None of us live in a vacuum. We all live in multiple layers of context, including our race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, family, relationships, professional experience, and more. Each of us have arrived at this moment through a set of unique experiences that have shaped who we are. Therefore, no two people will experience identical circumstances in exactly the same way.
In fact, our own response to identical situations on different days is likely to vary too, because our capacity, our level of resilience fluctuates.
Let’s imagine that you had a 7 minute window to have breakfast this morning before your first zoom call and that your toast dropped (jam-side down, of course) on the floor as you reached to eat it. If you had a beautiful night’s sleep, and got a hug from a loved one beforehand, you might be able to laugh it off. However, if you spent the night trying to soothe your child’s chesty cough, it might ‘tip you over the edge’ – because your capacity is already eroded.
Unfortunately, the uncertain world we have been living in for the past 3 years has narrowed rather than expanded our capacity to cope with the challenges of everyday life. In the words of a Senior HR Leader I spoke to recently, we are finding ourselves “tripping over pebbles” or wondering: “Who is holding us, while we hold everyone else?”.
The good news is that resilience can be cultivated.
And the more chaotic and overwhelming the world feels, the more anchored we need to be in our own emotional resilience.
So how can we develop emotional resilience when the world we live in constantly activates our stress response?
Here are 6 simple strategies to get started:
1) Learn to regulate your nervous system
Regulating our nervous system is what helps us find grounding in those moments where it all feels too much, or find a little bit of activation when we feel worn out. It helps us to return to a state of homeostasis, where we have the inner resources to cope with what life brings our way. Think of homeostasis as your ‘homebase’.
Quick tip: A simple way to self-regulate is to slow down your breathing, and to lengthen your exhale. Imagine inhaling the fragrance of your favourite flowers as you breathe in, and blowing slowly on a candle through pursed lips as you breathe out. This will let your nervous system know that you are safe.
2) Practise listening to your body
Our body is constantly sending us signals in the form of sensations, feelings and emotions. But in a world where we tend to ‘live in our heads’, we are not truly listening. We hear the distant humming of our body, but we aren’t paying attention. There are 12 stages to the cycle of burnout – by learning to listen to our bodies, we can recognise the early warning signs of exhaustion and burnout, and step out of the cycle before we’ve slipped too far…
Quick tip: Set a timer on your phone, to go 3 times a day. When the alarm rings, feel your feet on the ground, take a couple of slower breaths, and ask yourself: “How am I feeling right now?”. Notice your sensations, emotions and energy level. Then ask yourself: “What do I need?”. It might simply be a glass of water or a breath of fresh air.
3) Develop the skill of self-compassion
In a society that has normalised stress and burnout, and perceives rest and slowing down as signs of weakness, it’s easy to internalise the belief that something is wrong with us when we start feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or relentlessly stressed.
Self-compassion is holding the part of ourselves who feels exhausted, drained, and unable to carry on with tenderness and kindness – as we would a young child or someone we care deeply about.
Quick tip: When it all feels too much, try placing a hand on your heart and simply whispering the words “No wonder” in your own mind.
4) Choose to tend to your needs
As we practise listening to our body, we learn to become aware of the unmet need that is trying to get expressed through our emotions and behaviours.
Tending to our needs is exercising self-commitment rather than falling back into the self-abandonment patterns that feel so familiar. It could be resting, setting a boundary, or taking a few breaths, … Ultimately it’s saying ‘I matter’ to yourself and role modelling self-commitment to those around you.
Quick tip: When you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or stressed – take a moment to pause and ask yourself: what is the unmet need hiding beneath my behaviour or emotion? How can I meet this need?
5) Take in the good
The work of Dr. Rick Hanson (and his colleagues) clearly shows the impact that ‘taking in the good’ has on our wellbeing. ‘Taking in the good’ is deliberately savouring positive life experiences – however big or small.
In our rushed lives, how often do we pause to truly appreciate a special moment, an awe-inspiring landscape, or the touch of a loved one holding our hand?
Every time we take in the good, we counter our negativity bias and rewire our brain towards more joy and positivity. And it fills up our reservoir of resilience.
Quick tip: Bring to mind a recent time where you felt joyful, happy, content, in awe. Give yourself a minute to linger in that memory, feel it with all your senses – as if you were sipping it with every cell in your body. And notice what happens.
6) Redefine ‘winning’ and create a new blueprint
We all learn to live by society’s blueprint of what a successful life looks like. We get swept up by the current without questioning what our personal version of ‘winning’ at life would be.
When we begin to feel ourselves slip into burnout, redefining ‘winning’ is critical to make space for slowing down, rest and recovery.
Quick tip: There isn’t just one flavour of success when it comes to life. And it pays to ask ourselves: “What does ‘winning’ look like for me in this season of my life?”
These small practices will not only help you to better cope with everyday stressors, and to build emotional resilience, they will also enable you to reclaim sovereignty over your wellbeing, your wholeness and your life – so that you don’t have to rely on our ever-changing world to feel calmer, happier and more fulfilled.
Isabelle Griffith is an Emotional Resilience & Embodied Feminine Leadership Coach and Trainer. She is the creator of The Pause Approach™ and The Soma Leadership™ Method, as well as the founder of The Embodied Feminine Leadership Academy. Prior to setting up her coaching and training practice, Isabelle spent 20 years in the corporate world managing geographically spread teams long before zoom was in fashion. She specialises in helping female leaders to press pause, reconnect with themselves and have the impact they desire without sacrificing themselves, their wellbeing and their wholeness. She helps them to go from stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out to regaining calm, joy, confidence, and to amplify their impact.
You can find out more about Isabelle and her work here: https://www.isabellegriffith.co.uk/, connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isabellewiesgriffith/ or download her free resource: How to become more grounded & impactful as a female leader in a maxed-out world? here: https://www.isabellegriffith.co.uk/impact.
If you would like to hear more about Emotional Resilience then do come along to our upcoming Trapeze HR webinar: How to live and lead with less stress and more impact by befriending your nervous system, on Tuesday 25th April 11-12