The world we live in has never moved as fast as it does now….. Changes are happening all around us at a great pace…..

Who would have imagined 5 years ago that the worlds largest taxi company would own no taxis (Uber)? or that the largest telecommunication company in the world would own no infrastructure (Skype)? The most popular media owner would produce no content (Facebook)? or indeed the worlds largest cinema house would own no cinemas (Netflix)? (Deep breath) or that the largest vendors of software would not write their own apps (Apple and Google)?

We live in a world where we see and hear news stories long before the news channels get chance to type “BREAKING NEWS” ….. Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting.

At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

Over the last 10 years we have developed a culture that expects us to be “Always on”. The perception is that we are addicted to smart phones. In reality it is our drive and curiosity for bite-sized information that we are addicted to.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, we know at any given moment where are friends are, what they are eating, music they are listening to and even which Muppet character they are (after completing that ever so reliable questionnaire!!) The ultimate Facebook tool has to be the “Like” button that you begrudgingly press for that school friend who is about to fly off to Barbados for 3 weeks whilst you’re sat on the no. 56 bus going to do another 12 hour shift!

All of this “busy-ness”, change and emotional beating is without a doubt taking its toll on our personal resilience and we are finding it harder and harder to bounce back when life throws us the emotional punches every hour, every day, week, year…..

The alarm is now ringing and the lights are flashing brightly as it’s now time for you to put on your own oxygen mask first.


What do I mean by that?

Well, when you go flying and they do the little safety check before take-off, the steward or stewardess tells you that in the event of the oxygen masks dropping down from the ceiling you should put on your own mask first. And then help children and other people you are traveling with.



Because if you try to help someone first and you lose consciousness because of your lack of oxygen then you’ll be no help to anyone.

The same applies for personal resilience; we need to look after ourselves first and then everyone else.

In an era of email, text messages, Facebook and Twitter, we’re all required to do several things at once. But this constant multitasking is taking its toll. You have to take care of yourself to be able to productive. If you do it the other way around then you may burn yourself out. Or you may become resentful because you feel you have no time or energy just for you. Or you find yourself in a position where your self-esteem slowly drops week after weekend you feel less and less motivated to help yourself or others.

The ancient Mayans and Greeks chomped on resin gum to build resilience and reduce stress but what can you do more off to help you to pick yourself up from life’s boxing canvas when the local shop has sold out of resin gum?


Let’s throw some ideas around and hopefully you’re not too busy to catch a few:

1. Recognise your Strengths

Looking for opportunities for self-development is always recommended, however it is imperative that you are fully aware of your strengths. It’s easy to dwell on your mistakes but this only wastes time. For example, how about reviewing what went well when you are heading home rather than want wrong. There is plenty of time to beat yourself up but give yourself a “pat on the back” first….. you deserve it !! Perhaps there should be a meeting with a review of what has gone well, rather than immediately jumping to what needs to be improved?

Remember that no one is perfect and let yourself move forward.


2. Build Positive Emotions 

Why oh why do we always ask ourselves: “What is the worst that can happen?”!!! Straight away our The Department of Negativity kicks in and we start to create barriers for not doing something. When my son was ill and I was unemployed (See my story) it was so important to remain positive and strong. Search online for the ‘University of Pennsylvania Authentic Happiness’ website for lots of wellbeing questionnaires that you could try.

Remember to ask yourself “What is the best thing that could happen?” when faced with a challenge.


3. Focus! Focus! Focus! - Focus on key result areas:

Identify and determine the results that you absolutely have to get done to perform well and work on them all day long. Sounds simple when you put it that way, doesn’t it? One of the biggest threats facing the human mind is distraction. Our minds wander like a cheeky monkey flying through the trees causing us to swing from one task to another but not getting anything done.

There are always tasks you’ll love to do more than others, and it’s tempting to do those first. However, it’s a good idea to do the hardest tasks first. That way, you’ll save yourself from all the dread!


Remember to apply the “80/20 Rule” to everything: Resist the temptation to clear up small things first. 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results. Always concentrate efforts on those top 20% activities.


Are you working on autopilot?

Like many humans, you’re probably ‘not present’ for much of your own life. You may fail to notice the good things in life or hear what your body is telling you. You probably also make your life harder than it needs to be by poisoning yourself with toxic self-criticism.

Mindfulness can help you to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism.

Developing the ability to pay attention to whatever is happening moment by moment doesn’t take away the pressures, but it can help you respond to them in a more productive, calmer manner.

Mindfulness can help you to recognise, slow down or stop automatic reactions, and see situations with greater focus and clarity.


Follow the ABC rule:

A is for awareness. Becoming more aware of what you’re thinking and doing and what’s going on in your mind and body.

B is for ‘just being’ with your experiences. Avoiding the tendency to respond on autopilot and feed problems by creating your own story.

C is for choice. By seeing things as they are you can choose to respond more wisely and by creating a gap between an experience and your reaction, you can step out of autopilot, which opens up a world of new possibilities.

Remember to Stop! Breathe! and Think! (also don’t forget to download the meditation app !!)


Tell the negative committee that meets in your mind to sit down and shut up!!!!

Change your beliefs and surround yourself with positive people. When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking. Be more “Best friendly” to yourself….. eh? Talk to yourself how you would talk to your best friend….. encourage yourself, believe in yourself. Positive self-speech can seriously impact your mood. Instead of adding to the monkey-brain thoughts of not good enough, too stressed and panic – tell yourself you look good, that you’re doing great and that you can manage everything that comes your way

Remember what would your best friend tell you to do when you’re faced with a difficult situation?


The ultimate medicine

When was the last time you heard a patient say how they felt better after being treated by a miserable doctor?….. exactly never!! Obviously there are professional boundaries to adhere to but laughter is so so so (You get the picture!) important and has been proven to build resilience. It lowers levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine, which are stress-aggravating hormones; and it releases feel-good hormones, such as, dopamine.

If you’re able to laugh at life’s frustrations, you can have increased immunity, if you will, to stress and adversity. Those with a sense of humor about life tend to experience life as less stressful, are able to bond with others during difficult times, and experience the numerous benefits of laughter. If you can take a step back from difficult situations long enough to maintain your sense of humour, you will be more resilient, too.

Remember to smile and laugh like you used to. Above all else it’s massively infectious for all those around you as well!


Accept yourself as you are.

Let yourself off the hook and accept that you are only human. You are doing your absolute best, and you are doing exactly what you need to do. You don’t need to change anything about yourself – trust that you are perfect just the way you are.


Remember you are unique and there is only one you.  

As we crawl our way through the winter months it is so easy to go through life with the world on your shoulders and looking at the ground below. But take a moment each day to Stop!….. Breathe and Think about what a fantastic job your doing and the inspiration that you truly are!….. Still not convinced? Just see who Time magazine awarded their Person of the Year 2006 to? …..You!!!!


Medical Exam Prep would like to thank Richard Ellis for contributing this blog post.

About Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis is a People Development Practitioner at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. He is passionate about life and the characters that play in it. You can follow him on twitter @Rickjellis