In my last blog, I talked about what resilience is and the many ways Ive heard resilience described. Here I hope to develop that understanding and provide practical ideas for building your resilience.
What does science tell us?
Research suggests that resilience begins with an awareness of how things impact us. You will have heard people saying things like, I got a lump in my throat or I felt a weight had been lifted. Whilst these might be their best way of describing their reaction to something, they will be based on very real in the moment sensations they experienced.
Those sensations are often, though not always, linked to emotions. How do we work out what the emotions are, and name them?
For example, how do we know that what we’re feeling is determination or fear or joy? The same goes for excitement, anticipation, anger, or frustration. Did you know that scientists like Dr Alan Watkins, have identified over 2000 individual emotions? How many could you name; how do we know what emotion we’re feeling in any one moment?
If you are trying to answer this question, you might find yourself describing sensations you experience that you relate to, one or other emotion, e.g. I get butterflies in my stomach when I’m excited, or I feel sick when I’m scared etc. (As I referenced in my previous blog …….these sensations can be described in different ways by different people, and in some instances can be caused by the same physiological event, i.e the adrenalin that gives one a sensation of butterflies could also be described by another as feeling sick).
The work of neuroscientists, has helped us to understand that those physical sensations are a result of an action taken by the brain, possibly the secretion of one hormone or another.
That same research shows us that becoming attuned to the sensations in our bodies is the first step to developing our resilience.
Once we recognise what’s going on for us, we can accept it as normal and human; a healthy sign that our body and brain are doing the best they can to ensure we survive and thrive.
Unfortunately, our brains can’t always get it right! In order for the brain to take the correct action, it will delve into its historical database, to find a similar experience, and from that make its best prediction. Sometimes there isn’t accurate data to draw upon and our reaction is unhelpful.
The current pandemic is repeatedly being referred to as ‘unprecedented’. Therefore it is not surprising that we are not always responding in the ‘perfect’ way.
The good news is, with the right support we can ‘reprogramme’ the brain, improving its responses so that they better serve us.
This reprogramming requires us to recognise and accept the sensations we experience and determine whether the response helps or hinders us.
Where do we start?
You can begin right now….by considering what is going on for you here and now.
One to try: Just close your eyes and allow yourself to consider everything you are feeling.
This might be an emotion – where are you feeling it? I mean quite literally where in your body? For some this might be their stomach, or their shoulders, or their throat, it will be unique to every individual.
It might be a sensation unrelated to an emotion. You might be aware of a pain in your back, or the twitch of a muscle. Maybe the pressure of your laces on your shoe, and therefore your foot.
What does that have to do with your emotions or indeed your resilience?
Well, if you give yourself time to become familiar with these things when you are ‘comfortable’ then it will become easier to recognise and pay attention to them when you are agitated or reacting to a given situation.
If you recognise them in a moment of agitation, then you are a step closer to deciding whether they are serving you or hindering you.
Once you’ve made that distinction, you are able to embrace the experience as serving you or challenge it as a hinderance. Then you can begin to take action to retrain the brain, and reduce hinderance and increase service.
This development is unlikely to happen overnight. It is likely to take patience and practice over a period of time, and some, including me, consider this so important, to our general health and wellbeing, that we build time into our everyday for this focused attention.
That may not be for you, but ask yourself, are you currently being the person you want to be? If you’ve read to here, there’s a chance there are feelings, or responses, you’d rather not have. If right now you’d rather live with them, that’s absolutely your prerogative. Coaching is all about respecting your choice as an individual, to do what is right for you.
Next week I’ll share some practical steps to help you retrain your brain!