What’s your bounce-back-ability like? How quickly can you come back from difficult times?
I would say I am pretty robust at coming back from life’s challenges. I always have a ‘cup half full’ attitude to life and try to see the positives in everything. I don’t dwell on things I cannot change or affect, and I have a pragmatic approach to most things.
However, this was once tested when I suffered a significant life event. Initially I flipped straight into practical mode and just got on with making the best of the situation. It was only a year or so later that things started to deteriorate. I kept repeating the same phrase, ‘I’m a strong independent woman, and I can handle this’. As if trying to convince myself. I seemed to feel equally rocked by the fact that my usual level of resilience had been depleted as by the event itself.
Resilience is a key skill within both our personal and work lives. MIND state that resilience is being able to deal with pressure and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. It’s not just your ability to bounce back but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances.
During present times this is being tested by us all. How well do we cope with the changes to work and personal lives? How well do we cope with the uncertainty of how long this will last? How well do we cope with the financial worries? How well do we cope with being apart from friends and family? How well will we come out of this?
Having more resilient employees in the workplace can help reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. Psychologically resilient employees are better able to cope with stress and less likely to suffer from burnout.
So, what can we do to be more resilient?
Susan Kobasa, leading psychologist, believes there are 3 elements essential to resilience:
1. Challenge – Resilient people view difficulties as challenges. They learn and grow from mistakes and problems rather than treating them as a negative reflection of their self-worth or abilities.
2. Commitment – You won’t see a resilient person quitting at the first hurdle, they’re committed to their lives and everything within it; from work and friendships, to relationships and spiritual beliefs.
3. Personal control – There’s no point in worrying about things you can’t control, which is why resilient people only spend time and energy on situations that they can have an impact on.
However, I prefer Ken Ginsburg’s 7 C’s of resilience: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping and Control. He wrote it to build resilience in children and teenagers. I’ve taken both ideas to inform my thoughts on resilience here.
Building our resilience
The first thing I want to discuss is the idea of connection. I’ve written many times before about the importance that my friends and family play in my life. However, within a work context its about being part of a team that you can trust. By having a support network to help you when challenging times occur, you are better able to move forward. This trusted team is used to help vent any feelings of frustration, anxiety or worry: Being able to freely express when you are not OK.
Reduce stress and anxiety
The mechanisms we have in place to deal with stress are super important. Without them we don’t have the hardiness to deal with the tough times. The first things we need to consider are our triggers for stress and anxiety. We all have a certain amount of stress that we can handle, and it is different for everyone. This is called your ‘stress container’. When the container gets full then it overflows, but your coping mechanisms enable you to keep it at a manageable level. These include, eating well, exercise, relaxation, sleep, socialising, mindfulness, music etc.
Consider your mindset
So, what does our character have to do with resilience? Our ability to view things from a positive viewpoint can help our stress container from overflowing. Reframing the negative self-talk into positive can help ‘rewire’ how you react to difficult situations. Having emotional insight for yourself and others will enable you to recognise when emotions are running high and take actions and support to help. Finally, consider your levels of worry. Do you worry about things out of your control? If so, then you may want to consider rethinking this. Only spend your energies on those things that you can influence or control.
As a lot of us aren’t at work at the moment, I’ve prioritised the elements that WE can influence and control with regards to building our resilience. The next few relate more to what Line Managers can do to help their employees.
Being able to come back from set back within the workplace is affected by our levels of confidence and competence. Feeling that we are good at something, getting recognition for a job well done leads to confidence in what we do. This in turn enables us to feel more comfortable to make mistakes, to take risks and try new things. Line Managers need to set goals that stretch their employees whilst also knowing that they can excel.
Have a purpose
Knowing that you contribute to a greater goal and having a sense of purpose all help build your levels of resilience. Being committed and taking responsibility. Managers should set objectives that are linked to the strategic plan of the business so the individuals can recognise how they play a part. Also, giving them responsibility and autonomy over what they do gives a sense of control.
How can you create a culture of resilience?
- Share bad news early on
- Show weaknesses without fear
- Maintain composure during times of stress
- Ask for help if further support is needed
- Keep an eye on one another and offer support
- Thank one another for help
- Debrief after any major challenges
- Have a plan B
Resilience is our instinct to survive and to be able to get back up. Our job now is to not only survive this current crisis but to be able to come back fighting! When we do get back to some sort of normality maybe resilience training should be at the top of the training and development agenda.