Resilience is like a muscle – training it helps me achieve more

A resilient person who is persistent, gutsy and adaptive does not give in to daily stress.

End-user Helmi Hämäläinen – 7 June 2018

I’m sensitive and vulnerable. Changes and surprises are stressful and take up a lot of my energy. As sensitivity is a personal trait, it affects my natural capacity to act under pressure.

Vulnerability or any other personality trait is an easy excuse: I’m weak, so I can’t handle the stress caused by change. By sprinkling ash on my personality, I merely get an itch.

Personality and temperament affect my reactions when I encounter surprises. However, I can grow my resilience by recognizing my fixated beliefs and ways of thinking.

Stress is a natural way for the brain to react to a potentially risky situation. Stress caused our ancestors to fight instinctively when coming across lions. Nowadays, however, stress is an issue as the things we encounter in our daily lives are not lions.

The ability to act under pressure is not an inborn ability but a learned skill. A resilient person who is persistent, gutsy, and adaptive operates smoothly and efficiently when it comes to stressful changes. Resiliency can be developed by training the seven ways of acting, and growing the so-called change-muscles.

The first change-muscle is positivity. My way of thinking about myself and the surrounding environment positively is, for example, important during work if I feel like I have failed.

I have often stressed after being criticized for my work. The feedback doesn’t even need to be spiteful to make the heart pump and eyes squint. The same reaction helped my ancestors to find the best escape routes. However, failure is no reason to escape work through the back door.

I can’t run, so I start reproaching others and myself in stress. I didn’t focus as I was tired. Furthermore, my boss didn’t help me even though I would have needed it. So I suck, but at least half of it is my boss’s fault.

Resilience training starts with recognizing your own challenges and ways of acting. You can always develop better ways of acting. Changes may be uncontrollable, but your own emotions are not.

I started the week by writing down situations that cause uncertainty and stress. I identified a clear pattern in my internal dialogue. If something failed, I was generally pessimistic about the world.

Once I identify my inner pessimist, I ask and answer some questions. I ask myself if the situation really is as bad as I think? I haven’t failed as a person even if this task was not a success. I’ll ask for help next time. My boss did not help me because she did not know that I needed help.

‘Our brains interpret our experiences. We can mold those experiences to become more positive,’ claims resilience coach and psychologist Ville Ojanen.

The remaining six change muscles affecting resilience appear when I am multitasking and have limited time. Handling all of this requires a systematic approach, managing the overall state, social skills, and proactivity, which are all traits promoting our capacity to act.

The same traits are also used when not at work. You must manage to feed yourself and perhaps others as well, keep your home in order, do laundry, work, not to mention exercising. Fitting all this together is like a giant spider-web.

‘Life molds our brains on a cellular level. The brain is one of the world’s most complex coping systems that adapt to challenging situations,’ states Ville Ojanen.

Developing our brain requires repetition and time. As change itself is already challenging, I want to make it as easy as possible. The best benefit of online trainings is that they are not locked to a specific time or place. The resilience course was effortless as it was divided into five sections. Furthermore, the videos were short enough to stay focused.

Despite the convenience, it’s good to remember that no virtual training can be a treatment for severe stress reactions. Personal development is only possible if you are healthy.

‘At a certain point, it no longer helps just to say that I’ll stop and develop my resiliency. It’s important to know when you need help,’ summarizes Ojanen.