Posted By Ruth Kelly,
Friday, March 15, 2019
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2019
Scarlett O’Hara, the leading protagonist of Margaret Mitchells’s epic Gone with the Wind, was arguably one of the most iconic characters of American cinema. She was charming, manipulative, vain, spoiled and captivating. However, swept up in the backdrop of the American Civil War this Southern belle discovered attributes and qualities she never knew she possessed. She exhibited fortitude, ingenuity, determination, courage, tenacity, and above all resilience – the ability to bounce back and keep going in the face of adversity. Her steely spirit was epitomised in her “As God is my witness …” monologue where fist clenched she vows that life will not break her and that she will survive at any cost. The theme of resilience is central to the development of this feisty heroine and it is a concept that has gathered significant momentum in recent years as a means of learning and recovering from life’s challenges and setbacks – our mental and emotional elasticity.
What is Resilience?
The Harvard Business review defines resilience as “the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” - including trauma or significant stress. Resilience is not only the ability to weather a difficulty, but also to emerge from it stronger and better prepared to face new challenges in the future. In the corporate world, resilience has gained significant impetus because business leaders increasingly recognize that resilient employees are more likely to recover quicker from an adverse situation and that resilient teams build competitive advantage and growth opportunities. At its core, resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences and finding the intrinsic drive, motivation, and wherewithal to achieve your goals in turbulent times. In other words, “resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity” (Jensen and Fraser, 2005).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015) defines individual resilience as the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. In essence, resilience implies maintaining or returning to one’s original state of mental health or well-being or achieving a more mature and developed state of well-being through the employment of effective strategies and techniques. Perhaps resilience is really the capacity to weather difficulties and embrace the changes that adversity demands – a deeper wisdom forged through complex and uncertain times. As K. Neycha Herford founder and CEO of The ReMixed Life™ states “resilience is an unwavering rebelliousness to bet on the best while navigating the worst”.
What constitutes resilience?
The positive psychology movement founded by Professor Martin Seligman is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The Penn Resilience Program offered by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania includes a set of 21 empirically validated skills that build cognitive and emotional fitness and strength of character. Fundamentally, the Program identifies a number of elements that are integral to building resilience:
Self-Awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological reactions.
Self-Regulation – the ability to change one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiology in the service of a desired outcome.
Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly.
Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges and create a life aligned with one’s values.
Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control and to take purposeful action.
Derek Mowbray of the Wellbeing and Performance Group UK proposes a ‘Resilient and Adaptive Person Development Framework’ with 3 spheres of personal control:
Over oneself – self-awareness, self-confidence, vision and determination.
Someone who is self-aware is more likely to empathize with others and understand what motivates them.
Over responses to events – problem solving skills, organization.
This control is rooted in the ability to negotiate effectively with others and to persuade others to consider alternate viewpoints and approaches.
Over responses to people – relationships and personal interactions.
This control is rooted in organizing oneself in chaotic situations. Someone who has the ability to organize themselves in chaotic situations also has the ability to be flexible and adaptable.
Mowbray identifies the following characteristics of resilient people:
Enthusiasm for life and work.
Capacity to see the future and “go for it”.
Capacity to cope with threatening events and distress.
Attitude towards life and work that is positive, full of energy and determination.
Capacity to see the options, and to adapt effectively to meet and overcome challenges.
George A. Bonanno (professor of clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, U.S.A) in an interview in The New Yorker believes that one of the central elements of resilience is perception. In other words, it depends on whether we view an event as traumatic or as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is subjective and relative i.e. what one person might experience as overwhelming for another might be an opportunity to extend their personal boundaries and develop as an individual.
It is agreed throughout the literature on resilience that it is a multi-dimensional concept. However, current research identifies a number of factors that are consistent with resilient people (Brown, 2010):
They are resourceful and have good problem solving skills.
They are more likely to seek help.
They believe that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
They have social support available to them.
They are connected with others, such as family and friends.
They are flexible, adapt to new and different situations and learn from experience, including mistakes and triumphs.
Women and Resilience
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou
Are women more resilient than men? In Gone with The Wind, Margaret Mitchell created a leading female character whose sheer tenacity and strength triumphed over unimaginable adversity. She epitomized a resilient spirit which resonated with Rhett Butler’s words to her that “hardships make or break people”. Scarlett had more than just strength of character and survival instinct though. She was strategic and not afraid to employ creativity and tactics to achieve her goals. Even though GWTW is fiction, research suggests that when the going gets tough women are in fact more resilient than men. In an article published in Nature (January 2019) researchers at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense studied seven populations that endured famine, epidemics or enslavement. The researchers found that during crises, girls and women lived longer than their male counterparts. Research by Andy Scharlach, a UC Berkeley professor of aging and director of its Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services has shown that women generally retain far more resilience as they age than men. One of the reasons, Scharlach suggests, is that women develop richer social networks than men that are not as work bound, and not as sports bound, or activity bound.
