Our resilience is a state of being that can fluctuate depending on the levels of trauma or stress we are experiencing at any given time. It is helpful to know the common characteristics of low resilience and what behaviors you may exhibit when it is slipping, to help you discover when you should engage in enhancing activities or need to assist others in addressing their resilience.
For example, I have trouble sleeping when my resilience is low, and I find myself getting irritable much more quickly than normal. Not everyone exhibits the same characteristics ranging from mild to severe and lasting for varying lengths of time.
Here Are Some Common Characteristics of Low Resilience:
Irritability and Anger
Being quick to anger and irritability is one of the most common characteristics and often leads to conflict in the workplace. When my resilience eroded after Iraq, I found myself being more combative with peers and quick to fight about an issue. As I rebuilt my resilience, I became much more patient and collaborative.
One of the most frustrating characteristics of low resilience is constant illness. Since our immune system is depressed when our resilience is low, we cannot fight off the viruses and bacteria that naturally bombard our bodies. I don’t usually get sick, but for two years after I left Iraq, I seemed to catch every bug in the office and had constant stomach ailments. Once I bounced back, I rarely got sick again.
Trouble sleeping is extremely common among people with low resilience. Many of us focus on how to sleep better without realizing that we need to enhance our resilience. For two years after leaving Iraq, I rarely slept more than four hours per night. I thought it was just part of growing old but once I bounced back, I started sleeping much better and when my resilience is high, I sleep great.
Becoming Isolated or Over Clingy
As our resilience diminishes, people can either start to isolate themselves from others or become too dependent on family or friends. When I stopped socializing and making new friends, I cut off an important way to enhance my resilience, building a social support network.
As resilience decreases, there can be a change in our hormones that causes mood swings. We can experience extreme highs and lows, sometimes several times a day.
Overreaction to Normal Stress
When a car cuts us off on the highway, most of us are slightly annoyed. A person with low resilience may overreact and become enraged. Small irritants become major problems.
Easily Depressed and Tearful
Some people with low resilience find they feel sad a lot and cry more easily than they used to.
In the State Department, we often saw this when personnel would study a foreign language after serving in a dangerous overseas posting. They would struggle to learn because of their lack of memory. Once their resilience improved, they found language learning much easier.
Lack of Hope
The most troubling characteristic of low resilience is the lack of hope and a vision for the future. This can sometimes evolve into despair. This makes it hard to plan and problem solve and can manifest as cynicism and a lack of caring. People may also find themselves taking unnecessary risks or engaging in reckless behavior because they just don’t care.
What behaviors do you see when your resilience is low?
I help individuals and teams thrive in adversity by providing practical skills and tools I developed over several decades as a U.S. diplomat in challenging environments. Connect with me so I can help you and your team avoid burnout and become more innovative, collaborative, and productive despite overwhelming challenges, constant change, and chronic stress.