Building resilience and how mental wellbeing coaching can help

Posted On Aug 09, 2021 |

After exploring burnout, here is one more "hot" topic (or buzzword) worth addressing through mental wellbeing coaching. In the next lines you can enjoy reading Dunja's great style of presenting not so easy themes in a nice and easy to understand way, accompanied this time with our colleague coach and psychologist Milica Prijović. Two of them together put their efforts to explain resilience and to talk about the benefits of coaching in building this trait. 

"Have you ever wondered what your life would look like if you could get rid of all the stressful situations? Tight deadlines at work, long working hours, more responsibilities, a balance between real life and work? And what about positive stress? How come that some people are more successful in coping with those types of situations than others? Specific trait that makes such a difference could be resilience.", Milica opens our conversation. 

Dunja and Milica shared several definitions to help us dive into this topic thoroughly. Resilience is the ability to adapt to challenging situations. Some formal definition is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness (Oxford dictionaries), or an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (Merriam Webster)”. Or one more definition explains that "resilience is the quality of recovering quickly from failure and adversity, and not only returning to the status quo but actually using the opportunity to grow and further your personal development." Resilience can give you the ability to adapt, live a better life, find enjoyment, better handle stress, improve your mental well being. If you are not as resilient as you would like to be, you can develop skills to become more resilient. 

"So if we look at these definitions, resilience would be visible when the time comes to face adversity, stressors, big changes and a person still succeeds to “bounce back” from these difficult experiences. Resilient person is able to use internal and external protective factors to deal with environmental stressors. We can say if we have developed resilience that could help us not only to overcome challenging experiences but it could also facilitate our growth and development through these tough times", shares Dunja and emphasizes resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. Milica adds that it is never late to work on building resilience. The question is, how?  Luckily, there are many methods that can be applied.

How can coaching help? 

Two ladies also shared that according to BetterUp, a meta-analysis of 37 studies of resilience programs in organizations, research shows that individually-focused resilience development programs, such as one-on-one coaching and mentoring, tend to perform better than group-level training, computer-based training, and train-the-trainer programs.

According to BetterUp building resilience in the workplace can improve employee wellbeing, increase flexibility, improve communication, lead to innovation and reduce burnout. Better up also found that people low in resilience can see a 125% increase with just three to four months of coaching

What is the key element that makes coaching so powerful when it comes to building resilience? The answer is in a custom-developed, individual approach for each client

As we saw in previous articles, Dunja likes to structure her opinions in segments, so here are some valuable inputs from her how coaching can help build resilience:

Remembering self-care – taking care of ourselves is a very important aspect in building our resilience. Wellbeing coaching can help us become aware of our body, what it communicates to us and how to take better care of ourselves. That includes important insights of our daily routine, how much time we spend sleeping, exercising, and relaxing. Important questions are raised through coaching such as: What can we do more of or less in terms of getting more rest? What activities help us to relax? In which physical exercises do we enjoy and how can we practice them more in our daily/weekly routine

Developing self-awareness and emotional regulation
- the skills of emotional regulation enable us to be aware and monitor our emotions, to recognize them and respond effectively so they don’t interfere with our personal or professional functioning. Wellbeing coaching would be the safe place for clients to express how she/he feels and to explore further those feelings and potential frustrations. During coaching client can learn how to cope with negative emotions, find the cause of them, and by applying necessary coping skills how to prevent disengagement, lack of productivity and emotional disturbance such as severe states of anxiety.

Providing social support - researches have shown that building systematic support networks is an important ingredient in building resilience. Having that in mind building a trusting relationship between coach and the client can provide a source of support for the client. More importantly in the coaching process the client is encouraged to investigate his own social network and even beyond in searching for additional support outside his/her own resources. This is very important because we tend to forget that we are not alone, that we can ask for help when we feel blocked. 

Keeping things in perspective, staying optimistic – it would be helpful when facing challenges to consider broader context and to avoid catastrophizing. A coach can help us to “zoom out” from a specific current situation and to remember past challenges and difficult situations when we succeeded to overcome them. Remembering those situations can help us strengthen our faith and more important to remember our own abilities and resources that would be helpful in coping with this current situation.   

Developing our self-efficacy - With coaching interventions we can help client to define and set realistic goals, to plan specific actions towards that goal and to build commitment towards defined goal.  We often ask questions such as “What could be the one small thing you can do today, that will bring you closer to your goal?”  Succeeding in accomplishment of every small step on the way significantly helps in building our sense of control and self-efficacy.

Cultivating growth mindset - building resilience is not only in managing stressor but about being able to learn from those mistakes. Through the coaching process the coach and coachee are designing experiments that can be tested in real life, between the sessions, and afterwards discussed as learning experiences. Testing experiments provide practicing growth mindset that will enable coachee to accept and analyze mistakes as learning opportunities, which will result in building better capacity for acceptance of change and uncertainty.

‘If we know how big of an impact coaching has on building resilience, it is not surprising that there is a specific approach called "resilience coaching", shares Milica.

According to Breazeale (2011), Resilience coaches help their clients build resilience by:
1) Focusing on clients' strengths - coaches help clients become aware of resources, create awareness over behavioural patterns, and promote flexible thinking.
2) Offering the right kind of praise (i.e., "process praise" that focuses on the client's engagement, perseverance, and problem-solving strategy)
3) Help clients build their confidence by creating awareness, enabling learning and maximizing personal/professional potential
4) Keeping them focused on the process of achievements such as their persistence, their engagement and their improvement in performance
5) Enhance their motivation and encourage them towards a higher achievement by facilitating learning and results.

“Even though specific approaches such as resilience coaching exist, I truly believe that each coaching process (no matter which type of coaching approach we are familiar with) should have an impact on building a client's resilience”, says Milica and adds that this process  helps us: change the perspective; focus on the solution, not on the problem; set our goals and prioritize them; create an action plan; keep in mind our strengths; follow our core life values; ask for a help-Rely on support systems you have in place or seek professional help and take care of ourselves by engaging in nourishing habits like mindfulness, food and sleep, hobbies and social interactions.