Between 2009 and 2010 Accenture conducted a global online and telephone survey of 524 senior executives from medium to large companies in 20 countries. Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite sought to identify the value executives give to resilience as a senior primary quality of leadership. These leaders view women as slightly more resilient than men ‒ 53% reported women are very to extremely resilient ‒ 51% reported men are very to extremely resilient.
Another study conducted in the UK Tough at the Top: new rules of resilience for women’s leadership success (2014) found that although both women and men define resilience in similar terms, they talk about the experience of resilience at work in different ways. Women, more often than men, talk about vulnerability when they describe what it means to be resilient. Also, more women than men equate resilience with the need to suppress their emotions at work. This suggests that women look at their likely career path and assume they will have to increasingly ‘toughen up’ to get to the top. Simply acknowledging that this is happening and encouraging senior women and men to speak out about their own experiences of vulnerability in climbing the corporate ladder could go a long way to countering this view.
However, the assumption that toughness alone will propel a woman’s professional rise is erroneous. True resilience means being strategic as well as strong. It means showing ingenuity and imagination in overcoming challenges as well as demonstrating enough self-belief to look at setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn from the mistakes and grow. Perhaps, as many sociologists believe, women have had to fight harder for respect and equality so therefore had no alternative but to develop resilience. Also, it has been more acceptable for women to exhibit emotional vulnerability while men traditionally have had to portray a ‘stiff upper lip’. Perhaps straddling vulnerability and strength simultaneously builds empathy and compassion in women – essential building blocks of resilience. As the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou writes in her essay ‘In All Ways a Woman’ women must be ‘tough’ as well as ‘tender’ and “the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory”.
The good news is that the capacity for resilience is not a static trait in either men or women but rather it is a skill that can be developed and mastered. The following are suggestions for putting resilience to work for you.
Thoughts are Things - sometimes our deep held beliefs and thinking patterns can be counter-productive. Listen to your thoughts and identify the language you use with yourself when faced with a challenge. Is your self-talk supportive or critical? Is it limiting or empowering? By beginning to understand the power of your thoughts you begin to understand how they create not just your present experiences but also your future ones.
View Setbacks as Opportunities for Growth – this might sound a little Pollyanna-esque. However, by seeing the positive in our failures and setbacks, by looking at what we did incorrectly and what we might do differently in the future and by being willing to learn, grow and develop we avoid the futility of self-flagellation and instead empower ourselves to move towards the future with fresh knowledge, perspective and confidence. Patience and tolerance, especially of ourselves, is key.
Social Scaffolding – surround yourself with people who support and care for you. By building strong social networks you are cocooning yourself in a web of sustenance and encouragement which will ultimately assist you in weathering life’s storms.
It’s OK not to be OK – sometimes when the going gets tough we need to be frank with ourselves about how we’re feeling, to honestly assess and appraise the situation and to work out the best strategy for moving forward. Owning and addressing our vulnerabilities is a sign of strength, not weakness. This applies to both men and women.
Accountability and Responsibility – taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions is key to resilience. Blaming others for our failures or handing over our power by ‘allowing’ others to make us feel bad about ourselves in disempowering and emotionally draining. Good self-esteem and self-belief help build a certain imperviousness to the opinions, good and bad, of others.
Change is inevitable - Charles Darwin said that the species most likely to survive is not the most intelligent or the strongest but ‘the one that is most adaptable to change’. By learning to be flexible and to embrace the complexities and uncertainties of life we are more inclined to ‘flow’ with the process of life.
Rest and Recharge – resilience does not equate with endurance. It might be a cliché but there is truth in the old adage ‘work, rest and play’. Get the balance right.
Resilience in the Workplace
Mindfulness – is gaining increasing impetus and recognition as a means of addressing a number of stress and cognitive related issues in the work place. Mindfulness has been found to boost judgement accuracy and insight related problem solving (Kiken, 2011) and enhances cognitive flexibility (Malinowski and Moore, 2009). MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala – which initiates the stress response, appears to shrink.
