Resilience, a word that has been long associated with pharmacy.  Pharmacists are seemingly forever coping with shocks to the system whether be it funding changes, staffing issues, drug shortages and now Covid-19. The list goes on.  But what does resilience mean to the individuals in our pharmacies and how can we help to cultivate, develop and build resilience for ourselves?

Resilience is not just about the ability of societies, businesses or economies to respond to shocks to the system, at the most fundamental level it is about the ability of the individuals who live within them, participate, contribute and lead them, to cope both physically and mentally with those shocks.

As a coach I spend much of my time helping individuals to tap into their resilience and help them create an environment that allows them to build up their resilience bank, and maintain this. It’s an underrated skill.

I don’t need to tell you that working long hours, not having enough rest and pushing yourself to the limit is a recipe for burnout.  

But what does it take to build your resilience? Well, firstly you have to look out for the signs and signals that could indicate a low resilience bank. Here are some examples; ask yourself if you’re experiencing any of these behaviours:

  1. Are you working longer and longer hours in order to complete the work, even if the workload hasn’t particularly increased of late?
  2. Are you constantly worrying about the workload, the impact of Covid-19 on your business, how to beat the ‘big guys’, what your staff are going to think of you and so try to overcompensate by working longer and harder?
  3. Are you suffering from poor sleep, finding it difficult to fall asleep or waking up worrying about your business and livelihood?
  4. Have you prioritised your business over your family? You’re missing out on spending quality time with your loved ones. You’re not present for them or their needs and instead are always focused on your business.
  5. Do you feel like there is no future for pharmacy and perhaps you’re worried about the future of your business and the profession?

If you answered yes to any or even all of these questions, then your resilience bank could be running low.

Whilst Covid-19 has tested every single person's resilience, it’s also brought into sharp view what we must do about it if we are to ride the shocks and come out stronger than before.

Psychologists have long held the understanding that resilience isn’t just about bouncing back, but it’s riding the wave of emotions associated with traumatic life events and using it as a tool for personal development.  It’s an opportunity to build up your internal resilience bank.

So how can you go about doing that? I like to keep things simple, so I use a concept that I developed, called the five M’s.

Maintain Mind

Seek to develop healthy thinking through meditation, journaling or simply moments of connecting with your breath.  Maintain hope, accept change and always seek to keep things in perspective.  For example, you might be really struggling to keep up with all the work, but think of the fact that you have a team who are supporting you and that your business is one which has continued to remain open during a time when many others were forced to shut down.

Maintain Relationships

Focus on your relationships during testing times.  Your relationships with others who understand the difficulty, but also those who don’t, whom you care about like your family and friends, even your patients.  Prioritise the relationships within your team and patients, and remind yourself of the impact you have made on others.  Read through the letters, messages and cards of thanks from your patients and community.

Maintain Meals

I'm a certified health coach so I couldn’t get away without talking about what we feed our bodies.  Look at what you’ve eaten this last week, did you get a variety of fruits and vegetables in?  When we’re worried and lack sleep, what we feed ourselves is the first area of our health that we neglect, and can often be a good indication as to how well we might be coping. None of us are perfect, so we need reminding of what we are feeding ourselves on a regular basis, take stock and start planning what you’re eating even if it’s only one meal in the day.

Maintain Meaning

When your resilience bank is low, it can be incredibly hard to think beyond the problems and system failures that are directly in front of us.  But it's THE time to focus on your purpose.  Ask yourself ‘why you’re doing what you’re doing and what does it mean to me personally? What difference is it making to my life and others?’.  Finding purpose in our work and reconnecting with this can have a profound effect on wellbeing.

Maintain Momentum

Take action! Not just physical movement such as exercise, but once you’ve reflected on your mind, relationships and nourishment, taking active steps to change them where needed. You know better than anyone else what you need in order to stay resilient. And if you’re struggling to find, seek or develop it then don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you need help with your mind, seek help with it, call Pharmacist Support, for example. If you need help on gaining some clarity over your purpose and direction, seek the help of a coach. If you need help with your meals, try signing up to a healthy meal kit and keeping a food journal. Resilience cannot be built by simply reflecting on what you need, you need to take action to change it.

How to use the five M’s?

Take just five minutes in the evening, get out a notepad and pen and work your way through each of the five M’s asking yourself the question ‘What did I do today to (insert the M)?’ Using these questions to journal on you’re doing two things: you’re working on your mind, and you're reflecting on your beliefs, behaviours and actions which will in turn help you consistently build up your resilience bank.

Your resilience is built upon the foundations of how much you’re prepared to self-reflect in a non-judgemental way. So, take the first step towards reflection today and you’ll be saying yes to building up your resilience bank.

Komal is former national level pharmacist turned pharmacy career change coach and certified health coach. Through her coaching she helps pharmacists to create careers that provide them with freedom, flexibility and fulfilment so that they can become happy healthcare professionals again. Find her on LinkedIn.