Building Resilience

By Stuart Taylor (and Dr Sven Hansen)

Summer 2014, Living Well Magazine

As individuals our job, family, health, hobbies and dreams compete to engage our time, energy and skills. We begin to confront diminishing returns. How much harder can we struggle to meet, balance and reconcile the demands? We run into overload and start to disengage from one or more of our commitments. We must get beyond the constraints and traps of “work-life balance” and find a more durable solution. We believe that resilience is that solution.

We define personal Resilience as one’s learned ability to:

  • Bounce back from adversity – Toughness and recovery skills
  • Thrive on challenges – Engagement, optimism
  • Positive impact on others – Empathy and compassion
  • Reach full potential – Exercise talents in a meaningful way

Living a Resilient Life

When resilience is cultivated we enjoy increasing periods of FLOW. In FLOW we experience full engagement, optimal performance, good health and increasing happiness. This state comes about when an individual or group have clear goals, high challenge, immediate perceived ability to deliver, absolute focus and are totally absorbed in the present. Loehr & Schwartzii link Flow to resilience when they say “…To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”

A resilient person is fully engaged, has stamina for change and operates at peak performance because they:

  • Spend more time in Flow
  • Have less negative stress
  • Know when to rest, recharge, reengage
  • Have increased energy
  • Spend more time in positive emotion
  • Are emotionally intelligent
  • Reframe thinking and generate opportunity and optimism in times of pressure or crisis
  • Understand and enact their values and passions
  • Periodically reinvent themselves (self, work and life) by taking on new challenges and opportunities

Measuring Resilience

In the pursuit of resilience we present our model that considers both the debilitating liabilities to our resilience (the Death Spiral!) through to the resilience-building assets culminating in a self-actualised person consistently putting their Spirit into Action. In the top half of the Resilience Model we discover a whole new perspective on life, self, purpose and authenticity as we integrate body, heart, mind and spirit.

Succumbing to Resilience Liabilities

Home at 7.30pm, numb, survive dinner, three hours watching the box – its 10.30pm. I feel tired – my body tells me to go to bed. I fight on to watch the next soap. Midnight! I wake up on the couch, stumble to bed – I should go for a run in the morning – but I toss and turn for an hour! 6am swings around again, alarm shrieks, too tired, turn over, toss and turn, collapse… Wake up in a panic, rush to work, miss breakfast, strong coffee…here we go again! Why am I doing this?

The Death Spiral begins with overload, loss of attention and confusion. Working memory is overloaded leading to cognitive disengagement, and the consequent poor decisions, dullness and apathy. If this persists we start to emotionally disengage (withdraw) with self-doubt taking over. As neurobiologists demonstrate, withdrawal blocks motivation and depletes energy. (xi) The body is present but heart and mind are absent. Neglecting exercise, relaxation and sleep leads to physical vulnerability. We are exposed to distress (hyperventilation, insomnia and negativity), which is one path to depression.

Mitigating Resilience Liabilities (Risks)

We all plunge into the spiral from time to time. This is normal and natural. Frequently, we spend longer than we need with these “liabilities” in our life. To Bounce Back first we need to find how to remove these liabilities from your life and secondly work out how to restore optimal performance following adversity.

Whichever stage you may find yourself in, there are practices to help get you back up the spiral. For instance, if you find yourself feeling vulnerable:

Reducing Vulnerability

  • Take a proper holiday
  • Build exercise, good nutrition sleep and relaxation into each day
  • Take a long weekend each month (no work, phones, email)

Here is a short list of practices to lift your Resilience Ratio and help you enjoy the fruits of Resilience.

For the full white paper with more specific details go to www.gawler.org/catagory/research. For more information about The Resilience Institute go to www.resiliencei.com

Stuart Taylor was a popular speaker at The Gawler Cancer Foundation’s Profound Healing: Sustainable Wellbeing conference in November 2013. He also published the book “Assertive Humility” which is available through our online store.