Building Resilience In Further Education

Resilience, sometimes called emotional resilience, is the ability to bounce back from a challenge and the capacity to adapt to face challenging circumstances, while maintaining your mental wellbeing.  Often our concerns about our ability to deal with a situation is linked to our ideas and feelings about control. Being able to take responsibility for ourselves in a stressful situation can go a long way towards increasing our feelings of control over ourselves and the world around us.

The most important thing, however, when discussing resilience and facing challenges, is to remember that you can either change the situation or change your reaction to it. Like all skills, resilience can be developed with time, energy and practice.

Below are 5 healthy ways to manage stressful situations and tackle those areas causing you the most pressure and concern.

1.    Express your Feelings

Develop your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to feel an emotion, name it and express it. It’s about identifying and managing one’s own emotions as well as being able to identify others’ emotions. This helps our interpersonal skills in terms of connecting with others and both forming and maintaining healthy relationships. It also supports our resilience and stress levels because you shouldn’t be bottling up your emotions and emotional intelligence suggests you can identify when you’re struggling with something and reflect on what might be triggering it, thereby reducing its affect and increasing your chance of avoiding it.

Just say ‘no’

Practice being clear and straight to the point when communicating with others. Be assertive. If someone or something is making you feel uncomfortable or making unrealistic demands, say so. Say ‘no’. Try and worry less about upsetting everyone else. Your feelings are just as important.

Resolve conflicts if you can

Find ways to be more forward if you need to speak about problems in your relationships. If you don’t, resentment can build making the situation worse.

2.    Balance

You may find that one part of your life is taking up almost all of your time and/or energy. It’s important to try and focus your energy on other areas, even if just for a short time. It’s not easy but it can help spread the weight of the pressures you’re dealing with, perhaps even making them feel a little lighter.

Manage your Time

Focus on what you can do and what is achievable in the time allowed. Set out a plan, listing steps to take or tasks to complete on the way. This puts you in control and helps you know where you are and where you’re going.

Don’t overpromise

Before you agree to something, make sure you do have the time, it’s within your capabilities and it’s not going to interfere too much with your own priorities. Don’t put yourself under more pressure than needed by trying to be everything to everybody. This links back to being able to say ‘no’ and can be both extremely difficult and liberating.

3.    Escape

Take yourself out or away from the situation, even if just for a few minutes. Take a few moments to breathe and calm yourself. Count to 10 if that helps.

Enjoy a change of scenery

Go on a short break or on holiday somewhere where you can have time away from your normal routines. Explore somewhere new, try new things and make memories. You should come back feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to deal with life’s challenges.

There are many relaxation techniques you can try to switch off and relax:

  • Enjoy nature
  • Learn some breathing techniques
  • Turn off your tech for a while (TV, phone, consoles, etc. No screen time for 30 minutes to an hour)
  • Get active or creative
  • Visualise yourself somewhere or doing something relaxing

Find a Quiet Place

Find somewhere without distractions and think about the ‘big picture’. Reflect on the situation. Is it important? Is it worth the worry and the stress? How can I change things? What do I need to do? Think about the positive aspects and the achievable – don’t get stuck in a loop of negativity and anxiety.

4.    There is no ‘Perfect’

Accept what is ‘Good Enough’

Don’t try to perfect at everything or all the time – it’s impossible! You’ll end up feeling like you’re falling short all the time. Don’t raise your expectations too high. Identify your priorities, break the situation down into small tasks or steps and tackle each one. And give yourself a break – nobody’s perfect

Reward yourself for small achievements

It’s not always the big things that need celebrating, and all major achievements are made of lots of smaller steps. Give them, and you, the recognition they deserve. Celebrate those completed tasks and important decisions with a treat or reward. See what happens when you make it a habit.

Forgive yourself

Forgive yourself when you feel like you’ve made a mistake, are failing, or falling short of expectations. Rather than berating yourself for not achieving what you had hoped to, look at what you have achieved and think about the steps needed to go the rest of the way. Remember, nobody’s perfect. Putting too much pressure on yourself definitely doesn’t help.

5.    Look After You

Develop interests and hobbies which are completely separate from what causes you stress.

This gives you the opportunity to take time off from everyday pressures, to try something new and maybe meet new people.

Make time for friends.

Chatting to them about what’s going on in your life can help put it in perspective. Doing the same for them will also fight any feelings of uselessness you may be suffering, as well as taking your mind of your troubles by encouraging you to concentrate on something else for a while. Also, it’s been proven that laughing and smiling releases hormones which help you relax.

Eat healthily, exercise regularly and sleep well

Easy to say but not always easy to do.

Stress can make it difficult to sleep but doing what you can to get a good night’s sleep can pay off by helping you feel more alert and ready to deal with difficult or stressful situations. I know I always feel more prepared to face the fay ahead if I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

When you’re stressed, it’s also tempting to skip meals or eat the wrong thing. What and when you eat can have a big impact on how you feel, which can have a knock-on effect on your resilience and ability to cope, as well as your physical and mental health. Speaking of, making sure you’re active for even just a small part of every day is vital for your physical and mental health. A short walk can work wonders for your mood and help you feel less stressed.

Other Tips

Include reducing caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon; take regular breaks at work, even if just for a few minutes; have a good support network around you and make sure to nurture those relationships which sustain you and re-evaluate the ones which drain you

You’re not Alone

Remember, no matter what you’re dealing with, you don’t have to do it alone.

Sometimes, just telling someone how you feel can make a difference in how you feel about it or your ability to deal with it. You may find they can help in other ways as well. Having someone to listen to us, even if they can’t help, can go along way towards easing feelings of loneliness and isolation, improving our mood and strengthening our bonds.

Sometimes, sharing your experiences and feelings with people who have gone through something similar can really help make you feel less alone. If you don’t feel you have anyone you can talk to, Elefriends and Big White Wall offer supportive online communities – just remember to stay safe. 

If you find you’re struggling, you should be able to share it with someone at work – your wellbeing is important and effective managers/ employers will take it seriously and want to support you. You can also reach out to your GP, find out if your local MIND branch has anything on offer that might help, or check out specialist websites and organisations for further information, such as Stressbuilding, Mind Tools, Be Mindful and Time to Change.

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