Building resilience for when things go wrong

by Murray J
10 Dec 2019

British philosopher and author Alain de Botton wrote: “a good half of the art of living is resilience.” Resilience is the ability to cope with unexpected changes and challenges in your life. It’s not always possible to prevent stressful or adverse situations, but you can strengthen your capacity to deal with these challenges.

As veterinary professionals, we face difficult situations every day, so it is important that everyone in your practice has worked on building up their resilience to cope during tough times. Resilience will not only help you face difficult situations at work, it will also strengthen your coping skills in other parts of your life.

Building resilience in veterinary practice is about working on your own abilities and supporting those of your colleagues. It’s about facing difficulties as a team when the daily grind gets you down, but also about supporting colleagues who are dealing with their own issues outside of work too.

Challenges in life are important. If everything was just given to you freely without work or problem-solving you wouldn’t grow as a person. Life is a journey. To be a successful person, you need to master the big and little challenges that we all face in life. No matter how cliched some ‘self-help’ sayings may seem, if they can assist us (or others) through this journey, we should take heed and use them.

As children, we learnt techniques for dealing with life. In today’s ‘no one loses’ society, those fundamental processing techniques are not being taught and little ones have less opportunity to learn essential coping mechanisms. This lack of controlled exposure to bad situations is affecting the necessary coping skills needed in working life. However, it is never too late to learn and modify behaviours or even to pass on coping strategies to your team. This can be transcribed through a team workshop or even just a one-on-one talk about a few ways to deal with life in our fast-paced profession.

Life is not a straight line from A to B, there will be many changes along the way and by being positive and open, some changes can have amazing outcomes. Change can bring about all types of emotions in varying degrees for people. Often excuses are the first response given, or the ‘pessimism monster’ rears its head when change is mentioned. But grabbing hold of ‘opportunity’s horns’ allows for strengthening and growth of character. Get up and punch through, get your helmet on and grow the mind. Lean into difficult situations, consider them as ‘that which can only make you stronger’ and more resilient and make change a positive life lesson.

At the same time, it’s OK to not be OK - and it is always OK to ask for help. OK? It is inevitable that at some point you will come up against something that you can’t easily resolve or deflect with your built-up resilience. It could be as simple as feeling overwhelmed or not being able to cope with pressure like you normally do.

There doesn’t even have to be a ‘known’ reason. If you are feeling stuck or are having trouble ‘bouncing back’, you need to share your feelings with someone.

There has been a significant shift in the support networks available to us within the veterinary industry and many practices have dedicated team training sessions in order to build awareness of the signs of when someone is not coping and where you can best direct them for assistance. It is so very important that you are aware of those around you, as they themselves may not be able to come out directly and say, “I am not doing OK.” Look after your colleagues and they will look after you!

This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

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