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Resilience has become a real buzzword in recent years, held up as the goal for mental wellness and personal development.
With this comes pressure.
If you’re not able to hold up under challenges or bounce back from adersity, it can feel like you’ve ‘failed’.
As a result, many of us are putting on a facade of resilience, especially at work, says leadership and work coach, Salma Shah.
‘On paper you’re the epitome of resilience,’ Salma explains. ‘Tough as nails, efficient, side effects of zantac overdose organised, inspiring and a role model asset to your organisation. Someone who can be relied on.
‘No matter what is thrown your way you keep going, brushing aside any obstacles. Constantly juggling an overflowing diary. Dropping everything to attend last minute meeting requests… even if it means catching up with the admin late in the evening with a bowl of cereal for dinner and Netflix on in the background.
‘Your team love working with you and your boss relies on you to hold things together.
‘But looks can be deceiving.
‘Deep down in reality are you only wearing the mask of resilience? Faking it to feel accepted and fit in? Determined to succeed whatever the cost to your emotional health and wellbeing?’
There’s a difference between healthy resilience and the dysfunctional type – but how can you tell which one you’re striving towards?
‘Dysfunctional resilience rather than healthy resilience means you are heading for a meltdown… and it is just a matter of how long before things start to crash around you,’ Salma tells Metro.co.uk.
She says there are five warning signs that you’re putting on an unhealthy resilience face.
You are in constant ‘fight mode’
‘You try too hard to prove your worth,’ Salma says. ‘Always ready to go above and beyond, not to get caught, not let the ball drop.
‘Even if it means compromising your emotional wellbeing and happiness you are determined to carry on and lean into the action.
‘Your norm is to be in fight mode or survival mode. A fight response is the body’s natural physiological reaction to events perceived as highly stressful or dangerous. It ignites the sympathetic nervous system and releases hormones ready to go into action.
‘The downside of these continuous boosts of adrenaline is that it can harm blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.’
You don’t feel safe
Do you feel like you have to always be on high alert? That if you relax even a little bit, you’ll become vulnerable? That you need to work extra hard so you’re not ‘caught out’?
It’s easy to develop dysfunctional resilient coping strategies to try to stay afloat.
You are secretly very judgemental about others
Those who are putting on a dysfunctional resilience face tend to have unfairly high standards – and not just for themse;ves.
‘Never showing any vulnerability due to fear of judgement of others can cause you to privately judge others extremely harshly,’ Salma explains. ‘Setting high standards for yourself and others leads to feeling exhausted and emotionally fatigued.
‘You may develop black-and-white thinking in which you find things either absolutely right or absolutely wrong.
‘Privately you may find yourself becoming emotionally withdrawn and those close to you are on the receiving end of mood swings and emotional outbursts.’
Your sleep and eating are a mess
Salma says: ‘Dysfunctional resilience also leads to a diminished sense of control in other areas.
‘This includes high levels of stress which is linked to poor quality of sleep and unhealthy eating habits.
‘The reality of being stressed out by work means you are more likely to develop poor eating habits to compensate for or avoid your negative feelings.’
Deep down, you lack confidence and don’t feel good about yourself
You think your worth is dependent on how much you can take on, how well you can keep going despite things being tough. That reveals a real lack of confidence in yourself.
‘Behind the public face of dysfunctional resilience is a fear of not feeling good enough,’ Salma notes. ‘If you’re honest with yourself you are deeply unhappy about your work and life.’
How to build healthy resilience
Okay, so you’ve ticked off a lot of the above. Now what? How do you start to build a more healthy form of resilience?
Notice your patterns – then change them
Salma asks: ‘Does history keep repeating itself? Do all your jobs and relationships end in the same way…badly?’
‘You have a history of working in toxic work cultures and convincing yourself this time will be different yet find yourself in the same place each time, working long hours and feeling stressed,’ she says.
‘Eventually, the role comes to a crashing halt, you take a new job and repeat the pattern.’
The first step in changing the pattern is recognising it.
Ask for support
‘Understand what your needs are and choose roles and relationships where your opinions count,’ Salma recommends, ‘where your feelings and emotional wellbeing is acknowledged and you are given the support when you need it.
‘Working with a coach can be a very useful way of breaking the cycle or pattern of dysfunctional resilience.’
Choose workplaces where you feel psychologically safe
‘Build genuine connections and seek out people and places where you feel accepted, included and know it’s okay to be yourself,’ Salma says. ‘Where you feel you belong.
‘Work cultures which enable and promote healthy resilience also create opportunities for creativity, risk taking and where everyone can grow and develop. It’s okay to fail and it’s okay to ask for help and take time out to recharge.
‘Creating spaces and systems where people can show up and be themselves is the key to enabling healthy resilience, otherwise you stay stuck in a loop of dysfunctional resilience to find a path out.’
Salma Shah is an accredited coach, the founder of coach training and leadership development platform Mastering Your Power, and author of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Coaching: A Practical Guide (Kogan Page).
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