How resilient are you? Do you know? If you are fortunate enough to never have experienced any difficulties in life, then you may not know how strong and resilient you are. It’s when you are faced with those gut-wrenching set-backs or challenges that your ability to be resilient is tested; do you struggle to get a pass mark or steam ahead with an A+?!

What is resilience anyway? The word has its origins in the Latin resili, meaning to spring back or rebound. To be resilient is to have the ability to get back up when you fall down – to live with and learn from challenges and to come through even stronger on the other side.

Many of us have faced our own versions of difficulty in life and how well we deal with them will vary.

My version is all about living away from my home country as an expat; thousands of us do it but individual experiences are personal and unique. I have always struggled with missing family and friends, with being away from the people and places that I love. At times, no amount of reassurance and support from my husband and wonderful new friends – like I have here in Doha – would make any difference.

I seemed to be a yo-yo about living abroad; most days I was perfectly happy and then – bam! – I would sink into a day of sadness. I was given great advice – to look at the positives, to connect with new people etc – all of which would help but it was never quite enough; I wasn’t able to keep up that happy feeling all the time. I never whinged about where I was – it was where I wasn’t that got me down.

One day, in the middle of a coaching session, I suddenly realised something very simple: that it’s okay to feel rubbish sometimes – it’s okay to have down days.

I was trying too hard to feel great all the time, to be “perfectly” happy – well of course there’s no such thing! Trying hard was draining my energy and making me feel worse. I decided to accept that it’s alright to be a yo-yo – and the simple act of accepting that completely changed my perspective and made everything much easier. I took the pressure off myself to be upbeat all the time and as a result, I don’t get that many down days anymore – I am much more resilient to the challenges of being an expat than I’ve ever been before.

How can you equip yourself to be as resilient as you can? Accepting my inner yo-yo and changing my perspective worked for me; what about you?

The good news is that resilience is a skill set which can be learned; more than five decades of research support the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social support that can be adopted by anyone[i]. This is so important to know – whether you are an independent business owner, an employer or employee, working or not – that you can take steps to build stronger, personal resilience.

How can you strengthen your ability to be resilient? How do you find the emotional energy to bounce back and then maintain that strength when life gets difficult? Here are a few ideas:

  • Develop your self-awareness. This is essential because you can’t start to manage and strengthen what you don’t notice. Become aware of and name your feelings so that you can learn how to respond to them positively and purposefully, instead of reacting without thinking.
  • Practice self-care and compassion. Look after yourself. Seek out what it is that best resources and nourishes you and make sure you’re not “running on empty”. Manage and replenish your energy levels regularly to stay healthy and keep going.
  • Accept that challenges are part of life. Without challenge, there’s no opportunity to explore, to make mistakes, to learn and grow. Adversity and difficulty are part of living and you will support yourself and others more effectively by learning how to accept this reality.
  • You are stronger than you think. You are more creative and resourceful than you know. You have past experiences that you can rely on. Trust yourself and let go of what you perceive others may be thinking. You are in charge of yourself and the choices you make.
  • Change your perspective. Everything you perceive about the world is unique to you. Its normal to make judgements and assumptions all the time about what’s happening. Changing your perspective to try and frame your challenges in a different light, a broader or perhaps more positive way, can open up a whole new world of ideas and possibilities.
  • Connect with others. Be with people who will listen to you and support you without judgement or opinion. Find like-minded people to talk to; that may be a friend, colleague, mentor or coach.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Taking time to be calm, to breathe and be present in the moment can be an empowering and energising experience which can support you through challenging times.
  • Know your boundaries. Consider what you say “yes” to and what you say “no” to; creating healthy boundaries frees you up to make the choices you want and enables you to let go of what may not be in your best interests or even be your responsibility.
  • Express Yourself. When your mind is in a whirl and you feel overwhelmed or preoccupied, it can be a cathartic and relaxing process to express your thoughts in writing, in a journal or to a trusted friend. Or spend time on a creative hobby such as cooking or painting.
  • Find meaning in what you do. Having a purpose or being clear about why you do what you, can help you make sense of a situation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that difficulties will evaporate but you will be able to better understand what is happening and why, which can be liberating.

Are your resilience limits being tested? Are you going through a difficult or challenging time at the moment? Take time to understand what is happening and how you can support yourself to proactively and positively manage the experience. Are you doing enough to strengthen your own resilience skills? It may be hard and it may take time, but rest assured you will learn a lot about yourself along the way and you will definitely come through it a stronger, wiser and more resilient person.

[i] ”5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience At Work”, Rich Fernandez, Harvard Business Review, July 2016.