What is resilience and How do we cultivate it?

What is resilience and How do we cultivate it?

We know that in an increasingly complex and changing world, resilience – the ability to bounce back, will be more important than ever. This year St Andrew’s has made a commitment to deepen our understanding on the theme of resilience.

At the beginning of the year, all St Andrew’s staff and Senior students had the opportunity to learn from inspiring resilience researcher, Dr Sven Hansen. Dr Hansen is the founder of The Resilience Institute. Our staff were engaged and inspired by Dr Hansen, and the articulate way in which he was able to explain research, science and give practical advice about enhancing resilience

What is resilience?

Listening to Dr Hansen broadened my own understanding of resilience. His message was that if a person is resilient, they can demonstrate four abilities – the ability to bounce back from setbacks; to grow and be enthused by change and challenge; the ability to connect and care for others in authentic relationships (not online); and the ability to find opportunities to experience flow (using their strengths to meet a challenge).

Resilience is about self-awareness 

Dr Hansen explain the process of resilience clearly in a spiral model. This model shows the stages that exist when a person experiences the inevitable ups and downs of life. When we understand how the stages work and identify where we are in the spiral, we are in a much better place to make good choices regarding our resilience. It is all about self-awareness.

Our young people are becoming less resilient

Dr Hansen also referred to Jean Twenge’s research on generational differences, to highlight the increase in anxiety and depression we are seeing in our young people. He emphasised that resilience was originally enforced by the tough and physically challenging natural environment humans lived in. In this world, life was about problem solving for survival. This is very different from today, where resilience is not enforced, it is a choice. And humans do not always make the right choices.

What factors cultivate resilience?

During his presentation, Dr Hansen emphasised the importance of seven factors in enhancing resilience. Some are physical whilst others are emotional and mental. 

These are:

    • Having the right amount of quality sleep at the right time (7–8 hours for adults and 8–9 for adolescents).
    • We should be building movement into our routines every day, as our brains and emotions are inextricably linked to our moving body.
    •  Being able to calm our bodies and slow our heart rate through good quality breathing is an important skill. Dr Hansen called this ‘tactical calm.’
    • Resilient people are emotionally intelligent. Dr Hansen acknowledged the importance of being able to name your emotions. If you can name it, then you can tame it.
    • Having a growth mindset about resilience is key. Fostering an inner belief that you can grow emotionally, physically and mentally is important. Dr Hansen explained how humans are biologically built to grow – from our muscles to our brain cells. It is our nature.
    • Our minds are increasingly hypervigilant and scattered. We can easily dwell on the past or worry about the future. Resilient people know the power of quietening their mind and focusing on the present moment. Their goal is to be in a state of flow – calm, steady and present. The ability to focus is a key asset factor in cultivating resilience.

Over 20 staff from St Andrew’s have been so inspired by Dr Hansen, they are forming an innovation and research group to learn more about the theme of resilience. As part of this focus, staff will be trialling the Resilience Institute app (you can read more about this resource here), reading academic articles, sharing ideas and connecting with academics at the University of Canterbury.

 

St Andrew’s College

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BAM: BREATHE, ACCEPT, MOVE ON!

BAM: BREATHE, ACCEPT, MOVE ON!

This week, when I feel frustration about something I have no influence on, I remember to use the BAM: Breathe, Accept and Move on.

While breathing out nearly instantly leads to activate the relaxation system, acceptance is a neutral acknowledgment of the reality. Letting go, you free energy that will support you to learn and move on.

How will BAM help you move on today?

How to Be More Resilient and Reach Your Goals

How to Be More Resilient and Reach Your Goals

We all have to endure stressful moments throughout our lives. At times, stress can feel debilitating and keep us from achieving our goals.

However, there isn’t a more satisfying feeling than overcoming a difficult situation obtaining personal and/or professional success. Resilience is the most important trait for those who reach their goals.

I recently spoke to Dr. Sven Hansen, Founder of The Resilience Institute, which caused me to reflect on the moments where I needed to show resilience in order reach a goal. After our conversation, I had an even better understanding of what it means to be resilient. The takeaways are especially beneficial to those who are new to entrepreneurship.

Understanding Resilience

Being able to preserve and adapt are important qualities of accomplished entrepreneurs, along with being key components of resilient individuals.

“We define resilience as the learned ability to demonstrate bounce, courage, connection, and creativity,” Dr. Hansen conveyed. “Resilient people are calm, energized, engaged, focused, and creative,” he continued. With the world currently undergoing a number of paradigm shifts, technological advances, economic instability, and with the emerging of cryptocurrency, it is vital for business professionals to prepare for operating in a fluctuating environment.

