I get knocked down, but I get up again!
Moving towards a more resilient 2016.
The wait is over. The well anticipated psychology honours year is finally upon me. Anyone who has studied or is studying will understand that a honours year (and probably many other areas of study) are often discussed with much trepidation. Likewise, you might be facing a new beginning this year. My sister is expecting her first baby, and I'm sure despite being incredibly excited, this transition would also hold a degree of ambiguity and anxiety - as it is a change - and change can elicit many emotions.
While I don’t doubt this is going to be a challenging year, I firmly believe that with the right outlook it can also be a really rewarding experience. Therefore, at the beginning of 2016 I decided my focus for the year to be on resilience.
Resilience: the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Psychological resilience: an individual's ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin
“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” - Stephen Covey
To me, the ability to bounce back and recover is something I believe can be learned through experience and practice. Past experience has told me that just closing my eyes and pretending everything is fine isn’t too effective. So this year, I have promised myself to try some different techniques.
Here is my list of strategies for navigating my honours year with resilience:
1. The importance of self-awareness: how am I REALLY doing?
Check in with myself regularly and also recognise symptoms (behaviours and/or thoughts) that might suggest I’m a bit too stressed and need to take action.
How do you know when things are getting a bit too much?
Physical: grinding teeth, biting nails, ‘sighing’, broken sleep, or something else?
Mental: excessive thoughts about things that wouldn’t usually bother you, feeling like there is too much going on in your head, or something else?
Social: stress can make us react in ways that often appear unrelated to the cause, for example I know in stressful times I’m likely to withdraw from social events. Pushing people away as a reaction to stress at work, or something else?
But I know I do stress - so what do I do then? It’s easy to feel defeated at this point, but I’ve learnt it’s not about removing stress, or not feeling pressure, the key is learning to adapt in order to succeed!
2. Talk to people I trust when I feel overwhelmed.
This has two important components. Firstly, acknowledging when I need help and talking to someone – often just the recognition that you’re not alone is enough to relieve some tension.
Secondly, talking to someone I trust. This reminds me to seek advice from people who have been there and conquered challenges, but also who have my best interest at heart.
3. Avoid hearsay.
Students are the perfect breeding ground for skewed information. We all know as information gets communicated virally through conversation it is very likely to be exaggerated and misinterpreted! This is also seen in businesses during periods of change. Employees may be tempted to discuss what they “think” will happen in the business, however this usually only feeds growing anxieties. So, avoid the “I heard…” conversations and seek clarity from official documents and reliable sources (in my case, my lecturers and honours coordinator).
4. Form my own outlook.
You’ve really got to form your own opinion of what the year is going to be. Multiple papers and books have been written about the power of positive thinking and psychological studies have shown how forming helpful thinking patterns can change our day to day emotions and behaviours.
“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.” – Benjamin Franklin
5. Be organised.
Plan, plan and plan. Writing things down means we don’t have to try to hold that information in our working mind. This then frees our mind up to work on the task at hand! Use calendars (electronic or paper based), write lists and draw diagrams!
I am also a big lover of lists. If I have a list of things to do I can match the task and with my ability at that time. E.g. If I’m feeling particularly brain dead I won’t choose to do a statistical analysis of data, but will rather use the time to do something that is less cognitively demanding – I am making a promise to respect my brain!
6. Have a flexible mindset.
I need to allow my mindset to shift in response to change. No more stubbornly struggling along because I think I should be able to cope or because I feel I should do things like I have before. I’m going to have times when I fall down, or experience some level of failure, but I need to embrace the ability to shift my mindset so I don’t get bogged down in negative thoughts but rather continue moving towards success.
7. Self-care and balance.
Looking back to my 2015 SMART goal, I focused on balancing the social, physical and mental health areas of my life. My challenge is to continue with keeping the balancing act going – to consider what food I’m putting into my body, to keep moving, to make time for social activities, to allow my brain to revitalise and to rest my physical body - these are all on my agenda of non-negotiables. These things are the key to keeping me resilient!
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” ― Stephen R. Covey
So if like me, you are starting a big year of new challenges – whether it’s study, a new job, or a new phase in your life, I welcome you to keep my tips in mind. This is my declaration to myself for 2016:
- I will be self-aware of how I am tracking.
- I will talk to people I trust when I feel overwhelmed.
- I will not let hearsay determine my life.
- I will form my own outlook.
- I will be organised.
- I will allow my mindset to shift if required.
- I will continue with self-care and balancing the important areas of life.
I’d also love to hear about things that work for you, so feel free to get in touch!
~ Kate Higgins (Administration Assistant)