How to cope with difficult situations you can't control

Our stress levels significantly increase when we feel we have little control over what’s happening. For example, the global pandemic has created a heightened sense of uncertainty, stress and severely tested people’s resilience and resolve.

An article this week in HRD said that “for HR teams, 2020 was about resilience and adaptability, while the year ahead will be about nurturing and improving” talent. However, a quick scroll of social media or conversations with friends, family and delegates on courses suggests entering a 3rd lockdown to start 2021 has hit many people harder than the first two UK lockdowns and people are expecting a tough year ahead. So, arguably the challenges around resilience and adaptability to a situation far beyond our control remains just as prevalent for individuals and organisations in 2021.

Yet, irrespective of the current situation, there will always be difficult challenges beyond our control that we have to find ways to cope with more effectively. When we can’t control the circumstances we’re tackling, the one thing we can control is ourselves – our behaviour and our mindset.

Circles of Control, Influence and Concern

Covey’s circles of control, influence and concern are an excellent illustration of how we can change our response to situations we can’t control. We will all have a long list of things that we're concerned about, a shorter list of things we can influence and then within our circle of control is just our own behaviour and mindset.

When we make a conscious decision to think more carefully about the language we’re using to describe our thoughts and opinions, our reaction to other people and new information and the activities and behaviours we undertake, the change in mindset helps us to cope better because we create a feeling of ownership and purpose.

Interestingly, the more aware we are of what's within our control, often the more we feel our influence over other aspects of our lives increases too and therefore so does our feeling of resilience or coping.

Prepare, Adapt, Recover

The definition of resilience GRA aligns with is the ability to prepare for, adapt to and recover from stress. A delegate on our Resilience for Results programme this week shared that his ability to consciously prepare for difficult times has developed throughout the pandemic. Initially, he struggled greatly with the overwhelming feeling of dread and a situation far beyond his control.

By taking the time to plan activities that help with the ‘recovery’ or coping aspect of his resilience – in his case socialising virtually and learning a new skill – he felt he had a greater sense of control and was more positive overall.

There are many other aspects of controlling our mindset that can strengthen our resilience such as a gratitude journal, mindfulness, physical activity, spirituality/beliefs, that we discuss in our resilience training but just by consciously considering what is within our own control, it can start to help us cope more effectively with difficult situations.

Virtual Taster of Resilience for Results

If you’re interested in assessing whether GRA's Resilience for Results programme could benefit individuals and teams within your organisation, please complete the form below: