Boosting your resilience

Helen Northall, chief executive at Primary Care Commissioning (PCC) discusses how practice managers can boost their resilience during these testing times

The last year has been a difficult one; who would have imagined last Christmas that we would have been in lockdown, with the NHS seriously tested by a global pandemic?  So much change has happened, and the resilience of people working in and with health and care services has been seriously tested. Resilience is our ability to deal with, find strengths in, and/or recover from difficult situations. Its sometimes referred to as ‘bounceability’ – but bouncing in what way?

  • It can be ‘bouncing back’ – recovery resilience
  • ‘bouncing with’ – adaptive resilience
  • ‘bouncing forward’ – transformative resilience

In the last year many people will have done all three. So, how are you doing?

(Chris Johnstone, Association for Coaching Webinar 2020)

What you may need are strategies to help you move from the red zone into amber, and from amber to green. There are a number of ways that you can seek to achieve this.

Coaching and training

  • Just working through where you are, what your next steps may be, and having headspace to think objectively may help.
  • Prompted by the right questions for you to gain insight, recognising your achievements and your way forward.

Working through potential scenarios

  • Try to think about what is the worst that can happen, and what this would mean. Could I live with this, and manage it?
  • What is the best that could happen? What would this look like, and how would I react and work with this?
  • What is the most likely thing that could happen? What would this mean, and how would I respond to this?
  • What can I do to make the best more likely to happen – and step towards making the best more likely and the worst less so?


  • Think, ‘Here is what I am facing – what happens next is… and what helps is…’
  • Identify when you cope well, and less well, and what helps you cope better.
  • Work out what would make it even better  – if, and how, you can turn the situation into a more positive ending.

Mindfulness – controlling your ‘busy brain’

We hear a lot about use of mindfulness to support wellbeing, but what is this?  Do you have a ‘busy brain’? Do you read, or someone talks to you, and you have no idea what you read, or was said? This often happens as, much of the time, the brain is busy either reflecting on the past (replaying something from earlier in the day/week), or it’s anticipating what might happen in the future – planning, catastrophising or looking forward to something. It’s rare for our brains to be fully engaged in what is happening right here and now. 

We are not often present in the moment. Mindfulness is when our thoughts tune into what we are sensing in the present moment – not rehashing the past, or imagining the future. Mindfulness helps us to maintain moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations and environment and creates greater capacity to deal with adverse events.

There are many different ways to practice mindfulness – mediations, breathing exercises, etc, but you can carry out a lot of tasks mindfully – washing up, having a shower, eating, etc; just engage in the present moment and notice what is there, and what you are feeling.

Remember – what has happened in the past year is a lot of change – although change is a situation you need to manage, making a transition is psychological. Beginning a change is about ending the way things have been done in the past, and it brings a sense of loss. You then need to move through a neutral zone into a new beginning. When people are distressed, outside their resilience zone and in, or approaching the red, a different part of the brain takes control, the less rational part.

What you need to do for yourself, and your teams, is to find a way to stay in the resilience zone, and manage the continual change around us all.

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