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Have you ever wondered why some people appear to remain calm in the face of disaster whilst others fail to cope?
People that are able to handle themselves well in a crisis have, what psychologists call, resilience - an ability to cope with problems and setbacks.
Resilient people are able to utilise their capabilities and strengths to manage and recover from problems and challenges, which may include job loss, financial problems, illness, medical emergencies, natural disasters, divorce or the death of a loved one.
Those who lack resilience may instead become overwhelmed by these experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with such challenges. Generally, these individuals recover from setbacks more slowly and may experience more psychological distress as a result.
Most dictionaries define resilience as “the ability to recover quickly from stress”. The idea of resilience originates from material science where it describes the property of a material to resume its original shape after distortion.
Toughness is an associated word that, in the same context, means the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without rupture or the resistance to fracture when stressed.
Both resilience and toughness applied to human psychological behaviour have come to mean this ability to cope with and handle the stresses and strains encountered on a day to day basis. Both are associated with stamina, a power of endurance and an unyielding spirit.
Even in the face of adversity, events that seem utterly unimaginable such as war or natural disasters, people are able to find the strength to not just survive but to thrive.
Some individuals come by these abilities naturally, with personality traits that help them remain composed in the face of challenge. However, these behaviours are not simply an inborn trait found in a few individuals.
Resilient people are able to utilise their capabilities, strengths and robustness to manage and recover from problems and challenges. They are able to adapt to adversity and major change without lasting difficulties and, generally, do this in a calm, rational manner.
Those capable of dealing with minor stresses more readily have been shown to manage a major crisis with greater ease – so resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe.
Resilience is being increasingly recognised as a desirable capability applied to the ever-changing work environment and people are capable of learning skills to become more resilient.
Resilience and managing emotion are about rationality and calmness, dealing effectively with – and making the most of – what you experience in everyday life.
Building your skills in emotional intelligence in times of stress can develop your resilience and buffer you from developing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. These skills may help offset certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing a mental illness, such as lack of social support, being bullied or experiencing abuse.
Resilience enables you to overcome misfortune, steer through everyday challenges by picking yourself up and moving on when events take you off course, and helps you to reach out to new experiences and challenges that help you to achieve your full potential.
Resilience is a metaphor that describes an emergent construct as there is a paradox with resilience – resilience is forged through adversity not despite it. At our worst times, we become our best.
Robin Hills is Director of Ei4Change – Emotional Intelligence 4 Change – a company specialising in training, coaching and personal development focused on emotional intelligence, positive psychology and neuroscience.
Robin has over 40 years’ business and commercial experience helping executives and leaders develop business performance through increased self-awareness and understanding of others. In his work, he uses internationally recognised profiling tools to assess type, trait, behaviour, and emotional intelligence.
Robin is the author of two business books in The Authority Guide Series and has developed an experiential coaching methodology Images of Resilience to support cathartic conversations around resilience.
Robin has developed the most comprehensive range of emotional intelligence online courses that are available on the internet. These cover topics such as leadership, team work, conflict management, resilience, and communication skills. The fun, engaging courses have been taken by over 120,000 learners in 175+ countries.
Based upon this work, Robin has spoken and delivered at international emotional intelligence conferences. These have been held in South Africa, India, the Middle East, the United States (Harvard University) and across the United Kingdom.