4 Easy steps to improving the resilience of yourself and your students

Building Resilience – Start with yourself!

Resilience – The ability to bounce back after adversity. How resilient are you?

We only feel the need to be resilient when life deals us a blow. This could be a genuine major issue such as a bereavement or a job loss, or a smaller series of events that have led us to spiral down into a stressed and negative attitude.
Emergency services train people how to react to highly stressful situations before they have to deal with them. They do this by getting responders to follow a clear set of rules, automatically and without emotion. Under stress, we tend to operate at the highest level of our training. We can try and stress proof ourselves by developing resilience strategies. We can do this by being aware of the common thinking traps we fall into and making better and more rational decisions.

There are a couple of principles we need to believe in to build our resilience.

We have a choice in how we react. We all have a series of habits which lead to fairly predictable reactions to stressors. Habits are hard, but not impossible to change. You are not a fixed being.
Our thinking patterns are probably not accurate. Accurate rational thinking is the key to becoming resilient

We also need to know ourselves and what the triggers are that stress us out?
Which of these affect you the most. Try to put them in order:

Anger arising from an abuse of our rights
Guilt from feeling we have violated others rights
Frustration from a lack of control
Fear of personal loss hurt or death
Anxiety due to future threats – real or perceived (The reality is rarely as bad as we fear)
Embarrassment when we compare ourselves to others in public.
Sadness or depression from a loss (or chemical imbalance) Or lack of self worth
Overwhelmed with too much to do

Flawed habitual responses

We are creatures of habit and under stress, we frequently respond in predictable ways. Part of becoming more resilient is recognising these traits and questioning their usefulness in helping us deal with adversity.

8 common ones are shown below. Which ones do you use?

Mind reading: When we mind-read we assume we know what the other person is thinking based on a few clues. We really don’t ever know what they are thinking. Mind readers spend hours constructing arguments and responses to deal with situations which often do not exist. We also often expect others to know what we are thinking without giving them any indication.

Conclusion jumping: We have multiple biases that affect our thinking. Conclusion jumpers make decisions based on very little evidence and convince themselves that they are right.

Tunnel visioners: We can often focus all of our attention on tiny negative details but fail to see the big picture. Like looking at a doughnut and only seeing a hole

Personalisers: Success or failure is deemed to be the responsibility of ourselves. Personalisers often fail to see the contributions, both negative and positive of others. They often struggle to delegate and see themselves as the only one who can solve the problems

Externalisers: The opposite of personalisers, externalisers feel powerless to change situations. When we externalise we take responsibility and often fall into a moaning-blame cycle.

Overgeneralising: We often don’t look at the details and have a tendency to show in-group bias, where we assume people who have similar views on a certain topic are much more similar to us than they really are. We do the same for those who have views that oppose ours in out-group bias. We tend to spend much more time and energy arguing against the out-group than we do questioning our own beliefs or that of the in-group.

Emotional reasoning: We all deal with situations differently depending on our emotional state. Some people are highly prone to this leading their behaviour to be unpredictable.

Maximisers and Minimisers: Maximisers make a big deal out of small things. Minimisers ignore things that they really should be dealing with.

How to deal with thinking flaws is to constantly ask yourself a series of questions, ideally before we get into the state of stress. Some examples are:

Which of the eight thinking flaws might I be using?
What is the evidence to suggest that I am right?
What is the evidence to suggest that I am wrong?
Are there alternative explanations for what I think is happening??
What aspects haven’t I considered?
Is this really as big a deal as I’m making it?
How did I react last time this happened? Did I learn anything?
Am I in a good emotional state to make rational decisions?

Being proactive

We need to practice dealing with adversity before it happens. We also need to spot the icebergs, the things that can sink us, before we hit them. We can do this by looking at the past at what happened and how we responded. Life is a learning journey.

“It isn’t a sin to make a mistake. It is a sin not to learn from it.” Kevin Keegan

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