Resilience, an invisible power that makes a difference
'Building resilience' workshop series delivered by Professor Olivera Marjanovic
Some might feel (and honestly, I cannot blame them) that many online events are held to tick a box or add the recording to the ‘collection’. The ‘collection’ that would later be displayed as proof of organisational efforts to keep the connection with the audiences. However, WiEIT’s ‘Resilience workshop’ was designed solely for the community of Higher Degree by Research students to develop a skill that is sought after by many but requires a great deal of persistence to perfect.
When Olivera, our ‘academic sister’ as she called herself, stated at the beginning of the workshop that it won’t be recorded because the whole point of it was for everyone to share personal experiences and not be mindful of what we say (or don’t say), I felt like everyone sighed with relief and the right mood was set. She then clarified that we won’t get the resilience after attending this workshop (but I hoped I would!) and it’s naïve to think so.
The journey of self-discovery is ongoing.
This phrase stuck in my mind and I even wrote it in my notebook in capital letters. Why? Because the thought that you have to ‘discover yourself’ to build resilience hadn’t occurred to me. In my mind resilience was just a skill, like digital literacy or anything else. You don’t need to know yourself to learn how to use Instagram or Facebook. Turns out, resilience is different.
One of the fundamental things you have to remember is not to focus on the fact that you are building resilience.
Again, something very opposite to what I normally do when learning something new. But after Olivera’s explanation that resilience is more of a ‘second nature’ than a skill, everything fell in place.
The first hands-on activity that we had to do was to create a list of ‘joy boosters’ that are easily accessible and that we can do anytime. Sounds easy! Surely, I know what makes me happy, things like travelling, going out for a coffee with friends and else. But the problem was that we had to think of things we could do next week. And that didn’t seem feasible. So, I started digging deeper and realised that there are lots of simple things that I do throughout the day that make me happy. Things like taking my dog for a walk and seeing her happily running around. Or doing a simple skincare routine with facemasks and scrubs. Even scrolling through the photos on my phone brings all the happy memories back.
Why would we want to write that down? Because those things help our brain to get into the joyous state. And the trick is to do those activities before any ‘hard tasks’ we have planned for the day. It takes some time for the brain to switch between moods, so if you get into work with a happy state of mind the chances are you’ll keep focusing on that and even the most mundane activity won’t seem as such.
Resilience is a gift you can use any time.
Once you’ve mastered the resilience and are able to control your brain (and not the other way around), you can use this skill for helping people around you. Resilience is just as much for ‘good times’ as for bad. You can lift the energy of others with the positive thoughts you have inside you. Or you can teach them how to do it. Because our brains, as magnificent and unexplored as they are, still have some limitations. For example, it can’t feel both positive and negative emotions at the same time. Some feelings are much stronger than others. For example, each time you are feeling anxious or scared, think of 3 things you are grateful for. The feeling of ‘gratefulness’ resides in a part of the brain that is different to the feeling of fear. Besides, gratefulness is neurologically stronger than fear. So always remember the things you are grateful for and pull them up on the surface whenever you are getting insecure.
Resilience comes from multiple sources:, body, mind, emotions. But we need to help our brain to get in the ‘resilient mode’ by training it to notice beautiful things that bring us joy. To do that, we need to observe ourselves - really pay attention to our reactions to the surrounding objects, different activities and experiences. When we get into the habit of acknowledging things that bring us joy, the brain will seek more of it because it (just like all of us) likes positive experiences.
This workshop left me thinking about how well I know myself. The first piece of resilience ‘puzzle’ was found and it was the motivation and desire to be resilient.
‘Building resilience’ is a series of workshops collaboratively developed by WiEIT and Professor Olivera Marjanovic. The aim of the workshop is to equip HDR and Postgraduate students with the resilience skill that is often overlooked in higher education. The information on the workshop is published in WiEIT Facebook group for HDR students.
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