Throughout this programme we've regularly alluded to the importance of help and support, both in building resilience and remaining resilient. Our penultimate lesson is wholly dedicated to these often undervalued resources; we'll be considering why they matter and what you can do to strengthen your sources of support.
'Building good relationships with others and seeking support can help individuals overcome adverse situations, rather than trying to cope on their own'. Robertson and Cooper
Robertson and Cooper's research in creating the i-resilience diagnostic placed social support alongside confidence, adaptability and purposefulness as one of the four fundamental components of resilience. That's how important it is!
Lest we forget, we humans are by nature, social creatures. Even the most introspective of us need a community to at least survive, if not thrive. Our brains are literally wired to connect, to feel empathy and compassion for others in order to promote our evolutionary survival. For twenty-first century evidence, just look at social networking; it is no accident that the single most successful site on the Internet happens to be Facebook!
People need people but not all support is equal
It's not just want we do to ourselves that affects our resilience; if you need a reminder of the value of investing in your physical self-care, check out Part 3: Let's Get Physical. But other people and their social support also play a part in building a resilient body and mind. Studies have shown that having social support can reduce levels of stress and its damaging side effects. It seems that perception is all important here; even if we don't call on our social network for support, the very perception of feeling supported makes a significant contribution to our resilience levels.
Robertson and Cooper describe the various types of social support on their excellent resilience portal. But they are quick to point that that it is vital to match the right type of support to your particular needs; too much informational support by way of unsolicited advice for instance, can do more harm than good.
Consider the different types of social support:
Emotional support - offering reassurance, expressing love, listening in an understanding way, showing concern. For example, giving a friend a hug or your partner a kiss.
Esteem support – showing encouragement, respect and confidence that build another’s self-confidence. For example, praising a colleague when they’ve done a good job.
Network support – the perception that others are available, willing, and able to help; the feelings of social connection which come from the expressions of others that give us a sense of belonging. For example, inviting someone to a party.
Tangible support – the provision of material assistance to help (goods, services etc). For example, helping a colleague on a project to lighten their workload.
Informational support – providing facts, advice, and different perspectives about a situation of concern. For example, advising a junior colleague on how to approach a task.
For resilience, you need to take a preventative approach by proactively building up your support resources in preparation for when you might need them (remember resilience is aligned to feeling supported). You also need to consider a broad range of support: friends, family, partner, colleagues, line manager and specialist organisations that may be accessible through your employer or professional body.
Make no apologies for investing in your social support - it's officially good for your heath!
To protect your health and well being and strengthen your resilience, you need to actively invest in spending leisure time with friends and family. Lunch with colleague away from the office is not just about office politics or thrashing out a thorny technical issue. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with high volumes of people but take the time out to pick up the phone and experience a verbal interchange once in a while. And joining a special interest group (reading circle, running club, yoga class) should not be thought of as time indulgent.
But beware: you ARE your friends
Back to human evolution again and a reminder of how we still 'hunt in packs'. Have you ever thought about the effect the people you hang out with have on your health, your expectations and your success?
'People’s lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group. Your life experience will never far exceed the expectations of your peers, because to stay connected to them there is an unconscious contract that says ‘we’re going to be within this range of each other.’ Now, on the other hand, if for some reason your friends have a higher expectation for life than you do, just to stay on the team you’ve got to raise your standard.' - Anthony Robbins.
Your friends, colleagues and family all play a part in influencing health-related behaviours. Think about common patterns: social eating, drinking alcohol, physical pursuits, preventative healthcare, degrees of talking and confiding. There may not be much you can do about your family, other than raising your awareness of how habitual patterns play into your wellbeing, but you can choose your friends and social networks wisely and place value on their vital contribution to your personal resilience.
One final health warning
However good your social and other support networks are, they can't be expected to mind read. Being resilient is not about coping and going it alone; resilience requires the courage, openness and self awareness to ask for help before you hit that tipping point into stress. Make no mistake; asking for help is strength, not a weakness. Now where do you need help?
Carol McLachlan FCA
Carol McLachlan, theaccountantscoach, is a qualified accountant, NLP Practitioner and professionally qualified coach. Her 18 year career at Ernst and Young in Audit and Assurance as a client handler and as Director of Resources has equipped her with a real understanding of the professional and personal issues that auditors face.
As theaccountantscoach she works in partnership with individuals and organisations - quite simply - helping them to be the very best they can be. She has helped accountants and auditors move from employment to entrepreneurial pursuits, prepare for their next promotion, become inspiring leaders and engaging presenters and manage their work life balance. Carol writes and lectures extensively on a wide range of professional development topics and is currently researching 'CPD in accountancy' for her master's degree.
For the agony aunt service on career issues, contact Carol here