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Resiliency vs. Negative Clouds ☁️


Photo by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash

Ever felt like there was a cloud of negativity hanging over your head constantly? Like the whole world was pushing you down and no matter what you did, you just couldn’t seem to bounce back to complete the tasks you knew you had to get done?


Contrary to what you might think, that’s a more common feeling than you realize. And because it’s so common, there are ways to chase away that raincloud over your head and become a more resilient person in the face of adversity.


Starting off, hi, my name is Krupal Patel 👋. I’m a second year engineering student at the University of Alberta and current Student Intern at Illuminate Universe. In this blog, I’m going to share with you the information I gained from the Illuminate x Hiren: Resiliency Workshop.


Key Takeaways 🔑

First I’m going to share my highlights of the workshop; the lessons that really stuck with me as the workshop progressed.

  • Negative thoughts and negativity bias is completely normal and common: Humans are hardwired to look for threats and this means we all experience negative thoughts that will alter our outlook on our life. How we deal with those thoughts is up to us and will completely change how we go about our lives

  • Everyone has different strategies to stay resilience: This means just because something worked for your friend or co-worker might not work for you and that is completely okay. We all handle stress and adversity differently.

  • Resilience is not a personality trait, it’s not something you are born with: Resilience is a set of competencies that can be built and developed using different strategies.

  • Resilient people are not perfect: They experience the same negative emotions and stresses everyone else does. But they use those emotions to build habits and skills that help them problem solve and thrive in the face of adversity

  • Resilient people are not solely independent: They have strong social networks that ensure that their resilience stays strong


What are Resilient People Actually Like? 💭

Starting off, let’s dive into the types of attributes that resilient people have. What separates them from the rest of society?

  • Resilient people have healthy coping strategies, problem solving, and habits when faced with stress: They are able to tackle their problems with a clear and open mindset, allowing them to see the situation in a different light and open them to more solutions than someone with a clouded and closed mindset.

  • Resilient people have a lot of self-knowledge: They have what we call the 3 As.

    1. Awareness: They are aware of their strengths, limitations, areas of improvement, thoughts and emotions and they are aware of how this will influence their behaviour.

    2. Acceptance: They acceptance that they are who they are (flaws and all) and accept that only they have the power to change and improve themselves.

    3. Action: They take action to actually improve themselves after accepting what areas of their life need improvement.

  • Resilient people find personal meaning in everything they do → they understand their why: They understand the importance of the activity in the short term but also the potential it holds in the long run for themselves, their goals, for those around them, and even for society as a whole.

  • Resilient people are optimistic: They approach problems with a sense of hope and positivity which helps them find better solutions to problems and also makes them excited about new challenges, rather than feeling stressed.

  • Resilient people have strong relationships with those around them: They maintain healthy and meaningful relationships with people around them and this ensures that their resilience stays strong.


Negative Bias and Why It’s Important ‼️

So after hearing about resilient people, we have to ask ourselves: what’s stopping us from being more like that? And the answer is simple: us. We’re stopping ourselves from being more resilient, or more so, our negative thoughts are.


Photo by Yosi Prihantoro on Unsplash

Like I mentioned earlier, negative bias, or our brain’s natural tendency to think of the worst possible outcomes, is common. We, as humans, are hardwired from the pre-historic times to be on a constant lookout for threats. However, in modern society, this has manifested into people having overly negative thoughts which leads to an overly negative approach to uncertainty.


Having a negative bias leads to us feeling threatened often, if not constantly. We start using the negative events in our lives to make sense of the world instead of the positive events. This can manifest in many different ways:

  • Catastrophizing: Taking a relatively small event and blowing it out of proportion.

  • Name-calling: Labelling yourself as negative things.

  • Jumping to conclusions: Using limited information to make unrealistic conclusions.

  • Black and white thinking: Coming to conclusions about a general topic based on smaller occurrences; “I can’t even do this, I’m not good at anything”.

  • Overgeneralization: Using past events to make a generalization about future events.


So how do we overcome this negative bias our brain naturally has? It’s not impossible but it can take some time. Here’s some strategies to help you get started:

  • Look at challenges as opportunities: Understand that overcoming the obstacles in your path will help you grow and gain better problem-solving skills.

  • Understand that stress can be good: You’re going to be pushed out of your comfort zone many times in life so start getting comfortable with discomfort; this is where you start to grow.

  • Train yourself to look at your strengths and past successes: You will start to realize that you belong where you are and you deserve the successes you've gained because of the work you put in in the past.


Staying Resilient 101 😤

So, we’ve looked into resilient people and what stops most people from being more resilient.


Now, I’m going to end with some key strategies I picked up on to actually stay resilient and how to put everything I learned in the workshop into practice.

  1. Practice mindfulness: This helps you stay focused on the present, helps you understand what’s important right now, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. It also keeps those pesky negative thoughts from distracting you from getting your important tasks done.

  2. Serial mono-tasking: Use Time Blocking to allot a specific time for one task and one task only to keep from getting distracted. Remember to also allot frequent breaks to stay focused and refreshed.

  3. Reframe unhelpful thinking: Turn your negative, unhelpful thoughts into productive thinking to ensure that those negative thoughts don’t bring you anxiety that will disrupt your workflow. This also helps you find the root of the problem; it helps you realize exactly what about your situation is bringing you anxiety.

  4. Practice self-compassion: Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. Train yourself to strive to be your own #1 cheerleader.

  5. Ask for help: Like I said, it’s normal to have negative thoughts; it’s okay to not be okay. Moreover, if you ask for help, it will encourage others to also reach out and ask for help.


But as I mentioned in my Key Takeaways: something that works for a peer or friend might not always work for you. Try new strategies and see what sticks with you, and maybe they'll help the light of resilience shine through the clouds of negative bias ☀️.

Photo by Gabriel Lamza on Unsplash

 

Hopefully, you’ve found my takeaways from the workshop helpful, and maybe something stuck with you. If you're looking for specific strategies and practices to help build resilience and overcome negative bias, I've compiled some into a Notion document here! A huge thanks goes out to Hiren Khemlani for leading the workshop and talking with the Illuminate Interns and Staff about the importance and misconceptions of resilience!

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