Life happens - and it has happened or will happen to all of us in ways we enjoy, and ways we find difficult. For some, disruptions and adversities happen with more frequency than for others. All experience ups and downs. Personal Safety Nets is all about building resilience, navigating these various events, planning ahead as best as one can; not leaving life's disruptions or unplanned, unexpected events or crises to chance. Looking at life holistically, at the various aspects of it, will make a huge difference in outcomes. Resilience is defined as having the ability to bounce back quickly and effectively. Having a robust PSN is not only a proven way to bounce back, it's effective and most sustainable.
As you will discover, there are two dominating forces in a lifetime. One force is personal resilience and the responsibility of the individual. Internal beliefs, values and skills acquired throughout life form a base for action.
The second force impacting resilience is relationships: your support system and reputation – the power of the collective. Supportive relationships ease moving through the life events and help you avoid getting stuck. The people and entities in a PSN safety net are a vital resource when unanticipated or hard things happen. They can prove to be a lifeline. Strength, knowledge, wisdom and optimism can be drawn from this net – leading to better choices and greater resilience. These PSN relationships with people and community entities are as important as are the skills and attributes we possess. Sustainable resilience is a team effort.
Part 1: Personal Resilience Skills
Personal resilience requires enhancing and developing our coping and character skills. In this section, we’ll focus on the skills you will need to effectively cope, build character, and to build your resilience with your PSN support team before, during and after disruptive, adverse or traumatic events occur. Or use these skills for just living life day to day with life’s nuisances and challenges.
Resilience, our ability to cope with and bounce back from disruptive, traumatic events or crises in our life, requires us to manage our emotions. When emotions become heightened, stay heightened, our ability to think, use logic and reason or make good choices, is severely impaired. It’s not uncommon during heightened emotions to be asked: what were you thinking? The truth is we weren’t thinking. To build and fortify our resilience we will also want to utilize our support system to our advantage during tough times – activate our PSN.
4 Simple Steps to Emotion Management/Control
- Stop: As soon as emotions begin to rise, stop talking, be still.
- Chill out: think of something or do something that will bring a feeling of calm.
- Think it through now that your emotions are under control.
- Talk it through with a trusted family member or friend.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Failing to recognize when emotions are out of control and not serving us well.
- Not reaching out to those whom we trust to be there for us during difficult and trying times.
- Giving up and giving in to the negative feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
- Procrastinating on developing a PSN.
- Isolating and withdrawing from supportive others.
- Failing to search for and find seeds of optimism and hope.
- Discounting that You Matter and that your well-being matters to those who love and care about you.
Positive Attitudes and Optimism
A positive attitude and optimism are learned skills for the most part. They contribute significantly in our ability to bounce back from everyday nuisances and disruptions and also from traumatic, life altering events. They are skills that keep us from getting stuck in feeling hopeless and helpless. If you lean toward being negative or pessimistic, denying yourself the ability to bounce back from adversity or even to finding the seeds of some good or something learned, seek to surround yourself with people who are hopeful and can guide you through hopeless to hopeful. The people we surround ourselves with, their attitudes and coping skills will impact our attitude and coping skills. You get to choose positive people over negative influences. When we need to lean on our support team, make sure we’re leaning on people whom we trust to help us navigate toward resilience and hope in our future.
Steps to Acquiring Positive Attitudes and Optimism
- Be mindful of thoughts and attitudes – what we tell ourselves.
- Reframe negative thoughts and statements.
- Seek out positive, optimistic people for your PSN.
- Observe the reactions of others when negative, pessimistic attitudes or beliefs are shared – observe the difference when positive and optimistic, hopeful and helpful, attitudes and beliefs are expressed.
- Help another transition into resilience by helping them develop coping skills to navigate through their challenges.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Surrounding yourself with negative, pessimistic people.
- Believing your circumstances are hopeless.
- Using optimism in a way that avoids dealing with real problems that require your action and participation.
- Failing to have words match actions. Speak the language of can do and have your actions reflect your words.
Become a good observer of yourself and others to learn what works and what doesn't. This skill is underutilized and yet it's invaluable to us once we learn how to make it work for us. Much of our knowledge comes from our own life experiences – our successes and our failures. Seldom do we realize how much we can learn by observing others - how they cope, navigate and adapt through minor and major disruptions, crises or losses in life. We get to see how resilience, or lack thereof, determines outcomes. Our attitudes, beliefs, acquired knowledge and our support network, our PSN, determines our resilience throughout the event and long after it. Observing others, learning from them enhances our wellbeing during good times and tough times.