Dr. Hansen said, “The current reality is turbulence or VUCA. Our data shows high levels of distress in 45%, hyper-vigilance in 50%, and worry in 55% of our clients. Stress is reported to be the highest in 10 years,” meaning entrepreneurs and goal seekers are not being as productive, due to building stress levels. Resilience and stress management are  strategic tools for those who want to achieve their goals.

There is a belief that states one can develop and grow their resilience by training at the edge of their comfort zone. Dr. Hansen conveyed that practicing learnable skills such as personal insight, emotional literacy and attention control will help us become more aware of ourselves and those around us.

Entrepreneurs who become in tune with their emotions, facial movements, and how their biology influences the mind will be able to effectively build resilience. This level of self-awareness will help business professionals manage stress, remain productive in their work, and increase their efficiency.

Resilience & Success

Productivity

According to Dr. Hansen, it is the key to success. “Productivity is a leading concern of governments, organizations, and economists. It is how we utilize our resources to create value.”

He expounded by making the following points on how we can be more productive by using resilience skills. He feels that we can all learn:

  • How to bounce back from adversity.
  • How to prevent resilience failure.
  • How to build the sources of resilience into life.
  • How to join the heroic and radical.

When speaking to him about the points, Dr. Hansen was able to give great insight to how this could help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Bouncing back from adversity and staying cognizant of our resilience training allows us to remain productive and produce more value.

Successful and productive individuals will use the foundations of resilience in their everyday personal and professional lives. Whether one is challenged with something as simple as choosing a breakfast destination or is challenged with meeting a crucial deadline, using resilience skills will minimize our negative response to stress.

Inside Stress

Awareness

According to Hansen, stress is not a useful way of describing a range of conditions that impact our performance. It is far more productive to define what kind of stress one is experiencing so that we can address it skillfully.

For example, instead of immediately diagnosing a condition as stress, look deeper into the situation. Individuals can feel overwhelmed, disengaged, and even disinterested with a task they must complete. These feelings could be the result of physical distress or depression, being able to apply true insight into a situation is half of the resilience challenge.

On the upper end of the resilience spiral are what Hansen describes as resilience assets. These skills enable individuals to fulfill their potential and be heroic.

“Heroism is built into our DNA. We are prepared to die for those we love and sometimes those we don’t. Radical refers to the cultural mutations we are able to provoke: populating the world, farming wilderness, language, war, transport, globalization, and so on. Today we sit at a frothy edge where many of these radical mutations are finding ways to co-exist simultaneously,” Hansen detailed when asked to explain what he meant by being heroic and radical.

Resilience Leads To Motivation

A lot to take in, right?

That’s precisely the point, building resilience and being cognizant of stress levels is not an easy task. However, it will become second nature over time. Individuals new to the business world will be able to utilize mental training in order to boost their productivity, limit stress, and make their goals easier to obtain.

Human beings are resilient by nature. Those who are able to harness learnable skills and become further resilient will give themselves an advantage over the competition.

Influencive- Walter Yeates

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Safetyism, Snowballs and fragile Youth

Safetyism, Snowballs and fragile Youth

Book Review: Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018

We parent, teach and support. We want the best for young people. What we are seeing is a collapse of mental well-being. At the same time, events of intimidation, violence and witch hunts increase.

Lukianoff and Haidt take us on an evidence-based and carefully considered journey through modern parenting, teenage mental illness and education. They describe how we are losing the pursuit of truth and growth. Society is being pulled apart by partisan politics and intolerance. Young people are not coping well with this.

Most importantly, the authors detail what we can do to improve this situation. What they describe is American but the signs are global. The solutions are practical and immediately applicable in families, schools, universities and societies.

The book is excellent.  Three ideas:

Safetyism

Overprotective society, parenting and education is depriving young people of growth. They are missing the opportunity to engage skilfully with truth, diversity, risk assessment, empathy and situation agility (the authors use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)). The i-Generation, born after 1995, suffers rapidly increasing rates of anxiety, self-harm and depression. They are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, relationships and politics.

The authors recommend using safety for physical risk only. They encourage us to help our youth take risks through free play, debate, conflict resolution and respect for truth. Social media must be limited – particularly for young women.

