Enhance your resiliency at work

Why is it that some people are overwhelmed by stress at work and others maintain their well-being despite the challenges?

Why are some people so resistant to workplace change while others take control of the process?

Why is it that some people harbour grudges over frustrations at work, where others will simply get over it, learn what they can, and get on with the future?

The answer is, of course, resilience - our ability to bounce back and adjust to challenges that life sends our way. It is our self-righting mechanism, our ability to restore our equilibrium, when it has been disrupted.

Resiliency is primarily learned behaviour - the choices we make in how we think and behave when faced with adversity. We cannot always control what happens to us, we can only control our responses. Resilience is not always obvious - it only comes into play when we are tested. Our response to adversity will certainly demonstrate how resilient we are.

Resilience can be displayed in many different ways. In individuals it is often seen as optimism, resourcefulness, and determination. In teams it is seen when team members support each other at work and solve problems creatively. Because individuals and teams display resiliency in different ways, there are no universal rules for success.

We often think about risk factors such as poverty, ill-health, prolonged stress, and negative relationships as highly detrimental to an individual's well-being and ability to achieve. For many people, risk factors are certainly detrimental, affecting individuals through depression, anxiety, withdrawal, ill-health, or poor performance.

But others somehow use their challenges as a springboard for growth. This is resiliency - and it is more common than it is not. Although the majority of people go through major stressors and tough life experiences, the majority of us draw on our resiliency and go on to recover from adversity and continue to build satisfying and productive lives.

Resilience research certainly proves the lack of predictive power of risk factors - unless we create self-fulfilling labels based on them. For example, some people start to expect to be treated badly by their workplace and then find evidence to support this expectation.

A theme that comes up regularly in the research is that a resilient individual is one who works well, plays well, loves well, and expects well. The following are reminders on what you already do, or could do more of, to take advantage of these factors.

Practise positive attitudes - Our emotions tend to follow our thoughts and actions. Here the challenge is to find helpful ways of thinking which will help you to feel less stressed and better able to act helpfully. Examples of helpful attitudes include: ‘I don't feel very good about this change, but how can we make the best out of it with the time we have?', ‘If I don't do anything else today, I am at least going to make someone laugh'I know I am eventually going to get through this', or What is something I am grateful for today?'.

  1. Build great relationships at work - this is the number one factor that helps most people become more resilient at work. It is amazing how much stress people can tolerate when they have great relationships with their manager and co-workers. This is likely due to the fact that close relationships help people to recharge, as well as access support and ideas for addressing workplace challenges. People who have supportive relationships at work are also less likely to take sick leave.
  1. Take advantage of your personal strengths -Such strengths might include your hope, determination, creativity, willingness to take action, or problem-solving abilities. Become more aware of strengths you possess. You can do so by asking those who know you what strengths they see in you. The more you are aware of your strengths, the more you can draw on these abilities. Ask yourself how you can use the strengths that you have to get through a tough situation.
  1. Do more of the work you love to do - this helps you to feel more satisfied in your work and less affected by those parts of your work you do not especially enjoy. Speak more to your manager and co-workers about those parts of your work you find especially satisfying. You may be able to negotiate to do more of this type of work and less of the other. If you are in work that is not a good fit for your strengths and abilities, you may be able to take steps over time to find a role that is a better fit.
  1. Take action - Resilient people in workplaces are prepared to act - They keep the focus on what they can do to address their concerns if possible, to deal well with their stress, or to get themselves into another team. They expect the best, but also accept what is out of their control.
  1. Laugh more at work. Laughter is a great antidote to stress and a great way to recharge our batteries. Even in very stressful workplaces, there is often still something to laugh about. So consider where the humour is in the situation or at least come with the attitude that each day you will make someone laugh. Although in human service industries black humour is often used at our workplace's or customers' expense, humour at your own expense is always the safest type.
  1. Take good care of your health. There is no doubt that resilience is encouraged by sufficient sleep, and healthy and well-balanced diet, and regular cardio-vascular activity. We know that physical exercise is positively correlated with our brain health and our ability to respond well to challenges. Other research has found that people, who have 7 hours of sleep each day, were more resilient than people who have more or less sleep than 7 hours.

It is important to note that both the risk factors and protective factors have a cumulative effect. The longer such stressors continue, for example, the greater the impact. The research shows that the presence of more than one risk factor significantly increases an individual's level of risk.

The good news is that the protective factors are also cumulative and have a more profound impact on individuals than the risk factors. They hold the key to reducing the risk and build rewarding and satisfying lives. The odds can be changed.

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