Resilience: Why running away isn't actually a bad idea...


I keep reading about Resilience lately. How to "bounce back", how to be "mentally tough" and how to navigate your way through the troughs of a working life. 

I have long held a fondness for the idea of resilience. I figure I am fairly adept at it myself as my career like most of those around me, has had its fair share of fabulous peaks and rough deep troughs.  I have had to work hard to get through as best as I could during those down times with what I had at my disposal as the answer is not always just to leave. So for the purpose of this article I will define a career trough, as being a finite term of disadvantage. Many of you might refer to this as change or disruption in the negative. 

In recent years I found myself in a pretty big, nasty career trough and it was (in my mind) going on FOREVER. Now that I have been trough free for a year or so, it is with a different perspective that I read articles on resilience.  One thing that really bothers me, via my review with this reflexive leadership lens, is the regular assumption of these articles that if you need to build resilience;  then you are wrong, damaged or broken in some way. That you need fixing.

I call 'you know what' to that assumption :) In my experience, resilience is required for a wider universe of needs and frequently it is also called for in situations when you feel alone in an unfriendly and unknown place.

I wondered if things can't be simplified a bit in the resilient dialogue, in a "how to" kind of way. Here are my 5 tips for enduring a career trough

Self assess.

Usually if you find yourself reading up about mental toughness and resilience then it is kind of an indicator that there are some prawns hiding in your career curtain rods, and you can't ignore the smell anymore. Ditto if you find yourself behaving in ways you don't normally behave, and doing so more often. Frustrated crying and shouting in the office or spending long periods off or on at work may be something you have done once or twice in the last decade but doing so now every week is a pretty good indication things are not working out the way you envisioned them to be. Look for patterns. Identify how big the bumps in your road are and then think through whether this is a career trough or something bigger.  

Distract yourself

So it's a career trough. Got a hobby you haven't had time to indulge in? A passion for something or someone? When things are a bit rough at the office spending some time focusing on the things that make your heart go buzz ( in a good way) can be a lifesaver ! It also gets your mind thinking about something other than the problem at hand, so you can actually get some perspective. For me it was fandom, I found my tribe on social media, and to this day some of my best friends ever are a bunch of ladies from all over the world, who I talk to every single day. The power of tribe. Go find your people in your happy place, feed your soul.  

Run away 

Yes that is right. Pack those bags and get away for a weekend or a week. Put down the phone, go for a drive in the country, fly to a tropical island, sail off in a boat. Get some space between you and the trough, let the air in. It won't cure the problem but it can give you valuable perspective to get away from it all, air out the brain cells and remember what all this working life and purpose really means. Giving the brain a rest also usually allows some good thinking (hello solutions and new ideas!) to break through the deeply entrenched patterns your brain has been bound up in. Get some space! 

Educate yourself

Think you know better eh? Go get yourself qualified, or spend time doing research, treat your challenges like a high school or university assignment. Pretend you need to cross check your theory, that you are in a debate and working for the opposing team. Read the science. 

This will help you get some evidence behind your thinking about the situation. It may lead to a new role or to a degree you never anticipated. I ended up doing a Post Grad this way, because I questioned the methods being used, and wanted to go find out what the academics had to say; and I learn't so much in the process that my thinking changed and progressed so far away from where I started, it wasn't a problem for me anymore! 


This is most important. A problem shared is a problem halved. 

Burn out is real. Bone tired and frustrated and SO.OVER.IT is real. A strong desire to change fixed minds is real. Not sleeping, drinking and eating too much or not enough, waking up in the night with a racing heart, not sleeping for thinking about work, going over conversations in your head, coming up with scenario's in your head all night. All real.

Seek some help, ask your GP , a friend or anyone close. I found using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) , a good Executive Coach and a watchful GP were essential to my ability to clear my mind. Others I know use hypnotherapy, mindfulness techniques, exercise and mentors. Please don't suffer, reach out and talk to someone. 

Be patient. All these things take time and usually so much longer than you want. Break it down into one day at a time if you need to. 

On reflection these pretty simple steps are well....simple. They were my methods and they worked for me, and to be honest still work. They don't involve heavy breathing or diets, or re-framing perspectives because the very point is that they don't assume you are wrong or broken. You just need a different view and some practical ways to turn that trough into a peak.

Before you know it you will be hitting another peak + may your peaks be long and wonderful ! 

think well


NB- I wish to reiterate that I am not providing any advice, specifically medical or psychological advice and that if you feel you need help with workplace problems please reach out to your manager, your Human Resources Department or your GP.