Snowballs

A school demands that student never touch snow because it may produce a dangerous snowball. Similarly, we have invited and expanded the concept of threat to include diverse views, free speech, “micro-aggressions” and “avoiding triggers”. Thus universities have, since 2013, experienced an alarming increase in mental illness and campus violence. Research from left-leaning perspectives is all that remains. Moderate views have been silenced. Social media helps us name and shame those who voice disquieting views. If that does not work, students increasingly resort to violence. All because someone touched the snow.

Fragility

Young people are complex adaptive systems. Genes create a rough template upon which the challenges of life – most specifically play and direct social interaction – work. We must play and practice to develop our neural wiring and the skills required to thrive. Jean Twenge shows that teen development is now delayed by three years. They are physically safe but mentally vulnerable.

The authors recommend that we rethink and look for proven wisdom. Treat our youth as antifragile. They have specific suggestions for parents, junior and senior school and universities. Much is based on teaching young people to own and master their emotional and cognitive responses. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

 

by Dr Sven Hansen

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

For 40 years, researchers have been investigating the impact of resilience on health, wellbeing and success. More recently, resilience has gained traction in popular culture, too. Across digital and print media – mothers, employees, trauma survivors and ordinary people are encouraged to harness resilience to improve their lives. In 2015, The New York Times published an article on ‘The profound emptiness of resilience’ – which lamented the overuse and misappropriation of this term in popular culture. Whilst ‘resilience’ is sometimes defined inaccurately, frequent usage of the word suggests it’s an extremely important concept that resonates with people from all sections of society.

Part of the reason dialogue on resilience has entered the mainstream is because – as a concept – it complements contemporary definitions of wellbeing. Wellbeing, as we know it today, favours holistic models of health, many of which have existed for centuries but have garnered exposure in Western countries within the last decade or so.  We’ll explore why the concept of resilience holds so much promise in today’s ‘wellbeing-conscious’ world.

Models of Health & Resilience

Depending on who you ask, ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ mean various things. The Western biomedical model draws a distinction between physical and mental health. In contrast, alternative models – influenced by Eastern and Ayurvedic philosophies – see the mind and body as inextricably linked. There is compelling evidence to suggest that toolkits such as resilience can help protect the body against various physical illnesses. Given societies’ increased acceptance of the close relationship between mental and physical health, it’s no surprise that resilience has risen to the top of the agenda.

Additionally, the biomedical model assumes that “disease is the single cause of illness” and once the isolated disease has been cured, the body will return to good health. Alternative health models do not assume that disease is behind all illness. Instead, these models try to nurture a solid foundation upon which the individual can self-regulate, avert illness, and achieve an overall sense of wellbeing. Crucially, alternative health models take a holistic approach to healthcare and are concerned with creating balance and equilibrium within the body. When considering this notion of balance, it seems almost identical to the notion of resilience. Resilience is often defined as “the ability to bounce-back from negative events.” In other words, resilience depends on the ability to return to a state of equilibrium after a period of adversity. Perhaps resilience discourse has grown rapidly in recent years because it appeals to our desire to achieve balance and equilibrium in the face of stressful work environments, busy schedules, and unstable economies.

 

BY BRADLEY HOOK

Train up body, heart and mind

Train up body, heart and mind

By 

With attention disorders, anxiety and depression swallowing up ever more of our lives, should we wail, gnash our teeth and take our medicines? Or, could we use wellbeing – body, emotion and mind?

We have massive, profitable industries to address our suffering. Starting with dubious diagnoses, mental health businesses, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals profit handsomely from our suffering.

 

Three common stories

Jack is a boisterous boy great on the sport field but a distracted and distracting event in the classroom. The teacher complained and he ends up on Ritalin. His classroom behaviour improved and the family found things more peaceful. Ten years later Jack is still on Ritalin but saves them up for tests. He is so “jacked up” by the evening, he uses alcohol to calm down. Jack joins 9.6 million Americans on ADHD medication.

The global sale of ADHD medication is estimated to reach USD24 billion by 2024.

Peter is shy and challenged by social events. His parents protected him by staying close. Peter learned that he needed protection from a scary world. Teachers, coaches and friends realise that Peter is fragile so no one tells him the truth. Instead he worries. He is diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder and takes Xanax (anxiolytic) joining 32 million Americans on anti-anxiety medicine.

Jane had an adverse event as a teenager. She never quite recovered becoming withdrawn, pessimistic, tearful and self-critical. Six weeks later she was given a diagnosis of depression and started on antidepressants. At 30 she is still trying different antidepressants and is jobless. She finds alcohol can help her have a decent evening out. Jane joins 43.6 million Americans on antidepressants.

