What every Coach needs to know about the unhealthy side of Resilience

Photo by Jannes Jacobs

Speaking to you as a Coach, did you know there was an unhealthy side of Resilience? The concept of Resilience has become very popular in recent years with many articles and blogs on the topic so why am I suggesting there is something unhealthy about Resilience?


Let me begin by saying Resilience is a powerful and useful resource to develop. There are many excellent blogs and articles about how to do this, I have written quite a few myself.

In order to explore this further you need to consider how you define Resilience? Many people use the popular definition of the ability to bounce back from adversity.


Here is a more academic quote “the process of, capacity for, or outcomes of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstance.” (Masten, Best & Garmezy 1990).


Yes, it is a mouthful! In other words the ability to adapt successfully to challenges or threat.


What many articles focusing on the development of Resilience fail to mention is that there is a finite amount of adaptation in some situations. This leaves many clients (and Coaches) beating themselves up when they become overwhelmed and no longer feel able to be Resilient. They believe they are not good enough and begin a downward spiral into anxiety and overwhelm.


As a Coach how can you coach beyond Resilience?


This is so important for people when the bad news just keeps coming. For example, right now we have a lot of shared Global bad news: the War in Ukraine, the Pandemic, Climate Change (including extremes of weather), the rise in the cost of living, political issues and all this is further escalated by misinformation and polarity thinking. These are all major stressors.


If you are coaching someone who also has a lot of personal stresses either connected to the above or on top of, what can you do?


The first step is self-management, if you are also experiencing life beyond Resilience make sure you are taking care of you. If you are struggling you can take your experience to Supervision to get your support particularly if it is paralleling your clients experiences. By getting the help you need you can include role modelling in how you help clients.


When working with clients one of the most helpful steps is to normalise how they feel about their loss of Resilience. If the client understands that many people experience similar feelings (even if they don’t say so) there can be an immediate release of pressure.


To bring in another Positive Psychology concept, as a Coach, you need to make sure you apply Emotional Intelligence in the environment you create. Allow the client space to express their feelings without judgement.


As a Coach, resist the urge to Rescue your client by going heavily into problem solving.

Problem solving may be helpful later so hold back and remember the best problem solving comes from great questions rather than “tell”.


Once the client has given themselves mental space by acknowledging that it is okay to “not be resilient” you could introduce spheres of influence. Help the client acknowledge what they can control and what they can’t.


Practical problem-solving coaching does have a place but not too soon in the process. Support is far more valuable to begin with and may include strategies for dealing with anxiety and overwhelm.


Resilience is one of the many Positive Psychology topics discussed on my Positive Psychology Coaching workshop, click the link if you would like more details. This workshop is available world wide via Zoom.

If you are a Coach needing further support do email to find out about Supervision and Mentoring with Melody Cheal. You can always arrange a free discovery call to find out more.



You might also want to check out “The Little Book of Resilience”






Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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