Response flexibility – Budgets are tight, projects get negative feedback and clients are challenging – all these things are enough to test anyone. It is important to cultivate enough self-awareness to be able to respond to rather than react to situations or people. The ability to pause, reflect, deliberate, consider possibilities and choose wisely is critical to building workplace resilience.
Innovate and set new goals – personal innovation means investing in and developing your own knowledge and talents. Continuing Personal Development courses are a productive way of expanding your knowledge base. Night classes are a creative way to develop your hobbies and personal interests and to build a social network. Always set new personal goals or milestones.
Work-Life Balance – it is critical to balance work demands with your personal life. Seeing family and friends, socialising, travelling, exercising etc. - doing the things that enrich you is essential to a happy and fulfilling life.
Good work networks – what supports are available in your workplace? Are you in a position to make positive changes in your team or organistion? Here are some ideas of what you can do:
Encourage management to make a commitment to mental health and wellness initiatives to create a healthy psychological environment.
Simple ergonomics such as creating a healthy workspace i.e. lighting, suitable workstations and chairs etc. as well as taking breaks to stretch your body and fingers can all make a huge difference to wellbeing.
Building good social networks at work i.e. team building days, nights out etc. Positive relationships at work boost employee engagement and productivity.
Healthy eating options at work. Lunch time yoga classes or even donning the trainers and going for a walk are all positive actions to boost workplace resilience.
In summary, resilience is a multi-modal dynamic concept which embraces physiological and psychological elements. Resilience means more than just ‘bouncing back’ – it means strategically adapting to and responding to change, adversity and uncertainty and emerging from the process with new perspective, strength and insight. One of the certainties of life is uncertainty and there will inevitably be obstacles and setbacks to challenge even the most resolute of us. However, by deliberately developing resilience we can equip ourselves with essential skills, approaches, and mindsets to navigate even the most turbulent times. The important thing is to keep going to remember that ‘after all, tomorrow is another day’.
R – reflect on your values. E – everybody has setbacks. S – stay connected. I – invest in yourself personally and professionally. L – learn healthy and supportive habits and behaviours. I – identify your strengths, talents and skills. E – engage with tolerance and compassion. N – nurture mind, body and spirit. C – cultivate a positive expectant mindset. E – express gratitude.
Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota.
Jensen, J.M. and Fraser, M.W. (2005) A Risk and Resilience Framework for Child, Youth, and Family Policy, in Social Policy for Children and Families: A Risk and Resilience Perspective, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.
Kiken, L.G (2011) Mindfulness Increases Positive Judgments and Reduces Negativity Bias, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 425-431.
Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility, Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 176-186.
Strengthening Personal Resilience – a programme to improve performance Derek Mowbray July 2012 Management Advisory Service www.mas.org.uk
Ruth Kelly is a researcher and nutrition and wellness adviser. She holds a Ph.D in science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, as well as advanced diplomas in Nutrition and Weight Management and Emotional Freedom Techniques. She is a qualified Stress Management Coach and is currently self-employed at Essence Wellness which offers a range of services to private clients as well as the corporate sector including Corporate Wellness Programmes which cover nutrition, stress management and resilience building. She is a regular blogger to wellness websites in Ireland and is also a fully qualified Bio-energy therapist and Reiki Master.
Posted By Administration,
Friday, November 2, 2018
The Roles of Resilience and Empowered Health Consciousness
Resilience is operable in a window of time; it is the “bounce back” from adversity. Health consciousness is an ongoing process. It comes before resilience, is at play during resilience, and continues after the resilience. If you are not conscious of what’s happening during the stress-inducing event, you are not going to be resilient. Being present and aware during an adverse experience enables you to learn from the difficulty, promoting a resilient response.
Resilience and health consciousness work together to create a culture of awareness and learning in which people respond more positively to adversity.
A course in resilience and stress management will not help your staff if they return to a toxic work environment. Empowered Health Consciousness is a route to addressing resiliency work in a conscious, mindful way to stimulate growth and health in the work culture, the work climate, and the work environment. Health consciousness and resilience work together.
The National Wellness Institute offers two facilitator certificate courses in partnership with Organizational Wellness and Learning Systems (OWLS):
Individuals who earn a Facilitator Certificate through NWI will be able to use the tools, resources, and techniques provided in the certificate course to train students, employees, and clients in various settings in the topic presented.
Because of his team’s recently published research paper on how to improve health consciousness, Dr. Joel Bennett has been asked for a simple definition. This is a challenge because health consciousness can be as much a process as it is a fixed trait or a steady state. Think of other processes like resilience or intimacy. Resilience is the process of bouncing back and continually learning and growing. Intimacy is the process of getting to know someone at deeper and deeper levels. The strength and the joy can lie more within the discovery and the journey than in arriving somewhere.
