Career advice

Resilience: the knack of bouncing back from the bad days

Sometimes you need to focus on what gives you the boost in confidence you need

Sometimes you need to focus on what gives you the boost in confidence you need

Your levels of resilience will fluctuate – that's normal.   Picture: iStock

I have just returned from a much-needed holiday, two weeks in a glorious cottage in the Scottish Highlands. An abundance of beautiful beaches and walks combined with as much wine and crisps as I could handle, what’s not to love? I’ve told everyone I had a great time, but the truth is I struggled.

I loved the change of scenery – it was the dramatic change of pace I found difficult. Like many of you, operating at 100 miles per hour is my norm when juggling work-life priorities, and this year I struggled more than ever with the emergency stop; as hard as I tried, my mind kept wandering back to issues at work.

I was on holiday, but work issues were preying on my mind

I knew I had to face a difficult situation on my return, with a strong and confident individual who would use persuasive techniques to try to get their own way. The more I thought about this, the more flat I became, with my inability to unwind leading to feelings of guilt and frustration.

Luckily, I spotted what was happening before this vicious circle spiralled totally out of control. After a bit of soul searching, I realised I simply felt vulnerable. I had to remind myself I had coped with vulnerability before and there was no reason why I couldn’t cope again.

‘It is easy to blame systems or other people for how you are feeling, but only you can take charge of your emotional response to situations’

For me, ‘naming’ and talking about how I am feeling helps, but I also had to make a conscious decision to focus on what I needed to do to ‘boost’ myself. Instead of beating myself up, I focused on what had helped in the past and what I could take control of to increase my confidence.

The lyrics in the song Soulmate by US singer Lizzo include a line about being your own soulmate – this is exactly what all of us need to do to find our way through the difficult times, both in and out of work.

Seeing yourself as your own soulmate can help you through hard times. Picture: iStock

Take control of your responses

It is easy to blame systems or other people for how you are feeling, but only you can take charge of your emotional response to situations. This doesn’t mean issues such as constant under-staffing aren’t stressful: of course they are. But you can’t magic extra nurses out of thin air or find a solution to the NHS budget. What you can do is take charge of your own responses by tapping into your inner strength and resilience.

‘Remember, resilience can be developed, and it’s perfectly normal to have days, even weeks, where you feel less resilient’

In the new Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) standards of proficiency for registered nurses, the NMC recognises resilience as a quality needed by nurses, especially in areas of accountability, safety and care quality.

The standards state that at the point of registration, the nurse will be able to ‘acknowledge the need to accept and manage uncertainty and demonstrate an understanding of strategies that develop resilience in self and others’.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the bad days, learn from experience and reflect on and put into practice what enables you to cope. But, as with other skills in your nursing toolkit, it’s important to remember that resilience can be developed, and that it’s perfectly normal to have days, even weeks, where you feel less resilient. The trick is to take the time to pause and look inside, as I did on my holiday.

Read our resources on managing stress and building resilience

Nurses’ working lives are demanding and all-consuming, and you deserve to unwind and forget about it all when you are on a break. But switching off can be hard work, as I found out, and you may have to dig deep to find ways to manage your emotions.

I learn from meeting my fears head-on

One of the things I love about the activities I do is how much I learn about myself by meeting my fears head on. In my dog agility club, my trainer talks about metaphorically putting on our ‘big girl (or boy) pants’ and being brave and challenging ourselves.

We are often far stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. So, next time you walk on to your shift, imagine wearing your confident pants – how would you feel and what would you do differently?

Ask yourself what you can do to feel more confident. What will enable you to cope on a day-to-day basis and what do you need to get rid of? Ultimately, you need to determine what is stopping you from being your own soulmate and what you might do to address this. 

Mandy Day-Calder is a life/health coach and former nurse

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