The world has changed dramatically over the last few years, largely due to Covid, and it has taken its toll on many people. The lack of social contact due to working from home, the unpredictability of the environment, new rules and regulations, increased work demands and dealing with Covid at work and at home. All these changes can provoke a stress response that undermines mental resiliency.
Resilience is defined by the Oxford Australian dictionary as:
“the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”.
Having strong resilience skills means our ability to bounce back from adversity and deal with the challenges that life can throw at us. Resilience skills are what give us the psychological strength to cope with stress and change. It is a mental reservoir that we can call on in challenging times to carry us through. We might still experience the emotional pain and sense of loss that a tough situation can bring, but instead of becoming overwhelmed and turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or gambling, a resilient outlook allows us to work through our feelings and recover faster. Who doesn’t want the ability to do that or to do it better?
Some people are naturally more resilient than others, but we are all very capable of learning the skills that it takes to build resilience. It can be practised through any strategy that helps us manage our emotions, dispute negative thoughts or that increase the number of positive emotions we experience. These practices lead to skills such as being able to:
- Focus on the positive
- Overcome obstacles through creative, solution-orientated thinking
- See the funny side of events, even negative ones
- Challenge oneself and be persistent
- View failure as a learning experience
- See problems and setbacks as temporary
- Seek support during difficulties
- Stop replaying negative situations
- Share feelings openly
- Express gratitude
- Hold a positive view of oneself and abilities
There are another 3 areas to consider which will also help strengthen and build resilience.
- Mental Focus
During challenging times we can become unfocused and hung up on negative and unhelpful thought patterns such as “Will my job be safe?” “I’m not sure what my role is any more or where the boundaries lie”. We can stress over seemingly small things and find it difficult to maintain focus. Solutions that can help are:
- Setting short term goals What can I realistically achieve by the end of today?
- Gaining a sense of control. This entails focusing on what you can do not what you can’t change eg. You are in control of your attitude even if you can’t change the situation.
- Focusing on the positive things you can do can help get you out of a negative mindset.
- Getting involved and engaged in a positive way eg. Providing feedback on how a process is working, rather than sitting back and being passive or feeling helpless.
- Emotional Connection
Social relationships at work have been shown to boost employee retention, safety, work quality and customer engagement. This can be more challenging if you’re working remotely but we can still engage over the phone, video conference, apps etc. Things to consider are:
- Saying things simply, clearly, and assertively in whatever medium you choose eg email, phone, face to face
- Building trust by consistently doing what you say and acting for the greater good
- Truly listening and being responsive to others needs
- Seeking support. Discussing things with other people can help you gain insight or new ideas that might help you better manage the challenges you’re dealing with.
- Physical Wellbeing
Building daily routines that help the body recover from stress is also key to developing resilience skills. If our body is not given regular opportunities to recover from the tension associated with stress, the results can range from diminished concentration to anxiety and/or depression, to vulnerability to disease (including chronic conditions).
According to Gallup, “Those with high physical wellbeing simply have more energy to get more done in less time. They are more likely to be in a good mood, thus boosting the engagement of their colleagues and customers.” This category is one we often understand and yet give limited focus to. Some basic elements include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising at least 3 x per week
- Eating healthily
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
- Finding time to relax
By being more conscious of the ways in which we can build resilience and by making small changes in our lives, we will feel the benefits of our actions.