We all face setbacks in life but by drawing on our inner strength we can bounce back from them and thrive. Here’s how you can build resilience.

Let’s start by defining what resilience is and who better to set the scene than the great Nelson Mandela?

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

I love that quote because it sums up (in a mere 21 words) the meaning of resilience to me. It’s not just a person’s capacity to endure setbacks or trauma; it’s their ability to bounce back from them.

You may wonder if it’s possible to build resilience, or if it’s just something some people are born with? The good news is, yes, there are ways we can boost our resilience. To do this you need to look at five key areas, often called the five pillars of resilience: energy, future focus, inner drive, flexible thinking and strong relationships.

1: Energy

Our physical health and well-being influence how we deal with difficult situations. Poor sleep, a bad diet, and a lack of physical activity can impact our mood, ability to concentrate and decision-making.

Make sure you exercise regularly as it lowers the levels of stress hormones in our bodies and boosts feel-good chemicals, so it’s bye, bye cortisol, hello endorphins!

Do whatever it is that you enjoy – yoga, dancing, running, skipping or cycling – and vary your regime to avoid boredom kicking in.   

Also monitor the amount of sleep you get. Most people need between seven and nine hours sleep each night. If you often feel tired or wake feeling foggy, make some changes. Banish blinking devices and buzzing phones to ensure your sleep environment is conducive to getting shut eye.

Create a bedtime ritual for yourself. This could include a bath (add some lavender drops), herbal tea and relaxing music.

In terms of nutrition, avoid white carbs and sugar and opt for lots of fruit, veg, grains, nuts, and healthy fats and keep well hydrated. Go steady on the caffeine and alcohol too.

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2 Future focus

Sense of purpose: Do you have a clear idea of what you’re striving for? People who do are much more likely to stay strong when times get tough.

If you need a little help pinpointing what drives you, I thoroughly recommend you seek out the work of Simon Sinek. He’s written extensively about what makes us tick and what great leaders and organisations have in common.

Goal setting: It’s also important to set yourself some clear goals. This strange situation we find ourselves in with Covid-19 won’t last forever. So get thinking and set yourself some short, medium and long term goals.

Having clear goals can be a gamechanger. If you figure out where you want to be you can reverse engineer a strategy to get you there.

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Start With Why by Simon Sinek

3 Inner drive

I often find people who struggle with motivation are not following their true heart’s desire. Perhaps they had a childhood dream that didn’t turn out for one reason or another. Maybe they are now stuck in an uninspiring job slogging it out to pay the bills.

If life doesn’t pan out as we expect, it’s easy to lose our way and for our self-belief and motivation to slowly ebb away. But it is possible to change.

I often talk to my clients about adopting a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. (For more on this check out the marvellous Carol Dweck). A growth mindset is about adapting to situations and having perseverance. If we don’t succeed at something the first time, that doesn’t make us a failure. But it may mean we have to re-think, do some more training or ask for help.

Be optimistic but not unrealistic. Optimism is about acknowledging challenges but facing up to them with positivity. It’s not pretending everything is okay if it’s not. Learning to re-frame obstacles and see the positives is crucial.

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Grit by Angela Duckworth.

4 Flexible thinking

Be open to alternative views and ways of doing things. If you come up against an obstacle don’t automatically assume the worst. Instead come up with four alternatives as to how a situation could work out.

If you find yourself catastrophising, stop and consider why your mind is racing away with ideas about what could go wrong. Find out what the beliefs are behind your thoughts. What happened in the past that led you to form this mindset?

Don’t let the big picture overwhelm you – this is a recipe for procrastination. Break down the challenge into smaller parts and take small steps towards your goal.

And don’t be afraid to seek out help or advice; it’s not a sign of weakness or failure. Consider getting a coach, a professional who can help motivate you and give you good ideas. You may find you make far better decisions if you’ve had expert support and advice.

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Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The psychiatrist believed that we are all ultimately in charge of our own thoughts. He formed this view while a prisoner in Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War Two when he noticed that the prisoners who held on to their sense of purpose tended to survive longer.

5 Strong relationships

This is about more than surrounding ourselves with good people (although obviously that’s not a bad thing). But you need a network, a community, who you can call on for help when you need it.

Consider who in your social circle can help keep you strong and provide constructive input. And who are the naysayers? The ones who list out all the ways you could fail when you talk through an idea.

I’m not talking about surrounding yourself with people who agree with everything you say. But consider who are the givers and takers in your friendships and reframe the influence some people have on you. If they always put a negative slant on things, are they the best person to help you?

Recommended reading

Lost Connections: Uncovering the real causes of depression by Johann Hari.

How I can help

I’m a resilience coach and WRAW master practitioner. WRAW (Workplace Resilience and Well-being) is a psychometric measure based on the five pillars of resilience. It’s commonly used in the corporate world but I’m rolling it out in the creative sector.

The starting point of a consultation is a 15-minute WRAW test that provides an insight into a person’s resilience. Once you’ve done the test, I provide a 90-minute coaching session centred around your results.

I’m also a trained Rapid Transformational Therapist (RTT) and use hypnotherapy to help people reframe their beliefs and get to the root cause of negative thoughts.

So if you’d like to learn more about any of the issues in this article get in touch.


Want to watch the full webinar replay, “Building Resilience”?

This article is based on a webinar I delivered as part of my Get Over It series.

To access webinar replay click HERE