What can we learn from the festive season about Capacity and Response Style?

How many of us approached the festive period with a sense of calm and serenity, ready to comfortably settle into a short period of mistletoe and wine? My experience is that people are far from this with the rush to get cards sent, presents bought, make (negotiate!) plans, tick all the boxes at work before we can let go, sort out competing demands and so on.

Life can be complicated and demanding and Christmas seems to escalate this, how many of us collapsed into the festive period? And as a result, got a cold as our bodies finally gave in.

So, can this be any different? And what does the study and application of resilience tell us about some possible solutions? I believe that this can be considered through two complementary lenses: Capacity and Response Style.

Capacity is about building reserves so that we can be in a position to be at our best when suddenly side-swiped or tipped over the edge of overwhelm. There are some key areas to capacity and the Bio-Psycho-Social model is a useful framework for understanding this. Biologically are we looking after ourselves? There is now substantial evidence that sleep, diet, drinking water, regular breaks and basic exercise/movement routines, help our functioning. Psychologically there is good evidence that meeting our emotional needs in balance is important for our mental wellbeing, this includes having purpose and meaningful stretch in our lives. Also, do we have a healthy style of thinking and healthy dialogue with ourselves:

  • Treating ourselves with compassion as we would a good friend?
  • Do we catastrophise or beat ourselves up regularly?
  • Socially do we get our social needs met?
  • Have we got a social network who support us?
  • Are we connected more broadly and have outlets to support and give to others?

Of course, the health of our biology, psychology and our social world are all bound together and affected by our cultural and economic context. But the curious thing is that we know all this and many of us still don’t pay attention to our needs. So perhaps we need to look deeper. It does seem that old habits die hard and we quickly revert back as the broken New Year resolutions testify to. A couple of underlying aspects may be worth considering to tackle this and to enable our capacity.

Firstly, making change stick requires us to have a compelling reason, as Dan Hughes, JCA Global’s Product Director, blog ‘Can we change workplace behaviour in just 21 days?’ refers to. As Simon Sinek says in his excellent books and YouTube videos – start with the ‘Why’ before we get to look at the ‘How’ and ‘What’. Christmas can enable this if we just take the time to really bottom out what the real purpose of this time of year can mean to us and what best supports it – it’s even better if this is a shared purpose. However, there is perhaps another core element to consider and that is what is driving our unwanted behaviour. Some typical unhealthy drivers (meaning over-played or compulsive) are – pleasing others; being the ‘strong one’; needing to ‘try hard’, etc. These are drivers to feel OK but end up doing the opposite. Understanding our ‘Drivers’ and compassionately and intentionally managing them in light of our purpose can enable different choices.

But there remains another element I mentioned earlier – our Responsive Style. Even if we have capacity we will still be hit by circumstances which severely challenge us – capacity is not always enough. Emotional Intelligence (EI) gives a good way to understand this. In JCA Global’s Emotional Intelligence Framework, we are likely to have resilience strengths and weaknesses linked to our EI Profile. Here are some examples:

  • If my Self Regard is low then I can spend a lot of energy on self-blame, over-working to feel OK, saying yes too often and many other unhelpful habits. When things go wrong this can mean I go into a deeper tail-spin of self-blame etc. than is reasonable given the circumstances. If my Regard for Others is low (perhaps because I don’t trust those around me) then I can get into endless blaming.
  • If I lack Self Awareness or Emotional Awareness, then I might ignore the signs that I am on the brink and it can then be just a little trigger that pushes me over the edge.
  • If I lack Self Management then I may be compromised by my lack of direction, purpose and either become inflexible or over adapt, which can compromise my Emotional Resilience.
  • If I don’t have helpful routines of Reflective Learning, then I may end up repeating the unhelpful patterns and stay locked in defensive or unaware habits which make me prone to future compromise.

So, the festive period can be a useful learning zone both ahead of the event and on reflection. Here are some practical thoughts which flow from the above. Perhaps try putting these into practice ahead of next Christmas, or even start now!

  1. What is your core purpose?
  2. Understand and manage the drivers that become unhealthy.
  3. Set up simple, practical capacity builders such as regular breaks, short walks, a sleep routine, 10 minute exercises every morning, using a mindfulness routine. There are loads of things!

If you are interested in finding out more about your resilience and how you can build your personal resilience to enable bouncing back quicker and better, book on to our next Resilience Workshop, 2nd and 3rd April.

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