How to Build Resilience When You Face Uncertainty

Life has a way of keeping you on your toes. Right when you expect something to happen, the exact opposite outcome seems to occur. What you do in this uncertainty defines you. Whether in business or in a personal situation, your ability to stand tall and build resilience helps light your path while inspiring others around you. Navigating through gentle waters on a clear day doesn’t make a captain. The ability to weather the storm, stay afloat and end in the right destination does. You may not know what will come next or how it may affect you, but learning how to build resiliency can help prepare you for when you do face these uncertain times. Here are some ways to go about building your resilience.

Focus on the Positives

When the entire world seems against you, focusing on the negatives becomes all too easy. These negatives will eat away at your confidence, zap your motivation and make doing just about anything next to impossible. In all likelihood, you will need to face these negatives at some point in time. However, don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead, focus on the positives and really play these up in your mind.

There are a handful of ways to go about focusing on the positives. For starters, look at what is working. Perhaps you run a business, sales are down, investors are pulling out and the world seems like it’s falling. Dwelling on these negatives is what a non-resilient person does. Instead, focus on the good. You may still have an excellent product. You have employees sticking by your side because they believe in you and the company. Stay focused on the positives as you work on the negatives.

Another way to focus on the positives is to look the negative issue right in the eye and search for the silver lining. Perhaps another company turned down your pitch but provided some helpful feedback. Sure, it didn’t work out how you might have liked, but something good may have come from it. Look towards the positive that came out of it, then use the positive to your advantage. By focusing on the positives you’ll not only build your resiliency but also find solutions to the problems you may not have come across, had you simply sulked and focused on the negatives.

Curtail The Emotions

Humans are emotional creatures. However, negative activities can have a greater impact on the immediate psyche of the individual than a positive one. So when uncertainty begins to flood into the brain along with negativity, the brain naturally focuses on the negative. This can then impact nearly everything else you do. It affects the way you act around family, friends, and co-workers. It can affect your mood, your health and how you conduct business. Due to this, you need to curtail the negative emotions.

Some people can simply take a deep breath or two and move on. For most though, this is not a viable option. Simply moving past the emotion doesn’t come easily. Suppressing emotions is not good either, as doing this only bottles up the emotion, which in turn may cause the emotional bottle to blow later on (for any Seinfeld fans, think of Kramer while using “Serenity Now” as a way to relieve stress, only to explode later on and destroy thousands of dollars of computers).

There are a few different ways to curtail emotions. General exercise is good. It helps pump more oxygen and blood to the brain. However, it isn’t always possible to drop everything and hit the gym. Stepping back from the situation and going for a short walk can work its place, as removing yourself from the immediate situation makes it possible to eventually return and view the situation with fresh eyes. But again, there may be times where this isn’t an option, and even so, when out on your walk your brain may still focus on the negative. One trick for building resiliency (and something you can begin practicing the next time you’re faced with a negative situation) is to think about something that takes mental energy. Think of the order of movies on your shelf back home, or go through sporting stats in your head. Anything requiring mental energy forces your mind to turn away from negativity and onto something else. You only need to do this for a minute or so. Early on, there’s a chance you’ll need to use this tactic multiple times for it to work, but as long as you use this mental distraction, you’ll avoid falling into the emotionally negative rut.

Look Towards Better Company

Have you ever heard the saying “judge a person by the company they keep”? There are times in business where you are not able to pick and choose who you work with, but instead, work with whom you have to. While you can’t always change these individuals, you can do so outside of work. Staying positive and building resiliency in the face of uncertainty is easier to do when the company you surround yourself with is positive.

According to Psychology Today (2016), rumination is a common component of both anxiety and depression. It is when you’re in deep thought about something, typically something negative. Rumination also is easily passed from one individual to another when prolonged contact occurs. Essentially, if you’re with someone who is constantly down, negative and worrying, it increases the chances of you absorbing this negativity. When dealing with the uncertainty of your own, the last thing you need is someone around who continually pushes a negative mindset (even if they don’t realize what they are doing). As negativity is easily passed off from one person to the next, it makes it that much more essential to surround yourself with quality, upbeat people who have positive mindsets and see the cup as half-full, not half-empty.

Write It Down

Did you ever keep a journal when you were younger? Writing down your thoughts and hiding it away so siblings couldn’t track it down and expose your inner emotions? If not, it’s all right. The practice of keeping a journal has significantly tapered off in recent decades. However, you may want to consider resurrecting the practice. According to the Harvard Business Review (2016), successful leaders keep a journal.

