The blog on resilience from (15/1/2018) mentions how tough it is to work in the NHS given all the pressure we know about and are reminded about each day in the press. The focus of the blog is on the experience of the staff who work in these excessively pressurized conditions. Staff have to maintain their sense of purpose and compassion as well as continue to care for their own family and worry about all the things that we all worry about.

The blog mentions the work of Martin Seligman and resilience. Seligman is an important psychologist whose work on ‘learned helplessness’ and positive psychology is hugely significant. Roy Lilley mentions the following six questions, based on the work of Seligman, to help people cope with pressure:

  1. What is the worst thing that can happen?
  2. What is the one thing I can do to help stop the worst happening?
  3. What is the best thing that can happen?
  4. What is the one thing I can do to make the best thing happen?
  5. What is the most likely thing that will happen?
  6. What is the one thing I can do to handle the most likely thing?

These questions can help you avoid the desperate sense of hopelessness that can result from learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is the construct used to describe the helplessness that people feel when whatever they do to avoid a negative situation has proved to be ineffective. They are left with a feeling of learned helplessness because the experience of trying to avoid the negative situation has shown them they do not have control. This sense of powerlessness arising from a persistent failure to succeed or change the circumstances is learned helplessness.

Three more ideas from the work of Seligman may also help improve resilience. If you perceive a difficult situation to be PERVASIVE, PERMANENT and PERSONAL you are likely to find it difficult to feel a sense of control over it – if this continues you may feel helpless and hopeless. If you can find some sense of control – perhaps through the use of the six questions you are likely to find it easier to work in this highly pressurized and difficult environment. The thing to do might even be to ask yourself these six questions each day to help you through what seems like a more or less long-term, continuous test of your resilience.

by Dr. Megan Joffe