Resilience

Today I’m going to look health and performance from another point of view, resilience, which is defined as:

The ability of an individual to endure the trials of life, to rebound from adversity and make a fresh start after trauma.

Resilience refers to how well you can deal with and bounce back from the difficulties of life. It can mean the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool. Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively.

When you are highly resilient it’s like playing the game of life on an easier setting. The more resilient you are, the easier it becomes!

And health and resilience occupy a never ending feedback loop: What makes us healthy also makes us resilient, and in return being resilient improves our health.

If you look at the list of recommendations below they are all things that we recommend for general health and high performance. As humans we are designed to be highly resilient, it is in our DNA, if not our ancestors would not have survived.

But for all the benefits of modern society, it has also made things so easy that ironically we are now actually suffering as a result.

As one of the members of our community commented last week:

“I think on what humans used to call living: What used to be a normal part of our lives is now labeled as a challenge, an adventure, risky, dangerous. It’s no wonder that a large percentage of the population feels lost, unfulfilled and bored.”

Battlefield To Boardroom

My former life working in Special Forces placed huge demands on the body and mind. Operational tours, and training that cuts as close to reality as possible, meant that not being on top of your game could easily result in serious injury or death. 

So building physical and mental resilience was essential to achieving mission success.

“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable”

Conor McGregor

As the saying goes ‘train hard, fight easy’. The better prepared you are for a battle the more chance the outcome will be a favourable one.

But this is just as true when it comes to life. In a nutshell, the more resilient you are, the easier life is:

  • You have more energy and can keep working when others stop due to tiredness.
  • You get injured less and move with ease.
  • Stress doesn’t bring you down.
  • Your concentration and physical performance remain constant.
  • And should an accident happen you will fare much better than the version of you that wasn’t as resilient.

We have a saying in the military “errors compound” e.g. a small mistake will snowball into a catastrophe if you don’t have the ability to rebound from the original mishap.

When you have a general low level of resilience it only takes a few small knocks from life to send you into a spiral that can be hard to recover from.

But when you have a high level of resilience  you are much more equipped to absorb any one of those difficulties without it affecting your future performance.

Something we hear all the time at The Natural Edge goes along the lines of “I was doing really well until I started a new job, got injured (insert any number of difficulties)”. 

Being resilient limits the damage from any unexpected punch life throws your way. GETOUT OF HERE YOU RAT BEAST

How To Build Resilience

So how can you build resilience and increase your ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned.

According to the research of leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three elements that are essential to resilience:

  1. Challenge – View a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralysing event. Look at your failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, as opportunities for growth, not as a negative reflection on your abilities or self-worth.
  2. Commitment – Be committed to your life and your goals, and have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn’t just restricted to your work – commit to your relationships, friendships, and the causes you care about.
  3. Personal Control – Spend your time and energy focusing on situations and events that you have control over. Putting your efforts where they can have the most impact will increase feelings of empowerment and confidence. Spending time worrying about uncontrollable events leads to feeling lost and powerless to take action.

But although that gives us the overall picture what actions that you can take on a regular basis?

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping of your comfort requires you to extend your personal boundaries in order to create a fulfilling life.

The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the things that make you uncomfortable but in small doses. For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge.

In effect, this kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus.

Build A Strong Base Of Fitness

Exercising on a regular basis will increase your ‘energy tank’ and in general increase your work capacity, protecting you from fatigue.

Resistance training is particularly important. Stronger people survive hardships better and are able to enjoy life more fully. It isn’t just about developing the physical ability to lift, carry, and move objects; it’s also about building stronger bones and more resistant joints, developing more lean mass, living longer and better, and staying healthy into old age.

Meditate

Our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will.

Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.

Prioritise Sleep

If you want to be strong, fast, and full of energy, get enough good quality sleep!

When your sleep becomes short you are susceptible to weight gain, you significantly raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Tiredness also affects motivation. If you are sleep deprived you ability to employ willpower is massively reduced.

And then there is sleep’s effect on mental health. Deep sleep – the part when we begin to dream – is a therapeutic state during which we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences, making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also affects our mood more generally. 

Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.

Eat For Your Gut

The health of your gastrointestinal system is extremely important to your overall well-being. Not only do the type of bacteria you have affect the critical functions of the body’s digestive and immune systems. They also have the capability of affecting your body’s vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, digestion, vitamin production, immune response, and ability to eliminate toxins, not to mention your overall mental health.

When it comes to what you eat, two factors are very important for gut health: Fibre and diversity.

Fiber has long been linked to better health, but new research shows how the gut microbiota might play a role in this pattern. In particular, beneficial microbes feast on fermentable fibers—which can come from various vegetables, whole grains and other foods—that resist digestion by human-made enzymes as they travel down the digestive tract. These fibers arrive in the large intestine relatively intact, ready to be devoured by our microbial multitudes. Microbes can extract the fiber’s extra energy, nutrients, vitamins and other compounds for us. 

Diversity is also key! There are hundreds of species of bacteria in your intestines. Each species plays a different role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth. Generally speaking, a diverse microbiota is considered to be a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute to.

Develop Strong Bonds

Finally, don’t try and go it alone!

Develop strong relationships with the right people for you, the ones who make you better as a person, not the ones who drag you down.

People who have strong connections are more resistant to stress, and they’re happier in their life. Also the more real friendships you develop, the stronger your support network will be in times when you need to fall back on it.

Where To Go From Here

Stress and struggles come in many forms in life: adversity and trauma, fear and shame, betrayals of trust. The practices above can help you cope with difficulties when they arise, but also prepare you for challenges in the future. 

In summary you can develop resilience in several ways. First, take care to exercise regularly and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress more easily. The stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges.

Focus on thinking positively, and try to learn from the mistakes you make. Build strong relationships with colleagues and friends, so that you have a support network to fall back on. Also, set specific and achievable personal goals that match your values, and work on building your self-confidence.

Over the course of a week you may have to dedicate an hour or two a day on average to these things.

But in exchange, during all of the remaining hours you have more energy and focus, you’re more productive, and ultimately you are happier.

Critically when life inevitably gets in the way you continue to be able to perform – and keep doing these actions, further protecting your resilience and putting you in a positive cycle towards health, happiness and peak performance.