Keeping a journal comes with two major benefits. The first is you can revel in success and victory. Writing it down not only allows you to relive the success but later on, if you’re feeling stressed about uncertainty to come, you can return to your book and look over all the successes you had. When negativity hits, focusing on the bad aspects of work, personal encounters, relationships or really anything else, not only becomes easy but it may take over your thought process. By having your successful activities written down, it helps pull you out of the negative thinking rut.

The second major benefit is writing down your thoughts can help clear your mind. Putting what worries you about the upcoming uncertainty allows you to verbalize what has been floating around in your head. Your mind is in constant motion, but usually not in one direction. With a million different thoughts floating around, it becomes difficult to tangibly see a certain event or activity for what it is. Writing down your thoughts on the subject makes all of this possible and cuts down on the amount of mental energy your brain pays to the situation.

The beauty of writing down your negative thoughts is you don’t need to keep what you write. You may choose to hold onto it, or you can throw it away. Writing it down is what helps clear the thought process in your head, so what you write doesn’t need to be saved for re-reading. In fact, according to research conducted at the Ohio State University, individuals who wrote down their negative feelings and then destroyed the paper actually felt better about themselves. The physical destruction of this paper provides the brain with the visual context of actually destroying the negative thoughts. So whether you want to crumple it up, tear it into a million pieces or light it on fire (safely, of course), write down how you’re feeling and what worries you. You may just be amazed as to how much better you feel when it’s all said and done.

Learn From It

The most resilient people don’t just accept failure or uncertainty. They do what they can to learn from it. You need to take every occurrence and event in your life and do what you can to learn from it. At first, such a situation may come across as impossible. This thought process often occurs when a new challenge comes out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet. You were not expecting it so you likely weren’t prepared for it. Chances are though there is a learning experience in here.

When the situation seems impossible, take a step back. In sports, teams look at the situation between the first and second half (or quarters, innings or periods, depending on the sport you choose to reference).  The best coaches and players can take a step back, look at their shortcomings and the unexpected tactics the other team has implemented. They then look at ways to best take on these unexpected tactics and how to counter the presented issues. So if the situation seems impossible at first, take a time out and back away from the situation.

After taking a step back, you can analyze what is going on and find ways to learn from it. You’ll see a way to better take on the uncertainty while also learning new techniques and strategies. By doing this, you can turn the uncertainty into a future strength. Plus, when you come out on top from one potential issue, it gives you the confidence to succeed during future uncertainties.

Be Nice to Others

What you sow is what you reap. Regardless of your beliefs on karma or anything else of that nature, being kind to others is scientifically proven to help bring happiness back to you. How, exactly, does that work? When you’re nice to someone and can put a smile on his or her face, it causes the release of the chemical serotonin in your brain. The increase of serotonin in your brain helps lift your mood. As becoming negative or even falling into depression (or demonstrating anxiety) becomes more common when dealing with an uncertain future, you need to combat this with mental boosts.

There are many ways you can go about giving back to others. You can visit your rarely seen grandparents in their nursing home, or donate time at a local soup kitchen. It is important for you to physically donate your time and perform an action though. Writing out a check and mailing it out to the Red Cross may help others, but it does not give your brain the mental satisfaction of directly interacting with someone who is experiencing their own level of happiness from what you’re doing.

When feeling uncertain, others may try to offer you kindness through varying ways. For many, it is difficult to accept this. Instead of turning someone down when they attempt to offer assistance, you need to accept the help. This is because receiving an act of kindness and showing appreciation for it also releases the same level of the mood boosting serotonin. It is why people are either so happy during the holiday season (being kind to others and receiving kindness in return helps drastically boost their released serotonin level) or so down (from not having people around to increase the chemical serotonin level in their brain, which can lead to negative thoughts).  So give yourself an emotional boost to build resiliency when you face uncertainty.

Sometimes life has a way of kicking you when you’re down. The resilient don’t stay on the ground and give up though. They pick themselves up and continue onward. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall. What matters is you always get up after. At times this may prove difficult, but by building resiliency, you’ll have the strength and willpower to push forward. It takes going through the struggles of life to appreciate success. So take advantage of these steps towards building your own resilience. The goals you achieve will prove that much greater because of it.

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What do you think is the biggest challenge when facing uncertainty?

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