This article explores the concept of resilience for teachers, and suggests practical ways in which we can build our resilience.
We read a lot about the importance of resilience in children and young people, but in order to perform at our best as teachers and school leaders we also need our own reserves of resilience. The vast majority of school improvement initiatives assume that teachers are strongly resilient and in tip-top condition to create outstanding learning experiences.
Resilience is the ability of an individual to respond to life’s challenges with positivity and fullness of spirit – thereby rising above them with comparative ease. These challenges may be in the form of work-related or personal stress, or adversity such as relationship difficulties, health issues or other problems.
Everyone of us is already equipped with some level of resilience – and we also have the ability to develop our resilience to make us more robust as we navigate through life. Resilience can, therefore, be considered a process rather than a personal trait that is either present or not.
However, being resilience does NOT mean that you are completely devoid of negative emotions and thoughts and are able to easily cruise through every life challenge with optimism. Rather, resilient people are equipped with the mindset and tools to effectively balance any negative emotions with more positive ones. This increases their chances of overcoming their difficulties and emerging relatively unscathed from the process.
Personal resilience is composed of many individual factors and qualities.
- Having positive personal relationships within and outside your family – this is absolutely critical as these supportive, caring relationships boost your ability to deal with both normal and excessive levels of challenge.
- A positive self-image, coupled with confidence in your own abilities and strengths.
- The ability to make effective plans and then be capable of taking the steps to see them through.
- Well-developed communication skills.
- Effective problem-solving skills.
- The ability to moderate strong or impulsive feelings.
The above have also been referred to as ‘protective factors’ and they are likely to play an ever more significant role the greater your exposure is to potential risk factors, such as excessive workload, relationship breakdown etc. When used in combination, they allow you to employ ‘protective processes’ that act to mitigate against the risk factors.
BUILDING YOUR RESILIENCE
So what can we do on a practical level to improve our own and others’ resilience? The following some strategies are loosely based on those suggested by the American Psychological Association:
1. Cultivate strong, supportive relationships with close family members, friends and work colleagues – they will provide a vital buffer against your life challenges.
2. Seek help to move towards accepting crises or stressful events as inevitable life challenges, not unbearable problems.
3. Accept that some circumstances cannot be changed – and are not your fault. Be kinder to yourself.
4. Try to set realistic goals, and exercise self-compassion, and move towards trusting that things will work out
5. Look for new opportunities after you face losses, and ask the questions: What’s the useful learning from this event? How can I turn this bad luck into good luck?
6. Try to keep a long-term perspective on any life challenges and endeavour to put them in a broader context.
7. Try to maintain a hopeful outlook, expect good things to happen and visualize what you wish for. (Dr Richard Wiseman, The Luck Factor)
8. Take care of your mind, body and spirit by paying attention to your needs and feelings, eating well, and exercising regularly.
9. Have an relaxing or absorbing interest that is just for you.
10. Learn mindfulness or another form of meditative practice.
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