Similarly, health consciousness has processes and levels. When we understand the idea that we can have different levels and that health consciousness is a process, we can start off with a simple definition.
Waking Up. The simplest definition is “Paying attention to what we ingest.” As adults, most of us know we should be aware of what we ingest or put in our bodies. While we usually think of food, many thousands of adults a year experience poisoning due to food, drugs, or alcohol (with pain medications as the most frequent). Paying attention to what we eat is especially important in a culture given to gluttony, fast-food, and major growth in ultra-processed foods and food varieties due to innovation in food flavoring and ingredient technologies. But it isn’t only food or sugar-laced drinks. Many people have health problems when they mindlessly use tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Since the early 1900s, there have been a number of fads in OTC or non-prescription products for weight loss that have led to disease. This includes Amphetamine, Gelatin diets, Phen/Fen, PPA, and Ephedra. The most recent opioid epidemic is partly due to strong and not always ethical sales strategies in the pharmaceutical industry. So, the first definition is waking up to the fact that we need to pay attention to what we ingest.
Leveling Up. This next definition adds “… and how I treat my body.” At this next level, we begin to realize that what we put in our body may be due to other factors. Are we tired? Are we under stress? When was the last time we ate? Are we at a party where there is cake? Do we have a condition that requires us to pay even more attention (e.g., diabetes, obesity)? We are not only paying attention to what we ingest but also to the general condition of our mental and physical state and the situations that may be a risk factor. When we “level up” we start going down a path of a healthy lifestyle. We make some commitment. Many of us attempt to level up when we make New Year’s resolutions. We know that our habits and paying attention are not functioning at the level they should be.
Tuning Up. At this next level, process consciousness really kicks in. We come to the realization that leveling up is important but we have to keep leveling up; it’s a continuous process. We keep correcting ourselves in the face of risk. When it comes to lifestyle, the vast majority of us just don’t level up once. Many people cycle through stages when changing a habit: from not doing anything, to taking action, to relapsing, to starting over again. The more we cycle, the more aware (conscious) we are that we need to watch out for—stay attuned to— certain “triggers.” These triggers include cravings, difficult emotions (see NWI's Understanding Emotional Triggers Tool), and certain places (e.g., restaurants or bars). The acronym of HALT (Hungry, Angry/Anxious, Lonely, and Tired) has been used in many 12-Step or addiction recovery programs. It means it is time to pause, to halt, and stay on top of our game. In a way, when we keep waking up to our vulnerability, we are tapping into and strengthening our health consciousness.
Going Meta. “Meta” refers to going beyond the details and seeing the big picture or integrating all the levels at once. All three previous levels really work together. As we grow in health consciousness, we keep waking up, leveling up, and tuning up. At a deeper level, we value our health, we value staying conscious, and we value staying conscious of our health. Essentially, we value self-care. These values: (1) help us to recognize when our behavior puts at risk; (2) lead us to correct our behavior (tuning up); and (3) also find – or prepare ahead of time – resources and alternatives before we get into trouble. We lead a protective lifestyle. We have our shield up. We don’t go it alone. In the figure above, we see examples of different resources: talking to someone (getting support), exercising, getting rest, and taking time alone for contemplation or meditation (spirituality). These are just some examples and there are dozens of others.
Joel Bennett, PhD, is President of Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems (OWLS), a consulting firm that specializes in evidence-based wellness and e-learning technologies to promote organizational health and employee well-being. Dr. Bennett first delivered stress management programming in 1985 and OWLS programs have since reached close to 50,000 workers across the United States and abroad.
He is primary developer of “Team Awareness” and “Team Resilience,” evidence-based, culture of health programs recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Health as effective in reducing employee behavioral risks. Team Awareness has been adapted by the U.S. National Guard as one of their flagship prevention programs and it has been used by municipalities, hospitals, restaurants, electrician training centers, small businesses, Native American tribal government, and in Italy and South Africa.
Posted By Theona Layne,
Friday, June 29, 2018
Updated: Thursday, June 28, 2018
You feel the strain every day don't you?
Whether it's work, finances or taking care of the kids, stress is an unwelcome visitor that never seems to leave. Well, you're not alone. According to a recent Gallup poll, 8 in 10 Americans report feeling stressed out.
Over time, stress can contribute to a plethora of health issues like chronic headaches, heart disease, depression, anxiety; the list goes on. Managing stress levels, on the other hand, ups your chances of living longer and healthier, provides clarity of mind and sharpens cognition.
