There has been an awful lot written and spoken about resilience and so when I was asked to comment on what keeps me resilient recently I feared that I would find it difficult to deliver any new insights.
As I thought about what is in my own resilience armoury, I realised that some of the ways I stay resilient actually goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. It made me suspect that beyond the more mainstream tips for resilience building we have all read about there are probably hundreds of personal stories and individual ways that people stay resilient, so I thought it might be more interesting to capture some of those.
A quick straw poll of some of my friends and colleagues revealed that, whilst many of the emerging themes were common resilience themes, a real plethora of slightly unexpected techniques came through - so I thought I would share some of those.
My own techniques include keeping schtum. Not everyone will agree with this one because common wisdom is to talk about one's stresses and problems with ones nearest and dearest. But I really try to avoid talking about work at home. If it's been a hard day I tell my husband it's been a hard day and just leave it at that. I don't want to spend my evenings discussing it. He always says he learns more about my work life from hearing me talking on the phone to girlfriends - I just don't want to go there with him.
Putting things in perspective was perhaps an expected theme but I liked the little tips I got.
One of my fabulous colleagues told me that she keeps it in perspective by thinking about people who have it tougher than she does. She thinks of people she knows with bigger, more stressful jobs to get her own situation into perspective.
Another friend highlighted:
"When I wobble I practice yoga breathing & ask myself what Gran would say."
Humour is often used to keep things in perspective. People talked about not taking themselves too seriously. My colleague actively seeks out people that she knows will make her laugh when the going gets tough - she knows they will take her out of herself for a moment.
And building on that creating escapes, taking yourself out of the stressful moment was a common theme, whether virtual or physical escapes.
One of my girlfriends uses a memory of a perfect moment when, on an important trip that she was doing alone and feeling somewhat vulnerable, she stepped off a plane, looked into the sun and felt a sense of all powerfulness and real elation. Whenever she needs to find some resilience or strength now she visualizes that moment, escaping back to those positive feelings and using them to move forward.
I know that I 'escape' in my garden - somehow knee deep in mud, up to my eyes in manure or engrossed in the task of planting to create beautiful colour and texture combinations the rest of the world melts away.
Two of my friends are convinced that they have stayed resilient by doing more and learning more. They both have busy lives at home and work, but have both gone back to college and university on top of the day jobs to learn new skills and do a PHD respectively. Conventional wisdom might say simplify and do less - they are convinced that by doing more, by packing their lives full to bursting point and stretching their brains in doing so, they stay stronger.
I also loved this 'against the grain' advice from another amazing woman that I work with who suggests we give up multi-tasking. It might go against us women celebrating ourselves as superior multi- taskers', but it makes absolute sense! To quote her:
"Call it Displacement Therapy... Or call me a simple soul, but I am not a multi-tasker, one thing at a time is the new black for me... When the going gets tough, I do something else! To give me time to switch off, then switch on again later, then think. I put my all into one thing at a time, to block out any 'peripheral noise', always do something well and stay sane in the process."
I am going to leave the last word to a fabulous woman that outwardly seems completely in control. She told me:
"Sometimes I go home, shut myself away and have a little cry. Not very often, but it can actually help relieve the tension so as long as I don't do it in front of anyone, I don't mind that I do it."
I loved her for her honesty - and it is just so true!
It's okay not to be resilient all the time.