Musings on Resilience


I have been thinking a lot about resilience again lately. It's something that has fascinated me since I crashed and burned in my first career. Now that the universe has stirred up a tsunami of challenging events, I have been watching carefully again.

Our brain is hard-wired to make us safe. Our brain is velcro for the bad stuff and Teflon for the good. In evolutionary terms, there was no point noticing a beautiful flower when you were about to be eaten by a tiger. Sadly that same pre-historic amygdala is still largely in control of our brain today.

The adrenaline and hormones that fuel our anxiety are healthy and designed to make us take action (fight or flight). If that is not possible we get stuck (freeze). The part of our brain that deals with logical thought, big picture reasoning and rational planning is shut off, getting us caught in indecision and inaction. If women feel unsafe, they will often feel an overwhelming desire to make others feel okay, even the person causing them discomfort or pain (fawn - the 4th "F" that no one told you about because Fight, Flight and Freeze research has been done almost exclusively on men). Yet the real worry is that Anxiety produces cortisol which is toxic when not released from the body.

What I am noticing is:

  • a bunch of leaders, managers and business folk who are exhausted after a long period of adrenaline-fueled action.
  • another group of folk who feel like a huge wave of rocks rained down on them. Once they were stuck but now they are buried.
  • a third group (the helpers, the carers, the mothers, the teachers) who have compassion fatigue. They felt every single emotion for every single child and adult in their circle. Now their hearts are aching and heavy with the burden.

Anxiety/fear can look like anger, irritability, negativity, resistance, depression, scattered. People are not thinking clearly, they are making mistakes and are reacting to the smallest of things that once they would have shrugged off.  While it is fueling the fighters in a long-needed debate about #blacklivesmatter, it is causing others to retreat to their caves.

We can release the anxiety in a large number of ways and I am NO expert.  I can happily put you in touch with a number of exceptional and highly qualified folk who work to minimise the effects of "stress" through meditation, hypnotherapy, tapping, traditional psychology, reiki and 1000 other modalities - they are all on Wildly Wonderful Women so reach out in the group

What I do know is that as humans we co-regulate - emotions are contagious and being around calm people makes us calm. Many stressed folk are not about to self-regulate effectively at the moment so:

  • We all need one on one time with other caring, calm folk. It's one of the reasons that coaching and/or therapy can be so successful - we co-regulate with you. It's also one of the reasons why we love calm time at the hairdresser or beautician or walking with our bestie.
  • We need opportunities to laugh and to dance and be silly. Music is rhythmic and soothing. Laughing gets rid of some of that cortisol and the contagious emotion is joy.
  • We need to sit with our employees and staff, one on one, with no agenda and truly listen to what is going on  (then find someone who will do that for us). Good old self-determination theory says we all like to be/feel Competence + Autonomy + Relatedness. We want to know that we are doing a good job, in a way that is meaningful to us and in relationship with others. More than ever we need to FEEL that from our leaders, our parents, our line managers. Resist the urge to push on and push forward. The troops need a rest and so do you.

Way before the pandemic and race riots I wrote a keynote called Why Happiness is Hard. Many of you have already seen a version of it - or you can find a short version of it here. This was for TAFE and I had 20 mins so it is quick and dirty.

The penultimate slide shows some of the strategies backed up by research that will improve your wellbeing. Choose to do just one of these strategies for 10 days. Then let me know how you went.

Huge hugs! Take care of you :-)

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Hello there! I am Jenny Cole - Coach, Consultant and Cheerleader. I work with women to create careers,  workplaces and lives that allow them to flourish.

I love nothing better than watching smart, capable but overwhelmed women step confidently into their best self and truly succeed.

I am endlessly curious with two successful businesses behind me. My blog shares what I see, what I know and random musings.

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1 comment


Hi Jen Tuning into your work. Loved your presentation on Why Happiness is hard. I try to write in words how I feel and what I think about you and your wonderful work. It's challenging for me. I am grateful to be able to listen, understand and try to implement these strategies in order to navigate my way forward. KJ x
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