Try these two effective stress blasting techniques to help you find your Zen.
1. Tap Away the Stress
With the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), the power to melt away stress is literally at your fingertips. The principle behind EFT is relieving negative emotions by gently tapping specific meridian point on the body. Tapping while focusing on a negative feeling or a particular problem helps the body release stress hormones.
According to Eileen Lichtenstein, a level two certified EFT practitioner, "Doing EFT brings serotonin, which is a feel-good hormone, up to the section of your brain called the Amygdala." The Amygdala is the part of the brain which deals with feelings and emotions.
EFT is so effective that it's even used to help war vets suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. In a recent study, published in the Permanente Journal, the technique reduced PTSD in war veterans by over 60 percent after 5-10 sessions.
Tapping is quick and painless. You can do it anywhere and at any time to help resolve negative emotions like anger, depression, anxiety and of course, stress. All you need are your fingertips, a tapping chart and a few minutes.
Follow these simple steps to tap way stress and anxiety.
Start by identifying the problem. Are you worried about someone? Are you anxious about giving a speech, plagued by bad memories? Do you suffer from panic attacks?
Rate your stress on a scale of 1-10. Ten = very anxious, and zero = no anxiety at all.
Focus entirely on one issue.
Use two fingers to begin tapping the Karate Chop point while using a setup statement. (See Chart at right)
A setup statement looks like this: “Even though I’m stressed out about [insert problem here], I deeply and completely accept myself.”
So, for example, if you're anxious about giving an upcoming speech, you can use the following set up statement.
“Even though I'm anxious about the speech I'm giving next week, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Now continue to tap while saying the following statements. Of course, you can adjust this script to suit your specific situation.
Top of the Head: "This anxiety is giving me knots in my stomach." Eyebrow: "I'll probably forget my speech." The side of the Eye: "What if I make a fool of myself in front of everyone?" Under the Eye: "Just the thought of giving a speech in front of all those people makes me break into a sweat." Under the Nose: "Maybe I can pay someone to give the speech for me." Chin: "I really hate giving speeches!" Collarbone: "This anxiety is too much!" Under the Arm: "The thought of giving this speech makes me want to throw up."
Now, take a deep breath.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how intense is your stress?
Tap through the script again until your stress levels disintegrate.
2. A Walk Among the Trees
For 20 seconds, close your eyes and imagine walking in a lush green forest with sunlight streaming on your face and a babbling brook flowing in the distance. Now open your eyes. Do you notice how much more calm and centered you feel?
That's one of many benefits you can expect from participating in Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for forest bathing, or spending time in forested environments.
As Amos Clifford, author of the book Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature, puts it, "forest bathing is about slowing down, coming into our bodies, and coming into our senses. The forest in a way gives back the gift of ourselves, of who we are, who we tend to forget on a daily basis."
Amos could be on to something. Spending time in nature, not only reduces stress but provides additional health benefits. According to a recent meta-analysis study of 700 people, individuals who practiced forest bathing had significantly lower blood pressure and cortisol levels than non-forest bathing participants.
Don't live near a forest? No problem. City dwellers can still reap the benefits of connecting with nature by visiting local urban green spaces. Urban green spaces are part of, you guessed it, urban areas.
Urban green spaces are usually entirely or partially covered with grass, trees, shrubs and other vegetation. Examples of green spaces include parks and community gardens. Studies show a direct correlation between green space availability with increased physical activity and improved mental health.
If there isn't a green space near your home, consider using the following resources.
Call your community recreation center and ask about area parks and trails. You can also check out your state government's website for similar information.
Find protected areas in your region by visiting the Nature Conservancy website at nature.org.
Visit FindYourPark.com. It's a website sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service and the National Park Foundation that serves as an online directory for national park areas.
Use one or both of these natural stress busters to chill out and find your Zen.
EFT Tapping Chart used with permission from Thriving Now. Telephone Interview with Amos Clifford, author of the book Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature Telephone Interview with Eileen Lichtenstein, a level two certified EFT practitioner
Theona Layne is a Pittsburgh-based freelance health and wellness writer. For the past four years, She’s provided reader-friendly, scientifically grounded researched articles for businesses and publications helping individuals achieve optimal health. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Writing as well as a certification in Medical Terminology. Her work has appeared in publications like Clean Eating Magazine and Health and Wellness Magazine. Writing samples are available on request, or you can read a few writing samples right now. When she isn’t writing, Theona enjoys staying on top of the latest health-related news and information. Connect with Theona Layne by visiting her website.