Qualified Career & Life Coach Rachida Benamar, writes her thoughts and shares her advice on how to build a strong “resilience bank”.

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo, far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.” – Jodi Picoult. What Jodi is talking about is resilience. What is resilience? According to the definition given by a paper from the Harvard Center of the Developing Child: “the essence of resilience is a positive, adaptative response in the face of significant adversity.”

Forget talent, you need to top up your resilience bank if you want to succeed in any area of your life.

The great news is that resilience is not a resource that can be used up. Moreover, it is not an unchangeable trait. You might have heard that some people were born resilient. This can be true to a certain extent, but you can strengthen yours at any age – how cool is that?

Why would you want to build a strong resilience bank? I am yet to meet someone who has never experienced stress in their lives and if they haven’t, they will. As you we get older, we experience loss, challenges in our career and betrayals. That’s just a fact of life so knowing how to cope when these situations arise is pure gold.

Also, coping with stress in a positive way is associated with longevity, a lower risk of depression and greater satisfaction with life in general. So how can you boost your resilience bank?

As I said earlier some people are born with a higher resilience bank than others. For example, one of my nephews would climb a tree, fall over and even if he is bleeding, he wouldn’t shed a tear and climb back up again whereas my other nephew would be crying for an hour if this happened to him. But we all can all grow our resilience bank – here are some tips:

1. Reframe your situation:

This is one of my favourite tools because it is so important to step back and view the situation objectively. For instance, if you didn’t get the role you applied for, you could feel lousy and tell yourself that your worthless OR you could realise that there are many factors to consider and it is probably for the best that you didn’t get this particular role. You should feel secure in your abilities and keep believing that something even better is coming your way.

2. Ask For Help:

Even if it is from only one person. Your social network is key in helping you build your resilience bank because we all need to rely on others in this world.

3. Laugh More:

Even if you must force yourself. Don’t get me wrong, you will feel ridiculous. But looking ridiculous has never killed anyone but most importantly it works! It is not some woo-woo BS. Many studies have shown that laughing boosts your immune system (and it is hard to make scientists agree on anything!). Make it a habit and if you want to be a positive person and stay away from depressing elements like frenemies, sad songs, and scary movies!

4. Regular Exercise:

Now for those that know me, I am not the greatest athlete, but I have always been a walker. I walk between 1 to 3 hours a day. It keeps me sane and I believe that it is essential for anyone’s mental and physical health.

I would like to be crystal clear on one very important point – some serious events, such as the loss of a loved one, will require support and maybe even professional help. Do not think that you are weak because your resilience bank was not topped up and it is your fault. We all need help, me included. The NHS has a list of depression support groups here.

Another key point, I would like you to bear in mind is that resilience can be situation-specific! In other words, someone may demonstrate resilience in response to being bullied by a colleague but not if they are dumped. I think it is essential to be kind to ourselves and realise our strengths rather than focusing solely on when we struggle.

Someone once asked me this brilliant question about resilience: “How do you distinguish resilience from enduring something you should not?” An excellent question! I believe that the element of control is the key differentiator, let me explain. If you lose a loved one, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it whereas if you are in an abusive relationship, for instance, you have many choices open to you. Please do not confuse resilience with suffering in silence. You are not a weak person if you leave a situation that puts you in harm’s way.

Seeking dangerous situations will not help you build your resilience. If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, toxic friendship or toxic work environment, you will not become more resilient, you will just become depressed, and your health will seriously suffer (stress is a silent killer).

When I think about an example of resilience, the actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish comes to my mind. Her mother was in a near-fatal car crash and Tiffany had to cope with school and looking after her mother and younger siblings. Due to the extent of her mother’s illness, Tiffany eventually had to go in foster care and when she became too old for that system, she became homeless in Hollywood. These circumstances were out of her control but with the help of an amazing social worker who led her to comedy she built up her resilience bank and she is now a very successful woman. Nothing can break you if you have the right mindset. If you want to know more, Tiffany has an autobiography called “The Last Black Unicorn” that you should check out.

I hope after reading this article you will give up the fatalist (and quite frankly dangerous) idea that you are either resilient or not. You can build up a great bank to help you cope with any type of situation, with of course some help depending on what you are facing. No one has the right to judge you, I remember people telling me: “Come on Rachida, it is not a big deal.” But it was a big deal to me. If it is a big deal to you seek help. There is nothing weak about it! It is actually extremely brave and difficult to share your inner sadness and ask for help.

About the author

Rachida Benamar is a qualified Career & Life Coach and also holds an LLM from UCL. She also presents workshops for the employees and members of companies such as WeWork, Impact Hub, as well as other private businesses and charities. Rachida writes and contributes to articles as a career expert which have been featured in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Rachida is also an entrepreneur, having founded Rama Publishing, an award nominated lifestyle stationery brand based in London in 2018. 

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