resilience real-time podcast: episode 03
Don't bounce back. Bounce forward!
resilience real-time podcast: episode 03
Don't bounce back. Bounce forward!
Resilience can be defined as bouncing forward in response to adversity. Peta Sigley explains how self-awareness, mindset, diet, sleep and exercise empower us to move forward with purpose and to shift from merely surviving to thriving at our fullest potential.
Featuring: Peta Sigley
Host: Simon Cook
Production: Claire Taylor
Music: Josh Jones
A Springfox production. This is resilience real-time with Peta Sigley.
Hi, I am Simon Cook and welcome to resilience real-time with Peta Sigley.
In our first podcast we looked at the definition of resilience. Today with Peta we're going to take a much closer at the concept of bounce, and the common conversation that people have around resilience.
Peta, it’s so nice to have you with us again to bounce through this topic.
Thank you Simon and I do like your play on words - well done. Very innovative, I must say. So, thanks very much for having me yet again.
I’m glad you like that. There's so much at the moment – people tell us what is right and what we should do. I think it is all becoming like white noise. Where should we start with this concept of bounce Peta?
Simon, I think you are spot on, in that there is lots and lots of information out there and people are reading some great things. But a lot of it still stays really conceptual and talks about the phenomenon of resilience, or the concept of bounce. What I hear people come back to me with all the time with is, “Ok, I understand it, but I don't actually know how to do it or what I should be doing.” And so, what I would say is, when we work with people we really talk and try to provide people with signposts or anchor points. You will hear me say that quite often, around how to think about their actions and what they might do, particularly in responding to adversity and challenge. Where they are required to bounce. So, for me, we look at around 6 concepts or 6 anchor points, depending on where it is that I might need assistance or direction or support. And that really starts at a very top level around simplifying. So, making sure I'm aware of what it is I'm trying to achieve or the goal I am trying to reach, or having that sense of moving forward, is important. So being able to simplify what's going on and having a clear direction in mind is really important.
Refresh is next signpost, and that is allowing yourself to step away from a situation, a conversation, your own thoughts, just to provide a bit of distance. A chance to breathe, to gain a bit of perspective. So not so much being pushing on and without any form of recovery, I think is really important.
The third signpost on the way to bouncing - we really focus on the trilogy of diet, sleep, exercise, and that is around renewing. Making sure that we're in a good physical space to deal with what's coming on to us, in terms of expectations from others, challenges we may face in our own day. Expectations of self, so it can come from any number of areas. But when we are sleeping well, our ability to operate in a positive frame of mind, with positive emotions on board, are going to help us to recover quite well.
Exercise is one of those things that really allows us to remind ourselves that we have degree of agency - that we have some control. And that's really important. We want to be able to feel as though we have the ability to shift and change. And sometimes we just stay in our heads and we forget that we’ve got a body attached to it. And so, when we exercise, we remind that brain, that head of ours, that we do have some control over our environment. Even though it might be small in relation to the bigger picture, it is really nice to have that reminder.
Our fourth signpost is around connection. Things are so much easier when can share that burden. And you know, there's lots of little phrases out there – “a problem shared is a problem halved.” There real merit in that, when we connect to others. Our fifth and sixth signpost are related. And that is seeking help. So, whether you're looking at really reputable sites for information, or sources of information. And we often refer to Beyond Blue, the great work that Relationships Australia does. Obviously, the Australian Psychological Society, the great peer reviewed academic research papers, if that’s your bent. But just sourcing information, seeking help, trying to gain understanding and actually getting help. Tapping into those formalised means of help and starting with your GP is a great place. And for organisations, many offer the fabulous service of an Employee Assistance Programme or an EAP. So, in the quick summary there, in terms of “Where would we start?”, around those signposts – simplify, refresh, renew, connect, seek help, get help.
I love the idea of a signpost pointing me in the way to bounce back. So, if to be resilient, you at least need to be able to bounce back. What exactly happens when you find yourself unable to?
Look, Simon, it’s a really interesting concept. A lot of us have an innate level of skill around resilience and we do model behaviours that other people have provided, that we can see being really effective. And we also default to previous behaviours that have soothed our emotional response, or our physical response to challenge. And at times when that’s too difficult, at times we look to numb out. So, instead of being able to bounce, when that fails and those coping mechanisms fail, we go into a place of dysfunction. And numbing out is really one of those.
