resilience is a muscle ; how to stand up and keep going after a setback

If you are anything like me, resilience feels like something that takes a day off every now and again. And while our resilience is presumably lounging on a sunbed somewhere tropical, we are left feeling winded, like Hooman here. Physically and mentally knocked back; it’s frustrating, repetitive and has us question what we are doing and where we are going, all over again. That’s especially galling when we have been working so hard to move forward.


My own resilience has been a personal project for many years now, and I pride myself on how far I have come and the work I now do with others around this topic. So, acknowledging that I continue to experience feelings of anxiety and fatigue when things are not necessarily all rosy in the garden, is sometimes embarrassing. But here I am, seeking to normalise this very real phenomenon.


The last few days have seen me in the wobble zone – I can’t tell you how much it pees me off when (and it is when, not if) this happens. It’s a huge time and brain space suck, as I rehash the same ground I have covered multiple times. It makes me seek external validation and question my own skills (and sanity). It’s my imposters playground and my inner critics line up ready to deal out everything they have.


There is a risk of being sucked down into a spiral of increasing worry and catastrophising. Here’s how I nip it in the bud:


1. Acknowledge: Let’s be honest about what’s going on and how we feel. Slapping a grin on and toughing it out isn’t helping and you may fool some others, but you sure aren’t buying it yourself. Disempower the imposter and the critics by saying – ah ok actually I don’t feel great, this is what I’m feeling, and that’s ok.


2. Self-Talk: Be mindful of the language and tone you are directing at yourself in your head. It’s easy to blame and berate. It doesn’t solve the issue and just makes you feel worse in the process– it’s a waste of time and precious energy. We can feel stupid doing it, but please show yourself some compassion and kindness – you do deserve it.


3. Reframe: Challenge your thinking. On Monday this week, I logged off in utter disgust at myself, after a full day at my desk. My brain screaming that I had achieved absolutely nothing. So, I tested that theory and made myself write a list of everything I had achieved that day, however small. I know my brain lies to me sometimes – I know yours does too, and sometimes we need to prove that to ourselves.

Successful people demonstrate their resilience through their dedication to making progress every day, even if that progress is marginal. Jonathan Mills, How to Be Successful in Business and in Life

4. Move: There is a balance to be found between distracting yourself out of a dip and sitting with it and observing it roll past. Physically moving helps with both. Whether it’s simply taking a short break to get away from your desk, or it’s getting outside for a walk or even a run (!), getting out of your head and into your body truly, truly works. Make it a priority.


Resilience is a muscle. It’s all about flexibility, adaptability, and adjustment in the face of challenge and adversity. Our world continually turns, and as we grow and develop ourselves, we will be presented with new and previously unknown obstacles. It’s evidence we are choosing to step outside our comfort zones. If we aren’t flexing that resilience muscle, we might, just might, be cruising in the safe zone.

She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. Elizabeth Edwards

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