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Human Resources

How to get up fast after you fall

Published 28 January 2022 in Human Resources ‚ÄĘ 6 min read

Minor shifts in your attitude and habits can help sustain major boosts and build your long-term resilience. 

Starting new habits ‚Äď that‚Äôs what January is all about, isn‚Äôt it? There‚Äôs never a year when starting something new is a bad call, yet, this year with the new variants constantly changing our scenarios, resolutions seem more important than ever, and even more vulnerable to being abandoned mid-way.¬†

Faced with wearying uncertainty, the number of Americans who describe their mental health as ‚Äúexcellent‚ÄĚ held firm at a two-decade low of 34%, according to a¬†Gallup poll conducted last November. In the UK, around one in six¬†adults experienced some form of depression in the summer of¬†last,¬†compared¬†with¬†about 10% before the pandemic.¬†

While it may be tempting to set grand ambitions about how to ‚ÄúCOVID- proof‚ÄĚ your resilience and build unshakable inner peace, the key is often to start small. In her book Micro-Resilience,¬†Bonnie Saint John describes how adopting minor shifts can help create major boosts in what matters to us.¬†

In this article, I discuss three ways to surf the waves: the impact of your attitude, how assessing your resilience improves it and how micro-resilience can make it easier to thrive every day. 

1. Attitude: how fast do you get up after you fall? 

What is your go-to attitude when things take a disappointing turn?¬†¬†In¬†an inspirational TED Talk, Saint John shares an experience of when¬†she won a silver medal for¬†ski¬†racing at the Austrian Paralympics. During her race, she stumbled and fell.¬†Nonetheless, she picked herself up, and skied past the finish line second ‚Äď after another skier who had also fallen during the race.¬†The other contestant¬†didn‚Äôt¬†beat her by not falling,¬†Bonnie says:¬†she beat her by standing up faster.¬†

These words struck a chord with me, and maybe they do with you, too.When we are running towards our goal, the last thing we want to do is stumble. Yet, when we do, it’s up to us to decide how long we wait until we stand back up again. This echoed what, in my experience, is also true about how we manage our energy: the key is how we recharge our five batteries it is not about keeping them full all the time. 

What helps you to get up faster? My clients who work in the humanitarian field know that getting up faster often means saving more lives, and their strategies can work just as well for leaders.  

One of my clients, Leila, worked in refugee camp. When her team had to weather change, she found it helpful to describe it¬†out loud¬†in a deliberately calm voice. She would use this voice switch when she had to share news¬†such as, ‚ÄúThe food trucks are now delayed and tomorrow night we might not have enough for everybody. What are our options?‚ÄĚ This¬†strategy helps¬†her¬†to¬†regain confidence¬†and¬†shifts her focus on solutions.¬†

Carlos focused on regularly gathering his team together for discussion and planning, since shifting his focus beyond himself strongly motivated him to keep going. For Ashraf, the opposite worked: he would spend at least five minutes alone, and, when possible, go for a short walk ‚Äď something that might not seem so obvious in a war-zone. Elena had photos of the children she had met and saved and used these visual cues¬†to remember¬†‚Äúwhy‚ÄĚ.¬†

We all have something that can help us¬†to¬†get up faster¬†and foster our resilience¬†‚Äď we just need¬†to¬†identify¬†and implement them more deliberately.¬†

2. How do you maintain your resilience? 

What comes to mind when you think of ‚Äúresilience‚ÄĚ?¬†Chances are, it conjures up images of big life events, episodes of hardship, and turning points¬†‚Äď not small changes that we consciously set-up to alter our day-to-day.¬†¬†

Resilience refers to our ability to learn from tough situations and bounce forward with renewed confidence and trust. It manifests in various traits that we’re all familiar with, like persistence, confidence, social support or adaptability.  

Leila expressed it by her ability to quickly switch her emotional state; Carlos connected to it by reaching out to his team; Ashraf enriched it by being alone, and Elena triggered it by memories of past success. 

Even if resilience has general traits, like those mentioned above, each of us has unique ways to mobilize it. I found that taking a self-assessment, such as these ones listed by psychologist and professional leadership coach Dr Stefani Yorges, is a very effective starting point to identify where our attitude is helpful and where we can strengthen  it. 

