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Heading out? Time for a resilience check

When was the last time you did a resilience-check?

Everyone faces stress, pressure and adversity. And for those in the humanitarian sector, these are part-and-parcel of the job description. A resilience-check is the first step in mapping out what you may need in order to strengthen your psychological safety while deployed.

Four components of resilience

Resilience is the ability to use processes and behaviours to protect yourself from negative effects of stressors. It is the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors.

There are four main pillars of resilience:

  1. Social support

  2. Your values and your why

  3. Self-efficacy

  4. Physical health


Maybe. However, we all know that the things most obviously beneficial to our health and wellbeing are often the first to go when the pressure is turned up or life presents us with adversity.

Becoming curious about your own resilience, and meeting it with intentionality can make all the difference. Let's take a look.

Social support

Having a rich web of social connections and being socially integrated is key to resilience. These connections need to be nurtured, often in consideration of ones own attachment style. This may also require a skill that many in the "helping" industry are not practiced in - the ability to receive and allow support to be given.

Who are your people? Is your network good for you? What steps are you taking to nurture those connections?

Your values and your why

Meaning and purpose beyond self-interest are a strong protective factor, providing resilience by orienting you beyond the present lived experience. Meaning and purpose can be found in all manner of things. A connection to something bigger and meaningful is often expressed in a spiritual practice, in meditation, by singing, painting or writing.

What gives you meaning? What are your sources of hope? Do your values align with the work you are doing?


Having a sense of self-efficacy is the belief in your own capacity and ability to control outcomes. This belief determines how you think, behave and feel, and feeds into your ability to persevere. This is one of the reasons why drills and rehearsals, take for example in a fire department, not only lead to better performance - but also protect the individuals' psychological wellbeing. They find safety and structure in their sense of agency.

Do you feel competent? Are you prepared? What are you good at? What are your strengths?

Physical health

Physical health and fitness is a path to resilience, because it carries positive physiologic and psychological benefits, and protects against potential consequences of stress. For example, exercise strengthens your brain's hippocampus and increases its structural integrity: a stronger hippocampus leads to a better regulation of our stress response.

Are you exercising regularly? How are you eating and sleeping? Are you allowing your body to complete its stress response?

Know yourself

How did you do? Did you find any areas that may need a boost?

Seeing yourself and how you have created your life through the pillars of resilience can make all the difference. With some minor tweaks we can ensure we are in a strong position before we are exposed to increased stress and risk.

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