As the much-shared meme goes, it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. But what happens if you struggle to recover quickly – or at all – when setbacks occur in both your personal and professional life? While this can feel emotionally exhausting, there is good news: research suggests that resilience can be cultivated through our attitudes, behaviours and social supports. Here’s how.
As stress, depression and anxiety levels in the workplace continue to rise (research suggests that 36 per cent of employees currently feel moderate to high levels of stress), this has a direct impact on our ability to cope. A new study spearheaded by Dr Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has found that practising mindfulness not only reduces our overall stress levels, but also increases our resilience to it. So while practising mindfulness won’t remove the factors that cause us to feel overwhelmed in the first place, it will improve our ability to deal.
According to leading psychologist Susan Kobasa, there are three elements that are crucial for resilience:
- Challenge: Instead of viewing every failure as a negative, resilient people welcome it as a learning opportunity.
- Commitment: Resilient people are committed to their goals and aren’t deterred by setbacks.
- Personal control: Instead of focusing on what went wrong or what you wish you had done differently, resilient people focus on what they can control.
Practising compassion for both yourself and others increases positive emotions, which, in turn, promotes happiness and wellbeing and decreases stress levels. Dr Cal Crow, the co-founder and program director of the Center for Learning Connection, describes resilient people as “empathetic and altruistic and compassionate, and they have a true desire to help other people and to contribute to the greater good.”
Keep it in perspective
Avoid ‘catastrophising’ by letting one setback derail you. As mental health researcher Aaron Beck describes, catastrophising is “fortune telling to predict the future negatively without considering other, more likely, outcomes.” So instead of jumping down a rabbit hole of negativity when your boss criticises your work, try to keep it in perspective and recognise that this is actually a one-off event and not a common occurrence.
Surround yourself with positivity
Nurture your existing relationships so that you have a strong network of support around you in the event that you need it – resilient people take the time to develop positive relationships, both personally and professionally. For those of us to whom this doesn’t come naturally, Dr Crow offers this advice: “We can make sure we seek healthy environments… so we don’t want to be around people who put us down or make us feel ‘less than’. We don’t want to be in dysfunctional situations.”
Read More: This Is How Meditation Changes Your Brain