I often review¬†the¬†Resiliency Quiz¬†designed¬†Dr.¬†Al Siebert, author of‚ÄĮThe Resiliency Advantage‚ÄĮand‚ÄĮThe Survivor Personality.¬†

When I suggested the test to three of my clients: 

  • Leila realized that she needed to be more mindful of her emotional state¬†holistically, not only when she felt under pressure. In the refugee camp the options were limited, so she¬†started listening to music to recharge.¬†
  • Carlos¬†decided to build on his natural social skills and¬†reached out to¬†more experienced colleagues¬†about how¬†they went through tough¬†moments.¬†
  • Elena¬†scored very highly¬†in the assessment,¬†and this discovery boosted her confidence in the attitudes that¬†she,¬†until then,¬†had considered obvious. She started mentoring within her organization, further improving¬†her skills.¬†

It‚Äôs straightforward enough to talk about ‚Äď but¬†even¬†after the test¬†‚Ästhow do you put¬†these ideas¬†into practice?¬†

3. Five ways to develop micro-resilience 

Micro-resilience¬†refers to implementing small changes that have transformative effects ‚Äď or, as the subtitle of Saint John‚Äôs book puts it, ‚Äúminor shifts for major boosts in focus, drive and energy‚ÄĚ.¬†¬†

When we‚Äôre weathering periods of uncertainty our attitude and daily habits become even more pivotal in helping us thrive. That‚Äôs why it‚Äôs valuable to see¬†resilience¬†as a set of skills that¬†you¬†already have and¬†can actively build¬†every day¬†‚Äď not just something that grows through big events.¬†

Saint John describes five ways to increase and sustain micro-resilience:  

  • Refocus your brain

When your attention is being pulled in every direction for too long a time, it‚Äôs natural to feel your mind grow dulled.¬†Try creating zones to block out distractions to concentrate¬†better.‚ÄĮYour zone can be physical¬†‚Ästlike a specific¬†workspace¬†‚Ästor¬†psychological, like blocking¬†out time on your calendar to avoid interruptions.¬†Multitasking is a big habit for a lot of us, too ‚Äď so be mindful on the effect it has on you and cut it down.¬†

  • ¬†Soothe your primitive alarms

Sometimes¬†our brain is hijacked by¬†strong emotions,¬†similar to¬†a fight for survival¬†when¬†in reality¬†your¬†boss just gave you an unrealistic deadline.‚ÄĮTry¬†calming down by¬†labeling¬†your feelings:¬†saying ‚ÄúI‚Äôm angry‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúI‚Äôm feeling frustrated‚ÄĚ.¬†

  • ¬†Reframe your attitude

Brighten up that negative attitude¬†by reversing the frame.‚ÄĮWrite down a limitation on one side of a card.‚ÄĮNext, write the opposite statement on the other side.‚ÄĮEven something this simple can trick your brain into seeing opportunities you‚Äôve not¬†considered before.¬†

  • Refresh your body

Increase your brain‚Äôs efficiency with hydration and proper nutrition.‚ÄĮThe brain is made up of more than 70% water, so without hydration, it¬†works¬†far less¬†well.‚ÄĮ¬†

  • Renew your spirit‚ÄĮ¬†

Make¬†a list of¬†the 10¬†to12 new¬†situations that¬†you would like to create in your life.‚ÄĮThen, circle what‚Äôs most important to you. Keep doing this until you have your top¬†three¬†goals. You might be surprised by what you discover.¬†

If you want to delve even deeper, check out Monday8am’s article on the five areas, featuring more examples. 

I hope these practical tips and techniques will help you to reset your attitude and build small fortifying habits that will prepare you to weather the inevitable ups and downs and ensure any setbacks remain temporary. 


Francesca Giulia Mereu coaching corner

Francesca Giulia Mereu

Executive coach

An executive coach with more than 20 years’ experience, Francesca Giulia Mereu is also author of the book Recharge Your Batteries. She regularly works with Frontline Humanitarian Negotiators (CCHN) and at IMD with senior leaders of global organizations.


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