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Proactive resilience – what is it, and why should I invest in it?

17 December 2021

Dr Annalene Weston, Dentolegal Consultant at Dental Protection, looks at individual prosilience – or proactive resilience, where we build our capacity to become resilient

If we consider resilience to be the capacity or ability to recover from difficulties, proactive resilience – or ‘prosilience’ – is the steps we can take to develop, deepen or embed our emotional and mental capacity to recover, before this resilience is needed. Naturally, this can be on an organisation or an individual level.

COVID-19 has been a marathon, not a sprint. A seemingly endless cacophony of Herculean tasks, with no fixed end in sight. 2020 brought with it challenges that none of us foresaw. 2021 has brought with it fresh challenges and issues. The impacts on our personal and professional lives are far-reaching and varied and it is unlikely that anyone of us has had an identical experience.

The divisive nature of COVID-19 and the decisions that our State and Federal Governments have made has further compounded the difficulty of the time. The early research is demonstrating that many clinicians are experiencing one or more of the following: grief, fear and anger. These feelings are magnified by the pervasive sense that clinicians are perpetually selfless, working through their own sickness and ignoring their own needs.

While in the past this unrealistic expectation on clinicians did exist, with the passage of time and an increased acknowledgement that we are human first and clinicians second, it has largely dissipated. This has come with a greater understanding that self-care is critical. After all, if we are unwell ourselves, how can we care for others?

There are some simple strategies that individuals can put in place today to deepen their resilience, and some of these mirror the strategies we can use to recover from burnout. Naturally, we cannot mention burnout or prosilience without mentioning our third space, a topic on which we already have resources readily available – listen to our RiskBites podcast, “Burnout – using your third space wisely”.

Develop your rituals

The development of personal rituals is both protective against burnout and effective in developing proactive resilience. These rituals can be small or large, related to work or related to home; it doesn’t matter. The studies overwhelmingly demonstrate that having personal rituals is protective for mental and emotional health.

By way of example, a simple example is a ritual for health we all have – by leaving our toothbrush, usually in view, by the bathroom sink, this reminds us to brush our teeth.

Rituals focused on creating prosilience could include the incorporation of regular exercise or movement into our day, ensuring dedicated time to do something you love, like reading or playing the guitar. Having a morning coffee. It doesn’t matter what it is. The point is to have a ritual, meaningful to you, preferably that benefits your health or at least is not detrimental, as this has a stabilising effect, supporting mental and emotional health and resilience.

Reframe your thoughts

Reframing is commonly used in cognitive behaviour therapy and is achieved by shifting your perspective of the events at hand. For example, if your filling fails, rather than focusing on that, considering all of the thousands of successful fillings you have provided for your patients.

Reframing your thoughts and beliefs, in this difficult time where many people are holding divergent and divisive views, can be a very helpful strategy in protecting your emotional and mental health, and ensuring a less anxious or reactive response. If you are able to reframe your thoughts when challenged with something difficult and new, you would be able to better manage how this makes you feel.

Filtering what you are exposed to

Filtering is considering the sources of information you are exposed to and removing those that are not helpful to you. Consider the stream of information you are constantly bombarded with. Is it factual? Is it helpful? Is it relevant? And this stream can be from traditional sources such as news channels, more contemporary sources such as social media, or simply from people you know. Consider the input you are receiving. When, where and how much. Do you need this? Do you want it? Would limiting or filtering some of these sources be of benefit to you?


Treating our colleagues and co-workers, and family and friends, with courteous civility and respect assists in our sense of psychological safety and our resilience, and helps develop prosilience. We have also seen and experienced incivility in these times of COVID-19, so know first-hand how unhelpful it is. Respect and courtesy should always be our focus.

Want to know more? Listen to our podcast on proactive resilience.

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