How to Increase Your Resilience
Humans, by nature, strive for certainty and stability. We like to figure things out, predict the future and work out what is best to do next. Our minds are wired for this. Yet, nothing is certain. On the contrary, the uncertain times we live in require us to be resilient and deal with many daily challenges in more effective ways than ever before. In past posts I have written extensively about how stress affects all of your health; in particular
People with higher tolerance uncertainty are more adaptable and resilient. This a major advantage for living in a fast-changing world that is full of choices and over-information, and likely to bring us many unpredictable events.
So, can you get better at embracing a fuzzy future? A few tips here: 1. Know YOUR HINDSIGHT BIAS
This might feel comforting or frightening: E v e r y t h i n g h a s a l w a y s b e e n u n c e r t a i n. Let that sink in.
Last year, the year before, the year before that – you had absolutely no idea how it was going to play out before it did. And yet, it can feel so much more certain when we look back on it.
A thing called "hindsight bias" makes us feel this way. We tend to compare the present with the past. And unsurprisingly, when we look back, we often see and remember much less uncertainty – not because there necessarily was less, but because hindsight bias drains the events of the past of the uncertainty that was attached to them before they happened. The past can feel predictable while the future can feel ambiguous. This makes us forget that we've handled uncertainty before and came out on top.
How can we overcome our hindsight bias? One option is keeping a journal as an accurate archive of your past dances with uncertainty, and your feelings at the time. By writing down your thoughts and feelings daily, you create an indisputable record that may be consulted weeks, years or decades later. People who have done this tend to be surprised by the gaps between what they remember feeling and what they wrote at the time. And maybe, you’ll be surprised by how that situation that feels so certain now was truly uncertain– yet you made it through. You’ve danced with uncertainty before, and you’re equipped to do it again.
2. IMAGINE THE BEST It might sound a little “she'll be right, mate” but imagining the best possible scenario can help you feel good in the now and move into uncertainty with a little more confidence. It also creates pathways in your brain that SERVE you and your nervous system by taking your HPA axis out of fight and flight mode. It is important to do this daily! – all the time.
In our minds, we tend to play out future scenarios to predict how we would personally think, feel, and respond to them. By doing so, we experience thoughts and emotions similar to those that would occur if the situations were actually happening to us right now. Research shows when participants in a study were asked to imagine four positive things that could happen in the coming day, and they did this exercise every day for 14 days straight – the group displayed an increase in happiness, while groups who imagined negative or routine future events did not.
If you start drifting into catastrophizing or worst-case scenario mode, make sure you imagine the best-case scenario, too. It can help you create positive emotions to carry you through whatever is truly up ahead, good or bad.
3. PRACTICE BEING OPEN TO UNCERTAINTY
Rather than avoiding your fear of uncertainty, it can help to get intentional about it. That doesn’t mean trying to eliminate it immediately, but creating a little more space to accept and allow uncertainty here and there. Gradually building a willingness and an openness toward uncertainty is helpful. Practice mindful activities and acknowledging / sitting with your feelings with an open mind daily. Through mindfulness, you can learn to sit with your feelings of uncertainty, and thus discover that you are indeed able to tolerate your feelings and learn how they are trying to help you.
4. FIND YOUR OWN “I CAN’T CONTROL EVERYTHING” MANTRA
For me, a lot of my issues with uncertainty come from wanting control– control over what happens next, how it happens, and how I’ll react in the moment. But it’s just not possible to know the future and control how it pans out, to control other people or the world.
To accept this and remind yourself of this truth, it can help to have a "mantra". A simple sentence you can fall back on that reminds you. My favourite is: “It is what it is”.
Find your personal mantra or phrase that helps you let go of a little control. Or, maybe it's a mantra that helps you remember resilience, growth, and so many key traits that are born out of uncertain times.The next time you find your fear of uncertainty creeping in or holding you back from new opportunities recite your mantra to remind yourself that you can handle uncertainty and accept what you can’t control. You got this – even if you’re not sure what t h i s is yet.