Strategies to Strengthen Resilience
in Challenging Situations

There are various strategies that you an adopt to develop your Resilience in challenging situations.

The most obvious of these is, of course, to avoid the things that you find challenging.  While obvious, this is not always the adopted route.  People often feel that they should or ought to be able to do certain things without finding them challenging.  Avoiding a challenge is often perceived as weak.  However, with the right mindset, avoiding a challenge is a perfectly appropriate strategy in many situations.  It allows you to play to your strengths, talents & abilities.

Beyond avoidance, there are three further strategies that you can adopt.

Gradual Exposure

The first of these is Exposure. This entails a gradual and controlled exposure to the threatening situation. This sort of technique can work for someone who is aiming to conquer a certain phobia.  And it can equally work if you want to overcome a particularly challenging situation.  It simply involves gradually exposing yourself to the challenge.  Take perfectionism as an example. This might lead to a tendency to over-prepare for an important meeting which can lead to extended working hours and interrupted rest, relaxation and sleep.

By gradually exposing yourself to shorter and shorter preparation time, you can achieve greater comfort with a more proportionate period of time spent in preparation for important meetings.


Compensation is another valid technique.  This simply acknowledge that your challenges might be someone else's strength; and someone else's strength might  be your challenge.  In a mutually supportive environment you can collaborate with others so that they support you with the things you find challenging and they support you with things you find challenging.  Collaboration can be a very effective technique to help maintain your resilience.

Brain Train to Build Resilience


It is also possible to improve your Resilience by training yourself to become more comfortable in certain situations that currently make you feel uncomfortable. This means that you can actually develop greater Resilience if you want to.


This step involves becoming more self-aware about the thought-processes going on in your mind when you are feeling uncomfortable, stressed and unwell. 


Let’s look at how our thought-processes work.  Try thinking of us as having four brains.


Our Instinctive Brain might respond to a situation with an immediate command to embrace or run away; to become loving or aggressive; to eat, sleep and so on (fight, flight and essential survival).  Without any conscious thought on your part, this primitive Instinctive Brain simply says: “I want to . . .” based on fulfilling an essential survival need.


Our Experiential Brain might respond to a situation by sub-consciously going through the filing-cabinet in our memory of previous similar situations and deciding what the best thing to do might be.  We might naturally avoid something that we have disliked before; or do something again that we enjoyed doing before.  This more evolved Experiential Brain says: “Let’s do this again, because it was enjoyable before” or “Let’s avoid this, because I didn’t enjoy it before.”


Our Logical Brain might respond to a situation by working out the pros and cons of the situation and deciding what the best thing to do would be.  Like a Judge, this Logical Brain says: “On balance, the best thing to do is . . .”


Our Values-based Brain might respond to a situation by working out what the right thing to do would be based on our values – whether religious, ethical, social, family or personal values.  Like a respected role-model, mentor, or guide, this Values-based Brain says: “The right thing to do is . . .”


Let’s give this an example.  Let’s say that Bob has brought cakes into your workplace to celebrate his birthday. 


Our Instincts may crave sugar and carbohydrates.  They feed and sustain us.













Our past happy Experiences of cake-eating might prompt us to accept the offer of a cake.  Then again, past bad Experiences might do otherwise (memories of past over-indulgence, diabetes or gluten intolerance, for example).  





Even if we desire a cake based on our Instincts and Experiences, we may use Logic to override our instincts and experiential preferences (perhaps we don’t want to ruin a meal later).  




Or we may have Values that conflict with our other thought-processes (perhaps we are fasting).





Often in life, we just work out these conflicts and get on with life; but sometimes they can produce challenges to our overall Wellbeing.  Because these conflicts often happen at a subconscious level, they can be confusing and uncomfortable.  There is often a lot to be gained from raising our awareness of these thought-processes so we can have a better idea of how and why our thought-processes impact our Wellbeing.


With that explanation in mind, you can now have a think about your discomfort in a particular Environment.  By thinking about your four brains and how they are influencing you, it might be possible to consider making some adjustments to help you develop your Resilience.


Out of this exercise, you might identify some commitments that you can make, to enhance your personal Resilience.


So, if your Outcomes, Behaviours, Feelings and Reactions to a particular Environment are getting a low score, you now have another choice. You can avoid these Environments, because they are a Trigger for you. You can gradually expose yourself to them. You can compensate by collaborating with others. Or now you can train your brain to think differently about these Environments.


If a particular Environment makes you stressed, angry, frustrated, depressed, anxious, scared, want to run away, want to drink alcohol, want to cut off all social ties, want to over-exercise, want to over-eat, want to avoid eating, lose sleep, sleep too much and so on . . . have a go at raising your conscious awareness of your thought-processes.  See if your low Wellbeing Score comes from how you Instinctively react to the situation. And see if your inner Judge, might come to a different conclusion if you think through the pros and cons.  


If you like what you think, practice it and learn to think differently.


See if your low Wellbeing Score comes from how your Values are offended by the situation. Work out whether your inner Mentor, or Role Model, might come to a different conclusion on what your Values are.  Or perhaps your inner Judge might think through the pros and cons differently. 


If you like what you think, practice it and learn to think differently.


See if your low Wellbeing Score comes down to how you react because you had a bad experience in the past.  Work out whether your inner Judge might think through the situation differently.  


If you like what you think, practice it and learn to think differently.


This brain training for Resilience can make the world of difference and help you build a new-found Resilience.


If you'd like to give this a go, have a look at the Wellbeing Workbook to help you identify the challenges you have which might be supported by brain training.

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