How to become more resilient

As the future of work becomes more uncertain, Martina Gallivan asks how can we imbue younger generations of workers with the resilience to battle on?

It has been almost four months now since our first experience of lockdown. And whether you agree with its principle or not it did provide us with a degree of responsibility in having to adapt to a new way of life living and of adjusting our lifestyle lifestyles

There was also immense shock at the overwhelming job losses experienced by employees and employers. Businesses rebuilt since the last recession of ten 10 years ago were wiped out in weeks

“Creating your own personal armour gives you the strength to deal with traumatic events constructively”

A friend of mine described her total sense of despair as she observed her business lurch into freefall to that of trying to hold water in her hand. She had built her business gradually after having been made redundant in the last recession. And because she had no collateral, she built it organically from a spare room in her house. Initially she had started with just one client.

Over a period of time she gradually created a reputation as being reliable and efficient with an outstanding customer ethos. In time she was honoured by her peers. And as she reminisced, described her sense of pride in her achievement. “I created this” she stated.

The uncertain future of work

Now, as we discussed her next move like pieces on a chessboard it suddenly dawned on me. What is it within this older generation that creates resilience? Is it our age? Our experience of having lived through four previous recessions? Our upbringing? Perhaps our education and social network?

Yes, all of those factors certainly contribute to the person we eventually become. But there is one thing that’s evident with younger people today. Even I’m seeing it more regularly than I would care to in my daily clinics. There is panic in their eyes and uncertainty about job prospects. Fretting over having to maximise performance in a corporate world which is so unforgiving. The sheer pressure psychologically about contemplating a future with uncertain work security or financial guarantees.

They’re wondering how to adjust to a world that is merciless and offers no respite when things go wrong. Naturally this is having a cumulative effect on mental and physical health amongst our youth.

We are seeing numerous health implications in the demographic between 25-35years. Cholesterol, blood pressure, the threat of type 2 diabetes. One 35-year-old patient needed to have stents inserted.

We should all fear for them. After all, they are the future of what this country could and should become.

Coping with psychological overload

So, if you are under 40 years of age, reading this article I would like to share some tips as to how you could begin to cope with this psychological overload.

Resilience is often a hard-won battle. When attempting to overcome adversity it is important to protect yourself. Creating your own personal armour gives you the strength to deal with traumatic events constructively. A good method of self-assessing your own resilience is this: if you encounter a negative situation, do you fight it head on, or do you cower and run for cover hoping it will go away?

By becoming more resilient will give you the ability to look beyond the problem itself and find joy and happiness elsewhere in your life.

The first thing I would do is to adapt. Start now to develop your personal ability to deal with stress and traumatic events by becoming aware of your own thoughts. Remember we don’t have any control over automatic thoughts but we do have control over how we choose to deal with them and the decisions we ultimately make.

Work hard at being optimistic. There is nobody who fully escapes negative thoughts or situations. So, try to take a helicopter view of the event itself and analyse your options. One problem has many solutions and personally I find by writing down thoughts on paper helps to view the problem analytically.

Don’t ignore your feelings. Becoming resilient means not pushing negative events away and pretending they don’t exist. Challenge them if you can. Try not to ruminate or overthink the event. And try not to catastrophise. By this I mean thinking of the worst possible outcome. We always tend to over-inflate a situation only to discover it wasn’t as bad as we first thought.

Physically there are changes you can make right now to create your personal self-armour. The first thing is to eat healthily. Sugar has mood altering molecules which can make you feel depressed and anxious. Eat well.

In past articles I have written about eating plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates, fish, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables. The reason I say this is because eating healthily will help you to feel better physically and psychologically, and prepare you for battle should the need arise.

They say that gratitude is the key to a happier life. It certainly helps if you start to journal all of the good things in your life right now. By writing down positive snippets in your day automatically changes your mood. There is always somebody who is worse off or better off than yourself.

Start to become more self-aware. Think about what it is you are thinking about. What is making you feel negative today? What is the trigger? Start to get to know yourself all over again. We all lead busy lives, and sometimes forget to look within ourselves for support and verification that in fact we are perfectly capable of coping and will overcome adversity.

We all have personal choices and responsibilities in life. Ultimately, we create our own destiny. Personally, when I encounter a situation, I always ask myself “how important will this event or situation be to me in, say, six months’ time?”. If you start asking the same of yourself, chances are it won’t even register in your life at that stage. Battle on.

Martina is a nutritionist and director of RK Cardiology Healthy Living Ltd. If you are interested in learning more about health and lifestyle medicine for you or your family please contact her at

Published: 13 July, 2020