What can I expect from psychological resilience training?
Perceptions of the term resilience
Dot: If you Google ‘resilience’, it’s still the emergency services that come up. So we’re not very sure what psychological resilience means. But very simplistically, it is a very valuing thing to do, because we’ve talked about how busy we all are, how we’re stuck on our online work base for long, long periods; but it’s time out, whether that be three hours, whether that be a full day.
It’s the beginning of a process, but it’s time out to start thinking about you. Which yes, has benefits for the organisation. But actually people again feed back to me qualitatively at the end of a course, where I wasn’t sure what it was that I was expecting today, but it’s been much better than I anticipated. Because I’ve been able to sit down and really think about what I haven’t been doing and what I can be doing, but also what I’ve been doing well already, and actually starting to celebrate that, rather than always looking for difficulty and problems.
So, I would say most individuals would turn round and say to me that that’s been a valuing course, not just because of the content, but because the organisation have actually allowed me to take the time to attend that course.
Workload and prioritising with boundaries
Dot: Saying no always sounds quite negative, so it’s all about thinking about, well, how can I actually address this more positively. To say to your manager or colleague, yeah, absolutely, I could do that. However, I might need your help with this, this and this, in order to be able to do it.
We find ourselves constantly saying, yeah, that’s no problem, yeah, I’ll easily manage to do that, at home and at work, but actually, if you’re internally thinking, no, I can’t do that, then that creates a lot of negativity, potentially anxiety and anger as well at the other end of the spectrum.
If we’re able to start communicating much better about the impacts and communicating with people on how they can reach a consensus, do things together, have agreement on priorities and key objectives that are required, then again that’s a central aim. What I would say with the resilience, however, it is a short period of time, basically, so this is the beginning, this is the catalyst.
I always ask individuals to perhaps team up with others after the day at three months, maybe at six months, or more regularly if they’re able to. So that they can support each other and look at, well, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what do we need to do differently next time before we meet again. I would say again the feedback to me is, having more constructive conversations to put boundaries into place is what people see most valuable from those ongoing conversations.
Keeping the momentum going following a psychological resilience training course
Dot: We try and allow people to almost give themselves a quantified score within some key resilience skills, which is great as a baseline, so you can celebrate what you do well, what you could perhaps do differently, just acknowledge where your action points come from. But if you’re able to maybe look at that again in three months’ time, and why we say three months is because it might take that length of time before you see a change, before you see a difference. Just keep at it, keep chipping at it.
From my experience, having dipped in and out of other organisations, at three months, at six months, sometimes at 12 months; is that unless there’s been a life changing event, your scores do keep creeping up, and that’s a fantastic thing to see. But to do it with somebody else as well and learn from their experiences, and just consolidate what you’re doing is fantastic.
I suppose the roots of that come out of the research that Martin Seligman has been doing over the years, not just with United States Army, but with smaller organisations in America, in Australia, in Europe and the UK, the ongoing support that minimises the fallout from pressure. Let’s face it, that’s what we’re talking about, is being able to deal better and more positively with adversity.
So, if we focus on the negative element of change and uncertainty, then that can be a problem, so it’s the ongoing support from others, and those supportive conversations that minimise that negative impact.
A common ‘lightbulb’ moment for those attending resilience training
Dot: The lightbulb moment in a number of different courses is the taking control exercise. If individuals are able to actively write down – therapeutic writing takes lots of different guises – if you’re able to write down the pressures that are impacting on you, and actively assess which you can control and which you can’t control; the lightbulb moment there for people who feel under a huge amount of pressure is that these macro pressures that are right there, we’re not negating them at all, but there’s nothing I can do about them other than communicate how I’m being impacted on, what my support requirements are.
But it’s to acknowledge that actually we should be actively trying to shift our focus from them to what we can control, and that can be a real lightbulb moment for individuals that are carrying the weight of the organisational change, the COVID impact. We can do our best within each of these, but we can’t actively control them or change them, so we need to get better at shifting our focus, and for me, that’s one of the biggest lightbulb moments for a lot of individuals.
What can you expect from attending a psychological resilience course for managers or individuals
Dot: Personal Resilience and Developing Resilience for Managers are the two courses that we offer, which essentially are quite similar. However, the Developing Resilience for Managers course allows managers to have in depth discussions, if that’s what’s required, around how we can instil this as we move forward. How can we promote our team to take this agenda forward? And it’s not something that we can force our team to do.
It’s so individual, our levels of resilience, and our desire to promote our resilience. But if we can, following the course, go back with some ideas and thoughts, and try and engender some kind of positivity within the content, then that would be great. And managers have got time to start thinking about how we could perhaps do that, so that we can then take that forward with the team.
What we look at is, in both courses, what are my skills at the moment within resilience. So are we good at promoting positivity when things are going awry around about us? Are we good at using the team collectively, whether that be the work team or teams of managers, or teams of individuals with similar roles, to problem solve together? Can we be more aware of how the difficulties impact on our emotions, so that we’re not carrying a bag of negativity and anger around with us all the time? We’re actively aware of that and we get better at offloading it, so that we’re not then in the future showing passive aggressive behaviour, for example, or we’re struggling with ill health because of the negative impact of anxiety. Are we able to support others? Do we take the time to listen to others? Do we have the self-confidence to do all of these things? We call that self-efficacy. These all dovetail into each other, but the backbone of resilience, and I’ve probably mentioned a few times in this session, is that we need support.
We need skills-based support, we need social support, so that we can take risks in the face of difficulty and adversity, because we know that we’ve got that safety net there to catch us if we fall. For me, that’s the crux of the course, with lots of discussion and debate, not just slides and tutor talking, and it’s a bit of fun as well, just to try and get some oxytocin going through our system.