Resilience Q&A with Kate Fismer, BSc (Hons) MRN and Resilience Consultant
Insights is a Q&A series where members of our Network put forward any questions they may have to experts in a respective field. If when reading this you have any additional questions around resilience, please leave a comment here and we will get an answer for you.
1. How do you think resilience comes into play in illness and long-term conditions?
An important starting place is helping individuals to identify what resources they already have that support their resilience. This can give insight and strength and be empowering; helping you see what you can control when your life may be radically changing and you feel less in control. Your resources are often more diverse than you think; from core beliefs and values that enable people to cope with adversity, to lifestyle habits and social connections.
Identifying your resources for resilience also means you understand the gaps and the things you need more of to support yourself. This is important in illness and long-term conditions because ultimately it is better to live acknowledging the things that have happened to you and see ways forward despite them, than not.
2. What has most surprised you in your resilience work?
How simple things can be the most effective and how important it is to be reminded of this many times, no matter how far on your resilience and life journey you are!
The other surprise is how everyone shares the same vulnerabilities and fears at the core; people are not really that different from each other in that respect.
3. What do you believe we understand or misunderstand about resilience?
Often there can be a fear of admitting that you don't feel resilient - as if it's something to be ashamed of or hide. Actually, adversity is something that connects everyone; rather than hiding it, strength can be gained from sharing your vulnerability and the challenges of being human.
There can also be the belief that resilience is something you’re born with, rather than something that can be developed. The latest research around the neuroplasticity of the brain (how the brain changes in response to thoughts, the environment and experiences) is that resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened which, rather than meaning it will always function perfectly; there are steps you can take to strengthen it.
4. What top tip can you give us to support our resilience?
Wow, that's tricky because everyone has things that work for them; from pets, to relationships, singing in choirs, running, art, journaling, cooking, nature, giving, values, beliefs, attitudes (you get the picture!). The best tip is therefore to recognise what you have that already works for you, which can be a gratifying task in itself.
In terms of including new activities to support resilience, start with making a commitment to one or two things, rather than overloading yourself, and take an experimental attitude to them - it's okay not to like all new things you try, it's more important to understand what works for you.
Human beings are quite ritualistic, and research suggests that rituals (for example, regular walking in nature, breathing exercises, stretches) are good tools to support resilience. Part of that is the intention behind it as much as the benefits of the activity itself.