Resilience is a vital pillar to sustain us and enable us to move forward. Your well-being is important because You Matter.
Steps to Acquire Observation Skills
- Observe: learn how others handle adversity and how they acquire the resilience to move forward with optimism.
- Apply: see how behaviors and attitudes can lead to acquiring and building stronger resilience.
- Ask ‘how’ questions when observing others' successes. An example: How did you avoid getting stuck in the negative?
- Observe others' patterns of behaviors in good times and bad. Observe what worked well and what didn’t.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Failing to observe and learn from others.
- Believing there is nothing to learn from observing and believing you can’t change.
- Failure to observe how negative emotions lead to negative outcomes if stuck in the negative.
Confidence is the result of learning and knowing what to do and then learning, knowing and practicing how to do it well. It’s a process and not an event. To acquire resilience confidence, the ability to bounce back swiftly, it takes practice on the small stuff that disrupts daily life. When problems surface, seek to find solutions, don’t avoid or run from them. Practice making informed decisions and choices. When solutions don’t work or decisions prove to be mistakes, consult with trusted family members or friends. Fix what went wrong…if unable to find a fix, move forward. Confidence is gained by successes and learning from one’s mistakes and learning from others who have experienced similar challenges that they have successfully navigated them with resilience. (See link to Asking for Help.)
Steps to Gaining Confidence
- Identify areas in which you need or want to develop confidence.
- Identify the skills/strengths you will need and the steps you will take to build resilience.
- Identify the best outcomes from having resilience and the worst that could happen if you don’t.
- Identify people with confidence and resilience and ask what they do or did to acquire it. Duplicate success. Practice learning new skills and attitudes.
- Help others in need of building their resilience.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Allowing heightened, unmanaged emotions to rob you of confidence.
- Failing to gather enough accurate information prior to making decisions or attempting to solve problems.
- Failing to ask those you admire and respect for help to build confidence and your resilience.
- Believing you can’t change and become stronger. Giving up.
Part II: Relationship Skills to Strengthen Resilience
When our resilience is strengthened, and our ability to bounce back swiftly from adversity and crisis in our lives in enhanced, life's disruptions can be a rewarding experience regardless of how bad the circumstances are. When we feel overwhelmed, the obstacles we face appear bigger than we are, or each seems to be just one more thing on top of other more stressful life events. Navigating with trusted, supportive friends and family and being aware of various community resources make the journey a bit easier and our problems and decisions less of a burden. We borrow the strength of resilience from those surrounding us. Our coping mechanisms work better, we can make better choices and more informed decisions with a little help from our family our friends, and perhaps from advisors, experts or various paid and unpaid community resources. We borrow their strength in our time of need and return it during the time of need of others. Quality of life can be enhanced by the company that is kept and the compassion and care we extend to one another.
Managing emotions is essential to building sustainable, supportive and resilient relationships. Heightened or out of control emotions cause many regrettable conflicts in relationships. This is true whether the powerful emotion is "positive" or "negative". When strong emotions sweep over us we often say or act in ways that we'd not have chosen if we were on more neutral keel. When this happens, apologies, if needed, should be made sooner rather than later. The longer one waits to apologize the harder it is, and the more difficult it can be to rescue the relationship. Good friends and family and community relationships are valuable assets. Taking them for granted or allowing negative or destructive emotions to ruin them isn't a necessity. Practicing emotion management steps until they become immediate responses to powerful emotions allows choice in these responses and can pay big dividends.
4 Simple Steps to Emotion Management/Control
- Stop: As soon as emotions begin to rise, stop talking - be still.
- Chill out: Think of something or do something that will bring a feeling of calm.
- Think: Once emotions are under control.
- Talk: Talk the situation through with a trusted family member or friend.
Trust, trustworthiness, integrity and honesty are foundations to building sustainable, supportive and rewarding relationships. Without these building blocks as the foundation, there will be few others who are willing to support and encourage you when you need them and their support the most. Your resilience will be at risk if you are isolated and alone. A friend worth having is a friend that can be trusted, has integrity and values honesty. Good character traits lead to a quality relationships and good reputation. A PSN includes a team built on these shared values.
