Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Water off a duck’s back: three top tips for building personal resilience

Life is full of highs and lows – how we react to these events makes us who we are. We’re all different, but have you ever wondered why some people seem able to quickly bounce back from major blows, while others fall to pieces when things don't go their way? Two words: personal resilience.

Personal resilience is a widely used term that describes our ability to deal with change and cope with the stresses of everyday life. As human beings we’re innately programmed for self-preservation so the good news is that we can all learn to become more resilient. We just need to invest a bit of time and effort in ourselves. 

We can’t promise you a stress-free life, but we can promise that by acknowledging your triggers and changing your old thought patterns you will find it easier to bounce back under pressure. These three top tips will help prepare you for whatever lies around the corner…

1. A little bit of what you fancy does you good

It sounds clichéd, but it’s true. If you’re getting to the point when even the smallest irritation takes the wind out of your sails, chances are you’re not being kind enough to yourself.

Resilience is all about balance, so give yourself permission to build some ‘you time’ into your daily / weekly regime – make yourself a priority. Your emotional self will thank you for it and reward you with a deeper sense of clarity when the going gets tough.

To find out if you’re neglecting your emotional well-being, take a few minutes to jot down a couple of lists. On one side write down all your day-to-day responsibilities; on the other write down all the activities and pass times that put a smile on your face. Compare the two lists. If your ‘work’ side is much longer than your ‘play’ side, it’s time to redress the balance.

2. Take a ‘time-out’

Think about how we help our children deal with their big feelings and stress triggers – we often ask them to physically take themselves away from the source of the problem to clear their head. Why don’t we do this as adults?

Taking a step away from an issue or problem makes it easier for us to gain perspective about what’s happened and make it easier for us to come up with a coping strategy. In today’s digital world it’s difficult to for us to switch off. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. 

Make the effort to take time out each day to clear your head. Don’t think about anything, just concentrate on your breathing until your body starts to relax. With practice, it will become second nature and a useful calming technique to call upon whenever we start to feel stressed. 

3. The Scouts are right: be prepared!

No one knows what the future will bring. What we do know, though, is that some things will make us happy – and some won’t. Simply acknowledging that fact enables us to plan ahead and prepare ourselves. 

Look back at how you’ve dealt with stressful incidents in the past and how you coped with them. Use these experiences to prepare yourself to deal with similar situations in the future. 

Be aware of the support network that’s already around you and take the time to nurture your family ties and friendships. Where you find support to be lacking, spend time building new relationships and support structures to fill this gap so it’s there when you need it. 


Resilience is not about sweeping emotions under the carpet; it’s about acknowledging and accepting our feelings. Often hurt, guilt, pain or anger will remain. That’s OK. Resilience does not mean we don’t feel - it’s about understanding why we feel that way and realising when the time is right to move on with our lives.

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