Improving Mental Resilience

Elaine Akester. Director and Principle Coach, emintell Ltd.

In the last post we talked about what resilience is and the impact of low levels of resilience on employee engagement and absenteeism. Now, it is time to consider ways in which you can begin to re-build individual resilience within organisations.

There are many different approaches and techniques, but in this article, we going to focus on just three important techniques.

Modify thinking patterns

This is easier said than done, but at the root of good resilience is a strong and positive mindset; it is an attitude of mind. 

 A person with sensitive or low mental resilience will have a thinking style that sees challenges as problems, and will have doubts about their ability to cope with a particular challenge or adverse situation.

A person with good levels of resilience will see the challenge or adverse situation as something to be dealt with, but fundamentally they believe they have the resources to deal with it. The difference is in the mindset and the fundamental self belief in their resources and efficacy.   

CBC or cognitive behavioural coaching is an approach which supports individuals in really looking at and challenging habitual negative and unhelpful thinking styles. The aim is to enable them modify their thinking styles so they are based in a more positive framework and they can identify solutions to challenges and carry them through in a resourceful and positive manner.

Modifying thinking styles and associated habituated behaviour needs full commitment and perseverance on the part of the individual, together with the support of a good coach, who has an excellent understanding of human psychology. 

Practise, Practise, Practise

There is much evidence to support the hypothesis that people develop resilience with use. It is akin to a muscle that must be exercised regularly so that the individual can develop their resilience to a good level.  As long as the challenges and pressures are challenging, but not overwhelming, then regular practise and exposure to challenging and pressurised situations is actually a good thing. So, actually viewing a challenging situation as an opportunity to learn and practise developing your resilience muscles is an important mindset to develop. 

People with low levels of resilience have a tendency to avoid or minimise situations where their resilience is tested. They may also have other associated behaviours such as procrastination and perfectionist tendencies.

Whilst these may appear to help the individual cope with ,they serve only to make the situation worse and entrench the unhelpful attitude and behaviour.  When people either avoid situations or put behaviours in place that help them cope, they are never giving themselves the opportunity to see how they can truly deal with a pressurised or challenging situation. Hence, they never learn to become truly resilient.

An important role of any good coach will be to point out the evidence of this attitude and behaviour in a client, should it present itself, and to help the client assess the positive and negative consequences of this behaviour on them as individuals. 

Of course the majority of the population are in the middle, they have average levels of resilience, but all of what has been said above will apply to some degree.

Mindfulness

The third technique and one that is proving very popular in contemporary society is Mindfulness.  As a concept and approach, it has been around for thousands of years, and originates from Buddhist philosophy.

Essentially, mindfulness is a practise which enables people, over time, to learn to be more fully alive and present in each moment, rather than continually raking over the past or projecting into the future. All the energy that is devoted to these two areas, robs us of the opportunity to be truly here, with ourselves in the present.  Like all techniques, it requires regular and committed practise, but it dosen’t have to be for long periods of time. Recent studies have shown that just 10 minutes of mindfulness mediation practise a day will result in positive benefits for participants.  People who practise mindfulness meditation on a regular basis have lower stress levels, enjoy better health and most importantly have better levels of resilience than the average population.   There are a myriad of resources out there to help individuals get started. A good starting point is  www.franticworld.com   The website allows you download meditations of various duration, and is a good starting point. For anyone wanting to understand more about mindfulness I recommend;

Mindfulness  – A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof. Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Denman.       

 As professional coaches with a keen interest in the area of resilience, we utilise all of the approaches above to support our clients to develop better levels of resilience.  We also develop and implement organisational programmes and workshops aimed at improving resilience.

 Please contact us at hello@emintell.com for more details.

 In the next posting we will be considering how you quantify levels of resilience and how these assessments can be used as an excellent starting point for developing an organisational resilience programme.