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Resilience is like a Reservoir

Water shortages are a reality that Australians are very familiar with.  When water levels are high, we can use water freely but when our reservoirs get low, water restrictions are put in place so that we don’t run out completely.

Thinking about your mind and body as a water reservoir is a good way to understand and manage your own resilience. A reservoir will quickly become empty if you keep taking water from it without topping it up. In the same way, you can’t put yourself under constant pressure and stress without topping up, to restore to an effective level.

We need to be able to recognise when our resilience levels are getting low and have a range of tools that can top-up our resilience, from a quick fix to a rebuild.

It is not only the big, stressful events in life that lower our resilience levels. The regular pressures of life will gradually reduce resilience levels without you even noticing.  Similarly, if the ongoing reduction in water reservoir levels through evaporation and leaking pipes were ignored, we’d soon run out of water.

Some of the signs when you’re getting low:

  • exaggerated reactions – more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
  • loss of motivation
  • feelings of disappointment with self
  • poor concentration and memory
  • indecisive
  • changes in sleep patterns or eating habits
  • migraines and headaches
  • skin disorders
  • increased susceptibility to colds and minor illnesses

Individuals react differently to pressure, depending on their disposition and their resilience capability. A situation that causes stress for one person may not affect another. Equally, a situation may affect you differently on different occasions.

So how can you manage pressure to ensure you are delivering your best?

Get started by tapping into your personal disposition

As part of building your resilience, it is valuable to understand your personality and how to tap into the part of your resilience that comes from your own disposition. Robertson Cooper offer a free tool that has been developed by world leading experts on wellbeing, Professor Sir Cary Cooper and Professor Ivan Robertson. Using the validated questionnaire and based on the responses, the i-resilience report reveals which of the four key components people naturally draw on for resilience  – confidence, adaptability, purposefulness and the need for social support. Get started with building your resilience here:

Top up resilience levels regularly

The key to maintaining resilience (and water reservoirs) is top ups. Don’t wait until it is empty to work on it. It is easier to keep levels topped up than to rebuild.

Here are some ideas for topping up your resilience levels. Try out some different methods to see what works for you:

  • Regular Exercise – increase resilience to the negative effects of stress
  • Physical health – diet, sleep, exercise, relaxation
  • Mental health – positive self-talk
  • Social support – catch up with people who help you feel relaxed and energised
  • Sense of Purpose – being clear on your ‘why?’
  • Mastery – challenge yourself to a new passion, such as playing the piano
  • End of day wind-down techniques – walk in the park, listening to music
  • Detachment for recovery – detach yourself from work, mentally and physically, in order to rejuvenate
  • Have fun – make sure you give yourself time to have fun

Getting a quick fix

Sometimes we just need a quick fix to get us through a busy or stressful time and to keep performing at our best:

  • Exercise – burns off stress biochemicals for short term relief
  • Breathing – breathe in for the count of 4 and breathe out for a count of 8. Repeat for up to 5 minutes.
  • Social energisers. Have a coffee or lunch with a friend or colleague that energises you.
  • Power breaks – plan to break up back-to-back meetings with 10 minute brisk walks

Having a good understanding of your resilience and a plan to manage it will help you to take care of yourself and to deliver your best.