So, what am I talking about there? What are the practices that people put in play? It’s not using the signposts I just spoke about, to guide and help inform action around, and their choices around their action. Because there's no one-size-fits-all, that's really important. But they’re using food to address a craving or an emptiness, or to help soothe the response. They’re using alcohol, they’re using medication. So, they’re becoming more dependent on those mechanisms. So, it’s not actually improving a situation and in fact it can be exacerbating a situation. Where we either become less effective in our responses, or we avoid actually taking action. And so, in terms of these coping behaviours, in recent times, McKinsey did a great report, particularly in relation to COVID. And this is reflective of the behaviours that people take, obviously worse under the COVID environment, but if they're going to my present pre-COVID, post-COVID and their statistics that they presented in their report were a little alarming. So, this report was published March April this year. So, they highlighted that 1 in 4 of us are now binge drinking on a weekly basis. Anecdotally, many people would remember the press around the increasing alcohol sales and consumption, so that's something that we are at least familiar with and not something that’s surprising many of us.
Probably where we do get a little concerned, and probably shocked, is hearing the stats is that 1 in 5 of us are now taking prescribed medication for non-medical purposes. So, this is stepping outside the guidelines provided by your health professional. Particularly the instructions that your pharmacist gives you when they handover medication, ensuring that you know what you're doing, and how to best take medication. People are using a combination of medications to help them cope and numb out. And I suppose the last one that comes out of that McKinsey report, is that 1 in 7 of us are now using illicit medication, illicit drugs to actually cope with what’s happening. Particularly in periods of substantial change and uncertainty.
I agree, I am quite surprised. So, if bouncing back will be most peoples’ way of describing the way to be resilience, following those signposts. What exactly is bouncing forwards, Peta?
Yeah, this is a really good question Simon. And I’m going to say to you, a lot of the people that we work with, a lot of people I speak to have never really heard of the concept of bouncing forward. So, resilience, it’s really important to note, is fundamentally, first and foremost, the concept of bouncing back, which is just what we’ve been speaking about. And in terms of research historically, we have really focused on the negative impacts to mental health and well-being and really focusing on that concept of dysfunction - us not doing well. But there has been a significant shift, particularly in the research in recent times, and the focus has moved away from dysfunction, to how do we actually improve and build skill. So, we’re talking about focusing on mental good health – the concept of resilience. Resilience as a pathway to well-being, and how they interrelate and play off against each other. So, what has happened with the shift in the focus in the research, is the introduction of this concept of bouncing forward. Pro-actively building skill. So, when that adversity, that challenge, happens, we bounce back, yes, but then we're shifting gears, and we're thinking about, how do I bounce forward? Where am I going? How am I going to get there? What does that look like? What's my goal, my purpose? Which is really, really, important. And this is all about pivoting from “just coping”, to “reaching out to one’s full potential.” So, we're looking at stepping outside the confines of what I perceive I’m capable of. And one of the thought leaders in that space is Reivich & Shatte. When they start to address the concept of resilience.
Sounds to me like the benefits of bouncing forward seem really clear, even though we haven't really heard about it too much. Why do you think people spend so much time just simply trying to bounce back?
So, if bouncing forward is about reaching out to ask one’s full potential, and about proactively building skill. One, if you haven't heard about it, very hard to do. Even though you might do some of those practices. The other thing about bouncing back, is this concept of returning to normal. And a lot of people like to be considered normal. Or that we are wanting to return to ground zero. And in actual fact that can be really self-limiting. Add to that, elements around self-doubt – oh my God, I don’t even know if I can get there, let alone move forward. Or build skill on top of this. And if we haven’t had success previously, we have very low expectations of future success. So, we often get caught in thinking about, “well if I just get back to where I was, I'll be ok”. And we know that, whilst that is beneficial to a point, we need to really move beyond that. Because remembering resilience is the successful adaptation and growth post-event. So, if we're going to have a growth moment, we need to be moving on ground zero. So, in the heat of battle, bouncing back is definitely OK. I don’t want people to think that bouncing back is not OK. But if we want to really hack into recovery, we are really trying to move beyond that concept of coping or returning to zero, and really start to focus on bouncing forward.
Right OK, thanks. So, if we can hack our recovery, can we develop our resilience from adversity, such that, you know, there's a real opportunity for us to grow during the current challenges of this pandemic?
