Previously, we had the expertise of Dr. Geoffrey Soloway as the author of our Mindful Moments column. This new column continues to explore mindfulness through the lens of a new guest contributor, Dr. Thara Vayali.
In last month’s post I reviewed some of the mechanisms behind “burnout”. This month let’s look a little deeper into what helps to mitigate the stressors that can push one into a burnout stage.
Resilience is the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
It is the power you have to bounce-back from any type of stressful circumstance – this refers to adversity, conflict, loss of control, uncertainty, positive progress or increased responsibility. Remember that stress isn’t always associated with negativity, it is a pressure upon us that you react to. Resilience determines reactions to both positive & negative stressors. Healthy resilience allows you to absorb, process and rebound.
This sounds like a desirable trait to have, but how do you build it?
Resilience is like a barbershop quartet: 4 parts working together, equally important.
The four intersecting aspects of resilience are:
- Sense of Purpose
- Social Connection
Mindfulness techniques, as described in the last two posts, have been proven to be useful in the acceptance and adaptation of changing situations. Mindfulness is the bass of the quartet; crucial yet incomplete.
It is just as important to assess the patterns of the rest of your resiliency quartet.
The work is to circumvent the destructive cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural reactions that occur when bounce-back has been weakened. It requires preventative resiliency practices to overcome and react to challenges in a healthy manner.
Prevention is prioritizing the pillars of resilience. It’s like making sure your car suspension is maintained and monitored, rather than focusing on the futile and endless task of fixing damage that results from worn shocks. Internal support wins over damage control any day.
Of the four pillars, this month I will focus on one: Confidence.
Foundational Confidence is how you develop your internal reward system. Healthy confidence is a private line to the dopamine pathways that help to decrease chronically elevated cortisol levels. This pathway is also fulfilled by the consumption of sugar (emotional eating), certain drugs and nicotine, novelty (retail therapy), minimizing of consequences (risk-taking) and approval & acceptance from others.
Increasing dopamine soothes excess cortisol and so the natural urge is to reach for one of the above when triggered by stress. Most of the above rewarding sources are outside of your control, are contradictory and usually bring with them a negative fall out. A stable source of dopamine is within yourself – a healthy, realistic and favorable view of one’s qualities and skills.
Confidence is often confused with, but not the same as:
- Validation from external source (grades, performance reviews, awards, accolades)
- Positive Thinking
Although these tools can be supportive at times, beware of using these tactics to build your foundational confidence.
Foundational confidence is: knowing yourself, appreciating your skills, and acknowledging your flaws without arrogance, apology or the need for acceptance from anyone else. It is accepting that your failures or disappointed goals do not detract from your personal worth or potential.
No big deal.
General society cultivates external rewards & romanticism – which is helpful to a point – but their usefulness and success rates wane as demand for creativity, responsibility, pragmatism and productivity rises. High demands with minimal resiliency training sets one up for classic burnout. It takes retraining and patience to go through the growing pains of developing an autonomous reward pattern. Ideally, foundational confidence builds while continuing to be productive for an employer or engaging in group dynamics and office environments.
This all to say, it is not meant to be an easy task. I challenge you to build your foundational confidence within environments that often reward the opposite. Strong headwinds, my friends. The destination is warm & sunny and there are no shortcuts, so carry on and grow strong.
2 High Fives and Hello: Part 1 Resiliency Exercise. 5-15 minutes.
5 qualities you admire in yourself. Catch yourself if you begin with “Someone said I am…” or “This award/medal/achievement means I am…” Confident statements revolve around self-assessment.
5 skills that you excel at, usually by enacting the above qualities. This type of awareness allows you to accept challenges that are within your capability and to reward yourself for your own efforts.
5 traits/skill sets that create challenging situations for you. Have a confident foundation means building a realistic understanding of yourself. If you know what is challenging for you, you can create more honest timelines, manage expectations and ask for help.
Confidence is humble when it needs to be. The last 5 are an honest assessment of your habits. Being honest allows you to acknowledge why you may habitually set or accept goals for your skills/work/life that are unrealistic. This gives you a chance to manage your disappointment and pride as you respectfully adjust your commitments to yourself and others.
Acknowledging these challenging traits is just the beginning. Once this window of awareness opens it is the time to do the work of improving skills, asking for assistance, altering expectations or disengaging from the environment if the requirements are beyond your honest and effortful capacity.
Doing this regularly will help you slowly build a humble, stable confidence. This exercise is one part of the Barber Shop Quartet of resilience. In the following few months, I will offer an exercise to complete the quartet, so that your bounce-back capabilities are built with sustainable tools over time.
Schedule your confidence reminder monthly, and cultivate the first part of your resilience.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.