Do you experience stress and anxiety often? Do you worry about taking a next step at work or in life? Do you find change and uncertainty unsettling? Building RESILIENCE can significantly help you manage these natural experiences.
Resilience is the ability to move through adversity, cope better with stress and being able to recover swiftly from setbacks. Being resilient allows us to go beyond merely surviving through adversity, uncertainty or setbacks. We can learn through our experiences and thrive.
The good news is resilience is a skill that can be built by certain attitudes and behaviours that can be cultivated by anyone. So, we can learn to be more resilient.
Understanding and paying attention to how our mind works is at the core of many resilience building activities. Here are my top four tips, based on some of the latest research in neuroscience, and two practical exercises you can incorporate into your day.
Develop your mental agility with Mindfulness
Our mind ruminates. When an adverse event happens, we often relive it in our heads over and over, rehashing the pain. Moreover, our mind can whip up negative stories about ourselves or others that goes on and on.
Unfortunately, none of these help us move us forward. In fact, a ruminating mind can proliferate anxiety or low mood far more than is necessary, keeping is in a state of stress, making us feel overwhelmed and demotivated.
Numerous studies have concluded that “Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down”. Here is why.
Mindfulness allows us to pause and observe our mind, creating a mental space between our thoughts and emotions, and actions. This mental space enables us to notice that the overwhelming majority of thoughts, distractions or stressors in our mind are subjective, irrelevant, unhelpful and can be set aside. We don’t have to be weighed down by them. We notice their presence and can choose not to engage with or think about them.
Mindfulness helps us resist getting stuck in our mind’s rumination and free our cognitive resources where it matters the most – empowering us to think, create options and solve problems.
Next time you notice your mind ruminating, perhaps stuck in negative thoughts, try this 3 mins Breathing Awareness Mindfulness exercise to reset your mind:
- Find a comfortable position sitting upright or lying down
- Bring your full attention to your body, simply notice how it feels like right now.
- Take a deep inhale, then let go with a relaxed exhale, allowing your body to relax.
- With exhale, notice the natural act of releasing and letting go.
- For few minutes, allow your full attention to rest on the physical experience of your breathing – natural flow of inhale and exhale.
- As you are relaxing, notice how your focus and awareness gets stronger; notice how you get more centered and grounded.
Manage your cognitive load with uni-tasking, work blocks and performance breaks
To assess, think through and make wise choices about how to learn and grow from adversities and challenges, we need our cognitive abilities in top form. But do we have the optimal conditions to effectively process information and make quality decisions to help us move forward?
Our ability to receive and process information has natural limits. The processing capacity of the conscious mind is estimated at 120 bits per second, which is the traffic of information we can pay attention to at any one time. Considering that we need to process 60 bits of information per second when one person is speaking to us, this natural limit means we can barely maintain a meaningful conversation with two people at the same time. Moreover, we are constantly bombarded with more information from vast array of sources such as emails, media, social media, internet at any given time.
Whilst we may not decrease the amount of information we receive, we can decrease cognitive strain and optimise how we process information by focusing on one task at a time, in other words uni-task. We can achieve this by creating set times for our each of our key activities such as emailing, strategic thinking, report writing etc.
Moreover, our cognitive focus, clarity and energy changes throughout the day in cycles. Research suggests that our cognitive abilities work at their best when we arrange our work activities in no more than 90 mins long blocks with breaks in between. Even brief performance breaks for few minutes between activities can promote greater energy, creativity and focus, ultimately growing our capacity for resilience throughout the day.
Try this 1 min performance break between back to back calls, meetings or activities.
- Start by finding a comfortable position with your feet on the ground.
- Close your eyes or drop your gaze on the ground in front of you.
- Take a deep inhale, deeper than usual. Let go of a relaxed exhale.
- Repeat 3 more breath cycles.
- Allow your breath to return to its natural pace and rhythm of inhale and exhale.
We can’t impact the events and the world around us. However, by building our resilience, we can change how we perceive and respond, allowing for growth and new possibilities.