Eleanor’s blog – August 2014

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In my last couple of blogs I have written about the subject of spirituality or more broadly speaking those things that give meaning to a person’s life and which they draw upon to give them strength when they are faced with challenges and difficult times in their life. This month I want to think about the other things that help us deal with life’s challenges and difficulties and how we can learn to overcome these better.

No one ever said life would be easy and despite all our advances as human beings we are still faced with challenges on a daily basis. Sometimes those challenges are minor bumps in the road which almost don’t register as a challenge because we are able to quickly and almost seamlessly adapt our thinking or actions with minimal disruption to our lives. Other challenges however may literally stop us in our tracks to the point where we are unable to function whether it is very short term, hours or days perhaps, or more long term, possibly months or years.
Why is it that the same circumstance can affect individuals in very different ways in terms of their ability to cope and adapt to changes in their life?
Why are some people more able to take challenges and difficulties in their stride than others and can we learn to cope better with life’s surprises?
Resilience has been described in many different ways but essentially it is our ‘bounce back ability’ or our ability to get back up again and carry on when we’ve been hit by one of life’s curveballs or things don’t go quite as we planned.
For example, someone with resilience is able to put failure behind them, learn from it and move forward. They would view difficulties and failures as opportunities for learning and personal development and not as a negative reflection on their abilities or their self-worth. In other words they are able to put setbacks into perspective which enables them to ‘bounce back’ and move on. Someone who is resilient is also able to persevere and thrive in the face of adversity (e.g. hardship, danger or misfortune).
Working in health and social care you are likely to work with people who have encountered different types of adversity in their life. These may have resulted from disability, health issues or life circumstances. Some people will have had the resilience to overcome these and move forward in their lives while others may not have been so successful at adapting and coping which may have adversely affected their life opportunities.
So how can you develop resilience and how can you help others to achieve this too?

According to research by Susan Kobasa, a leading psychologist, three things are essential to resilience. These are:
1. Challenge – seeing difficulties and mistakes in a positive way and as opportunities to learn and grow and not as personal failures that mean the person is worthless.
2. Commitment – being resilient means committing yourself to what you are doing, be it in your personal or work life. That means doing things wholeheartedly and not with an eye on the exit.
3. Personal Control – focus on those things you can change and not on those you have no control over. If you do this you will have a greater impact and as a result feel more confident and empowered.

You improve your resilience by developing a resilient mindset and attitude to life. This can be helped by:
1. Building a positive belief in your abilities i.e. develop your sense of your own worth
2. Having a sense of purpose in your life – do things than are meaningful to you
3. Developing a strong social network – we all need support at sometime so find people you can trust and confide in who will help you see your way forward
4. Being adaptable and flexible enough to embrace change positively
5. Being optimistic – try and hold on to a positive outlook – look for the rainbow don’t just see the rain
6. Taking care of and nurturing yourself i.e. look after yourself, have enough sleep, eat well and exercise especially when you are stressed
7. Develop your ability to solve problems for yourself – look for solutions and develop your problem-solving skills
8. Setting yourself goals to achieve that are realistic and achievable
9. Take steps to solve problems rather than burying your head in the sand and hoping they will go away… they generally don’t
10. Accept that you are ‘a work in progress’ and building resilience takes time and perseverance so don’t get discouraged if improvement is slower than you would like just keep taking it one step at a time…..

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