Growth – what a great concept. And interestingly enough, some amazing amounts of growth can happen in the face of real adversity and on the back of trauma. Of course, there’s scenarios where people don't grow through that. And we have certainly all heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, and I'm not diminishing the significance of that. And the debilitating aspects of that, for many, many, people. And so bouncing back is hard enough, let alone bouncing forward from that. But by the same token, there’s also concept called post-traumatic growth. And I am going to say to you, that very few people, have actually heard of the concept of post-traumatic growth. So interesting enough, growth is possible, after trauma. And I'm not talking immediately after – it does take some time. And the research around this concept, really came to the fore after 9/11. And in terms of key features and focuses on post-traumatic growth, you’ve got people like Tedeschi, who has written a book, or edited a book with Park and Calhoun, around Post-Traumatic Growth. Seligman talks about Post-Traumatic Growth. So, this higher functioning of ourselves, from our learned experience. So, we are really looking at key features here - the ability that our behaviours still matter, and that we continue to invest in ourselves and how we present ourselves, and what we do. The ability to connect, having a social network to rely on. So that there is a quicker recovery post-trauma. And that we don't finish the story on the point that, we're in a pandemic. Short of our last mortal breath, there's a whole story still left to be written, and this will form but one chapter.
So yes, growth is definitely possible.
That’s great. So then, would it be right, post-traumatic growth, could give us a significant leap forward in resilience, even in the face of really challenging experiences? And if that's the case, can we all get the same level of resilience improvement by focusing on bouncing forwards?
This is a really, really, really, interesting concept. Because one would think, if you had high levels of resilience, then you're going to be able to have high levels of growth, post adversity and post challenge. And so, the question does really come out, does high resilience equal high post-traumatic growth, for example? And in fact, the research shows us that it's an inverse relationship. Can we get incremental Improvement? Yes, we can. But it's not all to the same degree. So, it's really quite an interesting concept to think about, that resilience does not necessarily translate to higher levels of post-trauma in growth. So why is that the case? Well usually someone who is more resilient, is less likely to want to engage in searching for meaning or purpose post-event. And the reason is not that they don't have purpose, or they don't need purpose. That's not what we're talking about. But they're actually less likely to suffer from the outcomes of the trauma, than someone who has lower levels of resilience. So, there’s that buffering effect that helps protect them against the impacts of trauma. So, as a consequence, after trauma, there is actually little need or little opportunity for post-traumatic growth. And studies report quite honesty, that higher levels of resilience are actually often associated with lower levels of post-traumatic growth scores.
If I’m a leader Peta, as we sort of close out the podcast, what advice could you give me around bouncing forward in my leadership of my team, or myself, as we go forward?
So, Simon as a leader, I would really be looking to educate and provide opportunities for people to use the signposts that we spoke about at the very beginning.
Simplify - provide clarity around communication, around goals. Refresh – enable people to step back from the conversation, to come at it from a new angle, and a new set of perspectives. And even just really hone in on when you going to be communicating and what that looks like. Renew, connect, seek help, get help. That is certainly where I would start in terms of that.
In terms of the team leader, I’d be looking for opportunities to encourage conversation, and as I said, looking for different ways of thinking and alternatives to the way we work, the way we are, on a daily basis. And to do that we really need to be encouraging and rewarding creativity. With all that said, creativity, engagement, connection requires you to build in some levels of recovery. So, allowing people to clock off, to disconnect from work, to do the majority of their recovery, which we know happens at home, and that minimal amounts happen at work. Such that I'm bringing my best version to the team, each and every time that we connect.
Brilliant, that’s excellent advice. Thanks Peta. I think that's been a sensational conversation to define that resilience is so much more than simply bouncing back. Understanding the bouncing forward, what that is and the benefits, has been really, really great for me. And actually, knowing that bouncing forward can really help with becoming more resilient, is great to know. So, thanks again. Peta.
My absolute pleasure Simon. It’s an absolute delight talking to you.
So, the next time I get to speak to Peta we’ll be exploring her Insights on mastering stress, and the impact stress can have on our resilience.
This is a Springfox production. Hosted by me Simon Cook. Edited by Claire Taylor. Music written, composed and produced by Josh Jones. Tune in next time wherever you find your podcasts. Or check out our website Springfox.com. Don't forget to like and subscribe to help others find this podcast.