“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Last week, we wrapped up Pillar #10 of “The Year of the Best You” – Minimize Your Expenses. Today, we will start on Pillar #11 – Augment Your Resilience. As before, we will discuss this pillar a bit more below, provide a printable PDF worksheet for the month and then recap how we made out on November 26th.
Resilience has become an important concept in many areas of life – home, work and school. Within the medical community, resilience building is recognized as a crucial aspect of medical education. Resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” after psychological or physical stress, has many implications for an individual, their work and the people around them. One of my favourite books, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, is a memoir that is very telling of the resilience of the human spirit. Jeannette tells her story in such a way that you are left with a hopeful realization of how much we can overcome in the face of adversity.
Why is resilience so important?
We all face challenges in our lives and how we choose to respond to them is up to us. Take an example, one I faced years ago. New to medical practice (although this could happen at any phase of practice), upon recapping a needle that I had just used to infiltrate some local freezing into a patient’s arm, I poked my finger with it. This may not sound dramatic, but I assure you, it is something many medical professionals fear and have likely faced. This was a situation where I didn’t know much about the patient and needle-stick injuries are taken pretty seriously given the potential for transmission of blood-borne pathogens. If I had been working in a hospital at the time, certain procedures and reporting would have had to take place. I was working in a family practice setting and the protocol was a lot less certain to me.
I bring up this case because although in the end it had a good outcome, I was faced with a waiting period after the patient agreed to some testing (i.e. Hepatitis B & C and HIV) to reflect on the worst case scenario and what I could have done differently. I remember afterwards being fearful of disposing of sharps, but knew that I would have to face it again as it was part of being a physician. In this minor case, as in so many other situations where errors or adverse events are involved, it is best to learn, modify, and repeat.
How can you augment your resilience?
One of the best ways to augment our resilience is through self-reflection. In the simplified case I gave, if I had not reflected on the situation and my role I played in it, I may have been tempted to blame something external to me. In an article I have referred to many times for physician health related work, Building Physician Resilience, the authors identity 4 main themes to building resilience. Although the article is referring to physicians, the principles can be applied to many other settings:
- Attitudes and perspectives – i.e. self-awareness and accepting the responsibilities as a physician (or fill in the blank)
- Balance and prioritization – i.e. fostering healthy relationships and setting boundaries between work and free time
- Practice management – i.e. working with people you can trust and communicate effectively with
- Supportive relations – i.e. having positive personal relationships outside of work
Other ways to think of augmenting your resilience include:
- Engage in self-reflecting exercises
- Share your experiences with others
- Prioritize your wellbeing
- Consider life a journey of learning and discovering
- Laugh and smile often
- Believe in a sense of purpose and meaning in your life
This month’s worksheet will focus on self-reflection, as one of many ways to approach augmenting resilience. Please print off the worksheet to join in this month’s activity. I will do the same and we will recap on November 26th.
How to Build Up Your Resiliency – The Globe and Mail
27 Resilience Activities & Worksheets for Students & Adults (+PDFs) – Positive Psychology Program