Psychological Resilience

New Year resolutions, like promises, are generally made and then broken. I saved myself the embarrassment this year and made none. Rather I was intrigued by the idea of adopting a word for 2014 and being as true to that one word as I could. Honouring one single word throughout the year raises an interesting dimension to how I view the eleven and a half months left of 2014.

As pressure is this month’s theme for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) I’ve been taken in similar directions as others on this January journey. Some thrive under pressure while others take flight or cower in its presence. Whatever our coping strategy in the face of unpleasant pressure few enjoy the ongoing discomfort of living or working in an environment that leaves us looking like we’ve been plugged into the electric socket. I’m going to talk about unpleasant pressure here because I understand that some pressure is helpful for personal growth and development as well as being a catalyst for change.

Back to the word. Because I don’t do pressure well and because there will never be a time in my life when there is a complete absence of pressure I thought this year I will work on building … RESILIENCE; psychological resilience. It sounds very impressive and a lofty goal for one so debilitated by pressure and stress.

Resilience is the ability to cope with stress in adverse conditions and bounce back, not carrying any of the negative effects of that experience forward. It is not a personal trait, therefore not innate, which means it can be learned. It is a process to improve individual capacity to maintain mental wellbeing and function effectively after the event or trauma.

I dread pressure in relationships whether they’re work, home or in a social setting. The experience leaves me feeling like an emotional wreck. It takes me weeks, months and in some instances years to heal from the fallout of these encounters. As a reasonably intelligent person it makes me uncomfortable to think it has taken me this long to realise, that on a scale of 0 – 10 where 0 is zilch and 10 is brilliant, my emotional resilience is a 3. It doesn’t help that I am an emotional chameleon taking on whatever is being felt by the individual or the group. Whatever your mood, you only have to walk past me and I am feeling your pain, sorrow, grief, happiness, excitement, anger, disdain. It’s exhausting trust me.

Despite the confession I can be as stubborn as the next person and if I’m on a mission to save a client from injustice beware. I am often outspoken, stubborn and will debate the issue until I’m the last person standing. So there are times when my emotions sit at a healthy distance and interject at appropriate times to help the cause.

So how does one build resilience? We build personal capacity; become more adept at change; reduce our susceptibility to high risk situations that cause us to feel pressured. It isn’t about being stoic in difficult circumstances it is about being aware of factors that may cause a significant shift in how we perceive and respond to a situation and its outcome. Resilience is also about identifying personal strengths and protective factors that will support us when pressure closes in. Resilience is finding external and internal elements of our environment that can reduce our vulnerability.

Much of the pressure I experience can be pre-empted which means I can plan ahead and choose how to respond. Something I can do to reduce the impact is to continue letting go of perfectionism – a lifelong work in progress – and go with the flow without disengaging emotionally. Generally I have the ability to control my environment – both at work and home – and therefore I can remove or pre-empt volatile situations. Saying NO more frequently will reduce the pressure. I’m known for keeping the ball in the air long after others have lost interest. I tried out the NO word on my boss today … and she acquiesced, albeit with disbelief.

Resilience. My word for 2014. I am looking forward to better mental health, improved work relationships and more confidence in my ability to cope. I’m almost looking forward to someone raining on my parade (not too soon mind you) and knowing I will have learned strategies that will protect me from spasms of psychological cramp that have been known to cause me to limp about in an emotional vortex like a startled rabbit.

R E S I L I E N C E = 2 0 1 4


7 thoughts on “Psychological Resilience

  1. Congratulations on another well written and articulate blog, we can all relate to the angst you feel of trying to please, but maintain our self worth in a complex world


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