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Strengths-Based Interventions to Build Resilience



Every year I look forward to autumn. The fresh chill in the air, the leaves changing colours and enjoying that lovely feeling of a renewed energy after the summer break. But this year has been different. Over the course of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has grown dire, infecting and sickening millions globally and putting lives and livelihoods on pause. Understandably many are drowning in the tsunami of despair and uncertainty and wondering what is happening to humanity. And as autumn approaches we are still in the midst of it all with the U.K. entering Coronavirus Season 2.


Honestly, I have no idea what we are in for us over the next six months, but it’s definitely not looking good. In sessions, I’ve been working with a number of my clients and helping them use their character strengths during these times to reframe challenges, find benefit in struggles, perspective-taking, seeing the common humanity in others and using character strengths to find balance. Strength-based interventions help build resilience and posttraumatic growth.





People who know and use their character strengths tend to lead healthier and happier lives, forge stronger relationships, and have a greater sense of accomplishment, according to years of research by leading positive psychologists. Finding out what strengths you already have and learning where you need improvement can help you see who you are as a person as well as the person you can become. If you don’t know your character strengths, I highly recommend you take the VIA Survey for Adults. You can take the test here. After the test is completed you will get an email with a rank order of your character strengths from 1 to 24, with definitions. Take notice of what strikes you the most in your results and be aware of any insights that emerge and any immediate inclinations you feel towards positive action. For instance, if humour is your top strength, you generally like to laugh and try to see the light side of a situation—even if it’s a gloomy one. Making people smile is important to you. If your top strength is perspective, people most likely come to you for advice and appreciate your outlook on life. Once you have your strengths try out the following two strengths-based interventions to build resilience. Both are adapted from Ryan Niemiec’s Character Strengths interventions.




1. Resource Priming: An extremely useful intervention for these times to boost preparation, activate internal resources and enhance the likelihood of success in the immediate future.


Steps:


  • Consider an upcoming stressor that you will need to attend to or handle directly.

  • Now think about your five best character strengths. These are called your signature strengths. Think about how you have used them in the past and how they are an important part of you.

  • Draw connections between your character strengths and the current stressful situation you are facing.

  • Hypothesise ways you might use each of your strengths in the situation.

  • Take action with your strengths in the situation.


To optimise this intervention, use a worksheet to write down and track your concerns in regards to the upcoming situation and consider how your character strengths can be used to address each. Writing them down and journaling each time can reinforce positive expectations for change.





2. Overcoming Stress with Humour: In times of crises and stress, humour can be a very powerful character strength to use. It involves being playful, finding humour in serious or challenging situations, smiling, laughing and finding ambiguity in the ironic and absurd. This intervention can help you develop humour to manage stress.


Steps:


  • Think about one minor stressful experience from your day.

  • Consider how the stressor was, or could have been solved in a humorous way.

  • Evaluate your strategy for its potential future use. The crux of this exercise is not to see problems as trivial but instead to examine the problem through a different lens. For those of you who feel awkward doing this activity, remember that the core of humour is playfulness and the rediscovery of a playful attitude is a key element for change and growth.


Strengths-based work is a key part of positive psychology coaching. For more on resilience building, posttraumatic growth and wellbeing, do get in touch.

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