking it out on the people around us, some of us will have felt curious to learn new skills, some of us will have felt like curling up into an anxious ball, worrying about what this means for the future.

The same event can cause quite different reactions in different people. 

We could think that it’s the events – like lockdown – that have caused our reactions. In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the principle is that it’s not the actual event that has caused our reaction, but our interpretation of the event i.e. it’s our interpretation of lockdown that causes our reaction and behaviour. Cognitive behavioural coaching (CBC) goes on to suggest that our reaction and behaviour is a function of our environment, thoughts, feelings and physiology. 

And so, if we were to change any one or combination of our environment, thoughts, feelings and physiology, we could change our reaction and our behaviour, demonstrating some choice and an element of control over a situation that we could feel is entirely outside of our control.

It’s important to be aware of our own resilience, and how we might be able to build resilience for ourselves at times when we are dealing with difficulty.

What exactly is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to deal with adversity. It is a process where we appraise, we cope, and we adapt. And our ability to do this is influenced by what’s going on inside us – our thoughts, our emotions and our physiology.

Our ability to be resilient can enable us to demonstrate more positive reactions and positive behaviour when we are faced with adversity. The ability to be resilient is also correlated with optimism and is more likely to lead us to success.

And the good thing is: resilience is a skill. Some of us may be naturally more resilient than others, but everyone has the capacity to be more resilient and can learn how to develop the capability. 

How can you build resilience?

Resilience can be broken down into a process of three steps:

  1. The trigger situation or event – the adversity
  2. The beliefs that we hold and believe to be true about the event or situation
  3. The reactions and behaviours we display as a consequence of holding those beliefs

Notice how our reactions and behaviours are not a direct result of the adversity we are experiencing, but a result of the beliefs we are holding.

The ABC model, developed by Albert Ellis and adapted by Martin Seligman, is a model that highlights the opportunity in this process to build resilience. 

If we were to take an example to use the model against, being made redundant might be an adverse event that someone is dealing with. And this has resulted in high levels of anxiety. The conclusion that could be landed on is: I am very anxious because I have been made redundant.

With this process, we have skipped the B – the beliefs. We have tied the reactions and behaviour directly to the event. 

If we were to consider beliefs, we might come up with the below:

  • I believe I was not good enough at my job, that’s why they made me redundant
  • I believe I won’t be able to pay the mortgage next month, this is making me anxious
  • I believe I will not find another job in this climate, this is making me scared

This way we start to understand what is driving the behaviours and this opens up options of what could be addressed to help turn reactions and behaviour from negative towards positive.

And the start of this is shifting beliefs. Sometimes our beliefs can be inaccurate, incorrectly assumed or influenced. Questioning our beliefs can help provide a space to open up different perspectives and gather evidence that might help us make the shift. 

So for example, if there is a belief held that ‘I was not good enough at my job’ this could be challenged as much as possible by asking: What would the people you have worked with say about how good you are at your job? What did you do that was good enough or better at your job? What are the other reasons you may have been made redundant?

As alternative beliefs start to be considered, consequences can start to shift. Our reactions and behaviours can start to become more constructive as the focus shifts from what is outside of our control to what we can change. 

With more resilience we can find a sense of positivity and optimism at times of adversity, and a way of being more productive and successful.

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Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash