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How to Make Resilience Your Superpower

Resilience is a superpower. Resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity. Resilient people bounce back (and often forward) from setbacks, trauma and high stress. Resilience helps you weather life’s storms.

At the State Department, I saw that resilient people and teams were adaptable, flexible, collaborative and innovative; they got things done. Resilience was the shield that protected against continuous change, chronic stress and constant pressures.

Resilience is not just a trait that some people are lucky to have at birth. It is also a state of being that can change depending on your environment and actions. Everyone can develop resilience by mastering resilience skills and tools, and engaging in resilience enhancing activities.

At the State Department, we reviewed resilience research and studied successful diplomats and overseas missions to identify the following five factors that are essential for building and maintaining resilience:

#1: Self-Care

Daily physical activity, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and taking time to recover from stress are necessary for both short-term and long-term resilience. Study your daily and weekly routines and try to schedule the time you need to focus on each of these components. We often overlook the need to recover — which can be as simple as taking a walk in a park, meditating, or working on a jigsaw puzzle. If you have long workdays and overwhelming workloads, build in short breaks that allow time to recover from periods of high-intensity work. Take vacation.

#2: Problem-Solving

Your level of resilience directly correlates to your ability to maintain a sense of control, even over the smallest things. Spend time and mental energy on issues you can control and influence while letting go of things that are outside of your control (e.g., traffic). Set clear boundaries, communicate them to colleagues, friends and family, and then use your boundaries to say “no” to requests that would otherwise overwhelm you. Ask “why” five times to get to the root of a problem. Ask for help when you need it.

#3: Meaning and Purpose

A person’s sense of meaning and purpose directly links to their resilience. Find ways to insert meaning and purpose into your daily life. For some, meaning and purpose come from religion or family, while others engage in service projects, volunteer work, or hobbies. If you don’t find meaning in your work, considering finding another job or shifting your work focus. Be passionate about something. Be helpful to others.

#4: Social Support

In-person social interactions are essential to your well-being and resilience. The depth of individual relationships outweighs the number of connections one has. Nurture your friendships and family relationships and build support among your work colleagues. For fellow introverts, resist the temptation when feeling down to isolate yourself and instead spend time with a close friend who won’t drain you of energy.

#5: Positive Outlook

Maintaining a positive outlook builds resilience. Consciously focus on what is going well in your life and, as necessary, positively re-frame the parts that aren’t going so well. Positive re-framing might require you to zoom your perspective in or out or look at an issue from a different angle. Spend time every day thinking about what you are grateful for and then express that gratitude to colleagues, friends, and family. Laugh often.

What do you do to build your resilience?

Beth Payne is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is an experienced resilience trainer and consultant. In 2016, she created the U.S. Department of State’s Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience, where she designed resilience tools and resources for foreign affairs professionals. She served as a U.S. diplomat from 1993 until 2016 with assignments at the U.S. Embassies in Senegal, Rwanda, Israel, and Kuwait and as the U.S. Consul General in Kolkata, India. In 2003, she opened the Office of the U.S. Consul in Baghdad, Iraq, where she received the State Department’s award for heroism. You can read her posts here.

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