Resilience seems to be a bit of a buzz word at the moment, especially in the current climate. Sometimes known as our ability to “bounce back” from disruptive life events, resilience is incredibly useful as we navigate our way through life’s uncertainties (especially this year…!) Resilience can help us view difficulties as challenges; see failures not as weaknesses but as opportunities to grow; accept responsibility when mistakes are made and look for solutions; have awareness of how our beliefs influence our ability to be resilient and make positive changes to increase our ability to be resilient.

Resilient people tend to think positively, commit to goals and see challenges as opportunities, accepting situations as they are even if they don’t like them. They learn how to take care of their physical and psychological health, creating strong relationships and often have good self-awareness. Significantly, they focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t.

Let’s look a bit more at this idea of control, something that is particularly pertinent during so much global uncertainty. To do, we should look at where our sense of control comes from. The term ‘locus of control’ refers to how strongly people believe they have control over certain situations and experiences that affect their lives (the key part being believe, not necessarily a reflection of the truth in terms of our influence) Those with an external locus of control attribute their success or failure to an external force, such as luck or fate. Those with an internal locus of control believe instead believe their success or failure is as a result of their own efforts or abilities. We are all somewhere on the scale between the two, and it can be interesting to work out where on this scale we sit. 

To do so, try answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions.

  1. Is there a bad habit you’d like to break but haven’t been able to? (Yes: 0 points No: 2 points)
  2. Do you take steps to control your weight and fitness, such as exercise or diet? (Yes: 2 points No: 0 points)
  3. Do you believe your personality was firmly laid down in childhood, so there’s little you can do to change it? (Yes: 0 points No: 2 points)
  4. Do you make your own decisions, regardless of what other people say? (Yes: 2 points No: 0 points)
  5. Do you think planning ahead is a waste of time because something always forces you to change direction? (Yes: 0 points No: 2 points)
  6. If something goes wrong, do you usually feel it’s your own fault rather than just bad luck? (Yes: 2 points No: 0 points)
  7. Are most things you do designed to please other people? (Yes: 0 points No: 2 points)
  8. Do you usually manage to resist being persuaded by other people’s arguments or opinions? (Yes: 2 points No: 0 points)
  9. Do you often feel you are the victim of outside forces you cannot control? (Yes: 0 points No: 2 points)
  10. Are you sceptical about horoscopes or how much they can tell you what is going to happen? (Yes: 2 points No: 0 points)

Now add up your score. For questions 2,4,6,8 and 10, score two points for every yes you chose. For questions 1,3, 5, 7 and 9, score two points for every no you chose, giving you a maximum score of 20. The higher your score, the more control you feel you have over your life. Scoring 14 or above means you have an internal locus of control, so you believe your successes and failures are your own. Scoring below 14 means you have an external locus of control, so you think fate and luck play a large part in your life.

Were you surprised by your result or was it what you expected?  Where we are on the continuum can alter depending both on our circumstances and changes we make to our thoughts and behaviour.  Generally speaking those with an internal locus of control are likely to be more resilient. 

But wherever you are on the continuum, there are lots of things you can do to develop resilience. Resilience isn’t something we are born with, it’s something we learn.  We can develop strategies to improve our resilience in lots of different ways including eating well and exercising regularly if possible as well as challenging some of the beliefs and thought processes we have that might be getting in the way of our ability to develop resilience. 

We aren’t born with resilience, we must learn it, and there are lots of strategies we can develop to do so. Here are some tips.

  1. Relax. Stress, tension and feeling emotional shut down our ability to explore the options open to us. When we feel rested we can view our situation and make choices and decisions from a more logical place. (Why not explore the guided relaxations on our website to help you?)
  2. Consider your options. If you feel like you’re backed into a corner, chances are you’re missing an alternative option. It’s worth taking time to question things and think outside the box, talking things through with a trusted confidante if it helps.
  3. Set realistic goals. Targets give us purpose, helping us move forwards with focus. Set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-limited, and allow flexibility to give you contingency plans.
  4. Identify your areas of control. When overwhelmed it can be helpful to focus our energies onto things we do have influence over, rather than those outside our control. Write a list of things you can control, no matter how small, such as what music to listen to, what to wear, where to go for your walk, what to watch on TV, what to eat for lunch.
  5. Acknowledge areas where you have little or no control. We’ve mentioned resilient people tend to be more accepting of situations or people, which doesn’t mean agreeing with or liking them. It just means acknowledging they are who they are, and things will still be how they are whether we worry about them or not, so channel that energy elsewhere.
  6. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s how we learn and move forwards from mistakes that counts. Resilient people tend to be less judgemental both of themselves and others, so meet yourself where you are, not where you think you should be! Developing an inner cheerleader instead of an inner critic helps us be kinder to ourselves. Listening out for repetitive self-critical messages and replacing them with self-supporting messages creates a new habit over time which softens our expectations of ourselves.
  7. Ask for help. Developing resilience also means knowing when extra support is needed and being ok with asking. Again, it’s not always easy, particularly if you are the one usually doing the supporting! Think of it as a two-way street that gives us a different perspective – you may enjoy helping others so giving them the same opportunity is doing them a favour!

So there’s lots of ways to improve and develop resilience, where will you start?