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How to become more resilient

Life has been difficult for pharmacists during the Covid crisis and the need to be resilient is regularly mentioned – but what does that mean and how can it actually be achieved, asks Liam Stapleton.

In terms of an inanimate object, resilience is an ability to return to its original shape when a stress is removed.

A spring, for example, will expand when stretched and then return to its previous shape when released. But, if overstretched, it will not quite return to its previous shape, and eventually lose its ability as a spring. This is also true for people.

If we don’t look after ourselves, our ability to cope with stressful events will slowly diminish. It is helpful therefore to know a few techniques that can help you build your personal resilience.

Focus on your purpose

Under stress people often become consumed by the apparently insurmountable task ahead of them. People don’t go to work for the “process”; they generally do the things they do for some bigger purpose.

What is your purpose for working in a pharmacy? I don’t mean earning a salary; I’m asking about something more fundamental. What gives you a buzz when it goes well? Is it helping people and making a difference?

The actual process may not always be enjoyable but it is a means to an end (our purpose), which is what provides us with motivation.

Think about your purpose and take time to recognise how you achieve it every day, even in some small ways.

Keep a journal

Our thoughts are naturally consumed with things that aren’t working as well as we want them to. Writing them down can therefore be a good way to help you focus on the positive rather than the negative.

You could keep a ‘success journal’, identifying your achievements especially in relation to your purpose. Alternatively, you could keep a ‘gratitude journal’, chronicling all the things you can be grateful for that day. This could be small things such as kind gestures, big things such as successes with patients, or things we take for granted, like sitting with the sunshine on our face when we get home.

Identifying benefits

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. A stressful experience will develop your skills, knowledge and abilities. How have you grown? How have you helped others or been helped? What have you learned in terms of skills, knowledge or about yourself? Focusing on the benefits can help overcome any negative thoughts.

Being mindful

For me, mindfulness is the ability not to be controlled by unhelpful thoughts. We can quickly be overtaken by thoughts that aren’t helpful.

Mindfulness is not about stopping those thoughts but about improving our awareness, recognising unhelpful thoughts and choosing not to follow them.

Like all abilities it is something that can be practised and developed with simple exercises like mindful breathing or mindful walking – so why not check out the many resources available to improve mindfulness?

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