Global sales of anxiety and depression medication are expected to hit USD18.3 billion by 2025.

We will simply ignore prescription opioids for now.

Perhaps these medicines have made us more focused, calmer and happier. Could we do better? We have the knowledge to see our suffering for what it is. Well tested practices can help us return to the resilience that evolution has neatly packaged as a core human attribute. Maybe it is time to clarify and accelerate our learned resilience.

 

Wellbeing and Resilience

We seek physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. Our bodies, our feelings and our thoughts can be helpful or damaging. In wellbeing, our bodies are energised and engaged in the flow of life. We sleep well, stay active and eat wisely. Our feelings are positive – content, grateful, loving, calm and joyous – more than angry, sad or fearful. Positive psychology suggests at least three positive emotions to counter each negative. Our mind is calm, curious and fully present to the moment: “Wow, amazing!”

In contrast, Jack is wired, restless and hyperkinetic. He catapults from boredom to intense craving and impulse. His mind jumps randomly between distractions. He lives in the future: “what is next?” He may overindulge in sugars, sleep little, and demonstrates little empathy.

Peter is hyper-alert, heart racing, pale, eyes wide, and lips drawn wide. He feels fear. Waves of anxiety accelerate his heart, trigger his asthma and lead to exhaustion. He worries: “What if they don’t like me, what if the bus is late, what if…?”. He lives in loops of worries about future risks. He sleeps little, eats little, and avoids activity because of the risks.

Jane slumps forward, shoulders round and head bowed with sadness etched deeply in her eyes, eyebrows and lips. She feels tired, sad, tearful and hopeless. Her mind ruminates: “I am useless, I always mess up, I am such a loser, everything is going wrong…” Her screen is her best friend, she eats for comfort, lies awake in the early hours, and sleeps until lunch on the weekend. Exercise is pointless.

There is a pattern and a story in the body, in the emotions, and in the mind. Those patterns lead to behaviours and outcomes. We can deny our body, emotions and mind. We can even blame a disease (or a person or a system) for all the problems. We can ask others to take care of them. We can abdicate responsibility and ask for a pill.

 

Master body, emotion and mind

Yet we can own our body, emotions and mind. We can learn to notice them and even relax into accepting them. When we observe and accept, we are no longer our body, our feeling or our thoughts. They become objects. Objects can be studied. We can experiment. We can seek and practise new ways relate to our body, emotion and mind.

For example, both Jack and Peter could practise slow, diaphragmatic breathing while learning to hold their attention in the present. Jane could sit upright and lift her chin with her shoulders rolled slightly back. All would benefit from sleep – and exercise – and a Mediterranean diet. A recent meta-analysis suggests it can reduce depression by 33%.

The body has many levers to lift ourselves out of suffering. Simple actions. Well proven. More wellbeing. Here’s how:

Jack could work on feelings of contentment and direct his attention toward how others are feeling (empathy). Peter really needs to appreciate the moment (gratitude) and remember that most people experience some anxiety. Jane needs to seek joy and appreciation. She must make every effort to smile generously.

Our emotions are simply tools that we can learn to apply more skilfully. Simple action. Great fun to practise with others.

Jack’s attention circuits were slow to develop. He needed help from early on to train attention. He can learn to work in focused bursts with adequate rest and activity between. Peter can learn to accept watch his worries. He will notice how often they are exaggerated and unlikely. He can learn to catch worry and gently direct his attention to the present.

Jane needs coaching to help her notice the loops of self-deprecation. She can learn how to catch “I always fail” and adjust it to “I sometimes fail” and then to “We all make mistakes sometimes”. This cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is well proven to resolve depression as well and more permanently than medication.

Again, we see that thoughts can be observed, described and adjusted to be more realistic and positive. The mind is trainable – awareness, attention, bounce and positivity.

Remember that studies have shown that simply sitting slumped in front of a screen can trigger depression. Sitting upright lifts testosterone and reduces cortisol. Think of all the tiny nudges we could offer young people at home, in school and in sport. Little reminders to stand tall, to breathe out, to appreciate a gesture, to be fully focused in the moment.

What if we could be more objective about the wonderful resourcefulness in our bodies, our emotions and our minds? What if we could be more skilful and accountable in owning and mastering them? This is true wellbeing.

Bad stuff happens sometimes. I’ve got it covered. We’ve got it covered. We have toughened up.

What are we waiting for?