Steps to Acquiring Trust, Integrity and Honesty
- Define trust and its meaning to you and your support team. Seek to understand what trust means to each of you. Honor and respect each person’s trust as it was defined by them.
- Set the example in actions and attitudes. Don’t expect from others what you can’t or won’t give.
- Life is not perfect and no person is. Track patterns of behaviors and attitudes before making a judgment call. Leave room for being human and making mistakes.
- Honesty is the best policy even when it hurts to admit or acknowledge. It builds trust, integrity, character and your reputation.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Blaming others or lying. Take responsibility for your actions and attitude.
- Expecting others to be perfect.
- Holding an "entitlement" attitude.
- Failing to earn trust, respect, and a good reputation daily.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Sustainable, resilient and supportive relationships require these two skills. Life happens. Learning to become flexible and adaptable to circumstances that may not be ideal or not what we had envisioned or had hoped for is an asset. If we commit to being flexible and adaptable to that which is new and different or just changed, we are practicing resilience with an open mind. This is when a support team, a PSN, makes a big difference in outcomes. Relying on others' life experiences, lessons learned and wisdom gained, the unknowns and our fears are lessened. Using all the parts of our PSN – for instance, looking at what financial help might be useful when considering a move or purchase -- is a strong way of building a support team as a guide.
Steps to Acquiring Flexibility and Adaptability
- Seek to understand your resistance to being flexible and adaptable.
- Examine the benefits of being flexible and adaptable to change or a different way to accomplish a task.
- Seek input from trusted family or friends.
- Consider that others may have better ideas, know more or have faith in your ability to adapt to change, become more resilient.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Believing your way is the only way.
- Refusing to consider other alternatives.
- Failing to focus on the best outcomes and best possible way to achieve successful results and resilience.
- Being unwilling to trust that others will help you navigate through change and tough times.
Small acts of courage, day to day, prepare us for the times when we will need a big dose of courage. The most important aspect of courage is that courage is a very personal thing. What may be easy for one may not be easy for another. Life experiences play a big role in how we define courage for ourselves. Anything that requires getting outside our comfort zone to do something difficult, painful or risky is an act of courage when we do it. Some of our most thrilling moments are when we do what we thought we couldn’t. Even shedding long held unproductive beliefs, attitudes or behaviors can also be an act of courage. Resilience, depending upon the circumstances or events, requires a courage.
Steps to Acquiring Courage
- Identify small acts of courage that you are willing to act upon.
- Identify a trusted person to encourage and support your efforts.
- Have compassion for self and others struggling with courage.
- Know the resources you need to achieve the best possible outcomes.
- Identify known risks and have a plan if the worst were to happen.
- Embrace and celebrate success and your progress toward becoming more resilient.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Allowing others to define courage for you.
- Letting past failures or fears keep you from acting with courage.
- Ignoring the risks to yourself and others.
- Acting in reckless ways that can harm you or others.
- Believing that obstacles are insurmountable.
- Failing to engage your support team to cheer you on.
Managing Fear and Anxiety
Fear and anxiety can be very healthy for us or they can be very destructive. It's important to understand when they are beneficial to our well-being and when they are not. They're beneficial when they prevent us from doing harm to ourselves or others. They are not beneficial when they prevent us from doing those things that are in our best interest to do. If we learn to separate realistic from unrealistic fears and anxieties, we can manage them a lot better, reduce stress and, in some cases, overcome or eliminate the unrealistic ones. (See steps to emotion management above.). When we do manage these skills well, resilience builds exponentially. (If fears and anxieties are unmanageable and destructive to your well-being or others in your life, seek professional help.)
Steps to Managing Fears and Anxieties
- Acknowledge and define your fears and anxieties.
- Use courage (above) in addition to managing emotions.
- Commit to moving beyond self-imposed limits on each unrealistic fear and the anxiety about it.
- Determine the source of fears and anxieties to determine if they are real or not.
- Enlist the support and encouragement from trusted family or friends as you navigate through the fears and anxieties.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Doing nothing about managing unrealistic fears and anxieties.
- Believing you’re not resilient, and are incapable of stretching beyond your self-imposed limitations.
- Ignoring fear-based response to dangerous or high risk actions.
- Failing to engage others to help you manage your fears and anxieties.
- Refusing to take in information that negates the rationality you have for holding onto fears and anxieties.
- Not seeking professional help if fears and anxieties are negatively impacting your well-being and those you love and care about.