We all know at least one of these people, in our circle of friends or where we work: in their professional lives, they are decisive, self confident, self disciplined, even tempered, energetic, productive, balanced and positive. In their private lives they are supportive, encouraging, patient and fair. These are the successful people that we admire and emulate. We are motivated by their successes; we want what they have and to be like them. Most if not all of these people have one skill in common, they have the ability to be resilient. During a crisis, they are able to let go and move on. This is an extremely important skill, not only in leadership roles but in everyday situations, especially now during these difficult times of crisis.

Before we discuss how one becomes resilient, first we need to understand what this English word means. Basically, it is the skill of recovering quickly after an emergency, crisis or what we might consider as a stressful situation. Imagine, a sponge, after you squeeze it, it returns to its original shape. The word skill is used because everyone can learn to be resilient. With this skill we are not only changing our breathing pattern but we are also changing our thinking patterns.

There will always be emergencies, crisis or stressful situations in our lives. An automatic reaction is important to our survival; in some cases, such as being confronted by a dangerous animal , if we take too long to decide what to do, we might not survive. The problem is when our bodies remain in that heighten state of alert. Our bodies use up valuable energy and resources. If this alert state remains constant, our tense muscles begin hurt; we experience pain in our necks, in our shoulders and even up into our heads. Our hands become cold and possibly sweaty. We experience problems with our stomachs, kidneys and other organs. We are unable to sleep. In this constant state of vigil our awareness is decreased and we over react in most situations. So, it is in our best interest if we want to perform better and to feel better to revert back to a neutral state; in others words be resilient.

Can we affect this automatic response and if so how can we affect it? The answer to the first part of the questions is yes. Today, some of the most common ways of recovering from a heightened state of alert are going for wellness weekend, getting a massage, taking medication, drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Most of these fixes are passive, temporary and may even have side negative effects. Some people even get involved with yoga, meditation or become monks. Many of us do not have the time nor the inclination to do this. There is another way which will be described shortly.


In regard to the second half of the question of how, the first thing that we need to do to is to recognize that we are in this heightened state of alert. Usually this happens when we are experiencing physical pain, such as in the neck, shoulders and head. Emotionally, we may be angry, fearful or depressed. Mentally we have difficulty to focusing and pay attention. If we are able to admit to this state, we can then begin to neutralize our body, mind and emotions . We do this by changing our focus from that which has caused us to react, such as our employer or coworker, to our breathing. Once we have our focus on our breathing, we then focus on slowing down our breathing resulting in calming our body, mind and emotions. To the reader this may seem to be a very simple thing to do but be assured it is not as easy as it seems as you will find out. The first problem is finding the time to practice breathing. Today our lives are so busy that we can not find time to sit down for a just few minutes. The second problem is staying on the task of breathing. We may become impatient, want immediate results and become bored. Soon our minds begin to wander and give up. This is the challenge, us! We need to make the time and we need to commit to the learning process.

A key principle in anything that we do in life, especially with breath training, is practice. We need to practice slowing our breathing because we are changing a pattern that has taken all of our lives to learn. It is automatic and deep in our sub consciousness. We are replacing one breathing pattern with another.
We should not wait for a crisis situation before begin to practice this skill. We need to condition our system. Whenever we have a moment, we can practice our breathing, be it on the tram, at a stop light or before we go to bed or at work. IOt is very important to focus on the out breath and do not worry about in breath. Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.

The way we breath is fundamental to life. In the case of resiliency, the slowing of breathing will slow the body mind and emotions. Once, we become calmer we can then focus on accepting our situations and letting go of them. But until we have worked on calming our bodies with our breathing we will not be able to move on with our lives.

This can be a difficult process to learn because we really do not know if we are breathing properly and whether it is having the desired effect on our nervous system. We use biofeedback which measures the effect our breathing has on mind, body and emotions. An sensor is attached to a person and it measures how the body is performing. (Nothing is put into the body) This information from the measurement is then fed back to this person either visually and or by a sound telling them what the effect is of the breathing. The person can then discover what breathing pattern is optimal for them. Another person such as a coach is helpful in this process by gently guiding and encouraging the person through this training process.

This interactive process is active wellness as opposed to passive wellness. With these tools a person begins to take their life into their own hands by learning and practicing what is good for them rather than depending on someone to tell us whether we are doing well.

As we learn and practice to be resilient, we soon learn to recover more quickly. In addition to recovering from a crisis situation quicker we soon begin reacting less dramatically to a crisis situation. We become more calm and focused.

In business, stress which is a result of the heightened state of alert is accepted or even expected. It is not uncommon to hear people in business complain how stressed they are. In many cases, it is more about just letting each other know how hard they are working, that what they do is important and that they are successful. The amount of stress one experiences or reports has become a measuring stick. The more stress, the more successful. The more responsibility you acquire as you progress, the more stressors you have. Being stressed almost becomes heroic. In reality, however, the successful business person should be measured not by how much stress they have but by how resilient they are to the stressors. The successful leaders of tomorrow will be those who will be able to let go and move on to the next project.

Resiliency is not a new concept. What is different is how we become resilient. We can either become resilient by trying to force ourselves to be resilient or by building our resilience. It becomes an automatic response rather than a controlled response which eventually works against us. Learning how to be resilient is a process that involves time, a commitment, patience and especially practice. We are attempting to change a process that may have taken us years to learn and adopt. If you can change your breathing, you will change your life.

As we build our resilience it becomes a powerful tool that can be utilized in all walks of life. The rewards and benefits of resiliency are countless in sports, with our families and at work. The new measuring stick is not how much stress we have in our lives but how resilient we are.

John Styffe HeartSmart email:focus@swissonline.ch www.neurofeedback.org

Author's Bio: 

John Styffe is an internationally trained biofeedback specialist and coach who has been practicing in the Zurich area for 11 years.

John, in cooperation with executive coach, Thomas Mahler, created a practical and logical program called HeartSmart®. This program guides people through a simple process that not only teaches people how to be resilient in times of crisis but it helps them to develop an awareness of what is required to respond effectively, efficiently and with flexibility to change.