3 minute read

Resilience, stress tolerance & flexibility


Kate is a Clinical Director at The TraumaClinic Foundation and holds a Master of Social Science in psychology. The Mail & Guardian honoured her as part of their Top 200 Young South Africans.

Resilience! Stress tolerance! Flexibility! Grit! – You have probably heard these terms many times in the past few months, thrown around in the world of work as we are moving forward during a pandemic. But what exactly do these expressions mean?

Resilience is the ability we develop to withstand adversity and allows us to recover fairly quickly from tough events. Stress tolerance is the threshold at which we can effectively and consistently deal with stressful situations. And lastly, flexibility, which in this context is the ability to adapt to change. All of these come together to form a significant predictor of success: grit. Grit is the ability to be courageously persistent, even when life is harsh, difficult, or unpleasant.

Angela Duckworth, the author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, defines Grit as passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.”

We all know that the pandemic could be the model situation as to nurture and refine these abilities. So, how can we develop and expand on them?

Build resilience

1. Face your fears

When we gradually expose ourselves to what we fear, our brain learns that we are able to handle and survive obstacles.

2. Change the narrative

Reframe your negative situation – what have you learned from it? How can you grow from it? How can you use what you now know to help others?

3. Practice self-compassion

Give yourself the same amount of love, patience, and care that you would give to others. Be mindful of how you feel during such times and remember that what you are feeling is valid.

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. It’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. - PROFESSOR BRENÉ BROWN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

Develop stress tolerance

1. Practice self-care

Exercise regularly, go outside (humans need Vitamin D to function!), eat well and get plenty of sleep. Taking time to properly rest (Switch your phone to “Do not disturb” mode if you have to).

2. Name your stress and then act on it

By ignoring your stress, you will be making it worse. Take ownership of your stress, recognise the triggers, and see how you can use it to grow.

3. Find support

Be honest with friends and family about what you are going through. Talk to your GP about how to reduce stress and tension in your body, and book an appointment with a therapist as extra support.

Practise being flexible

1. Plan ahead

Accept that change is inevitable – the only constant in our life is change. So, while you cannot predict the future, you can always try to prepare for it!

2. Step out of your comfort zones once in a while

There will be difficult periods in your life. Try not to walk away – rather see these challenges as opportunities for growth! Imagine how much more you can learn when you have reached the other side.

3. Embrace failure

No one likes to fail, but it will happen! Accept that it will occur from time to time and that you can always start again – this time with even greater insight and knowledge.