By Jacqueline Fiore Mar 8, 2021
How equipped do you feel to handle everyday stress at work? How about hardship? Global events have increased the amount of everyday stress in an exorbitant amount of roles and workplaces today and in some places, employees are experiencing true hardship in roles that were once considered to be mundane. What can you do if you are experiencing an increased amount of stress at work? One thing that can have a great impact is to work on building your resilience. According to Psychology Today, resilience is “the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.” Many people don’t know or think about the fact that resilience is something that can be cultivated, or built, like a muscle. This is true both for individuals and for teams. Cultivating resilience at work pays off for individuals, teams, and organizations because it contributes to an environment where each person can bring their best selves to work.
You might say - great, but how do I build resilience? There are a couple of workplace conditions to consider first:
Role fit - someone who loves their job has a higher likelihood to have strong resilience at work. If the work you are doing is not meaningful to you, stress that happens on the job or because of the job will take a greater toll. If you are feeling the effects of low resilience and you feel you are in a role that is not a good fit, this might be a place to start.
Trust - trusting the people you work with (including peers, leaders, senior leaders, clients, and anyone else you interact with on a regular basis) goes a long way in building and maintaining resilience. When you trust the support system around you it gives you confidence that if things go wrong, there will be allies around to help you. If you feel the environment you work in lacks the trust you need for this confidence start by focusing on building those working relationships.
In addition to the above focus on the work environment (items that both leaders and individual contributors can work on and impact), there are individual actions and focus areas that can also help to build resilience:
We talked about trust above, and connections are an essential part of this in the workplace. Connections outside of the workplace are also an impactful way to build resilience. Outside connections can give us someone to talk to about tough work situations or create a place where we can leave the work problems behind and unwind.
Pick something you can take action on that is within your control and will help to improve your situation - then set a goal for this item. Once you set a goal, take action on this item and check progress regularly. Making a habit of setting achievable goals that matter and seeing regular progress can create comfort in knowing you can make a difference while building confidence in your ability to impact a difficult situation.
During difficult situations we often find ourselves monitoring (and worrying) about what others are doing. Instead, work to keep the focus on yourself. How are you handling the situation? What do you need and what can you do about what is going on? What others are doing is an example of what you often cannot control. Focusing on others can deepen the emotional toll experienced as a result of the situation. Focusing on yourself includes ensuring you are taking care of yourself. This can mean a time out to evaluate what you need and self-care time to ensure you get it. Whether this means a bubble bath, a special treat, or time focused on self-development - taking the time to do it makes you better equipped to handle adverse situations.
The words we say to ourselves over and over often become the words we say out loud and the words we say out loud often become our actions, How often do you stop to evaluate what you are saying to yourself? Are you feeding yourself positive affirmations that feed your self-confidence, or are you your own worst critic? Being mindful of this self-talk that so often directs our attitude and behavior can play an enormous role in how we perceive and handle difficult situations. Taking time in the morning to set and say positive affirmations can get you started on the right foot. Pausing to reflect throughout the day can help you build a lasting habit.
Change is inevitable. While we may go through hard times and hard changes, focusing on progress can lead to even the most difficult changes turning out well. Change can cause some initial difficult emotions especially when we experience a direct disruption to our way of life. Pausing to evaluate the situation can be very helpful in processing the change and navigating through it. Putting the change into perspective, understanding the impact, and considering what your options are can help you to find optimism, feel confident in your ability to adapt, and control the things that will be most impactful in your change journey.
If you consider yourself to be a spiritual or religious person, there is a great deal of comfort that can be found in the community and the rituals that are aligned with your practice. Many practices encompass the suggestions above such as connections, self-care, and self-talk. Such communities of practice can help to reinforce behaviors and habits that you are working on forming. In addition, many have found solace in the belief in a higher power as well as the practice of prayer and/or meditation.
It is heartbreaking to me when I learn about people who carry the weight of emotionally difficult times alone. I know that some believe this is what resilience means (it isn’t). Know that it is okay to share your story and about the things you have experienced. This can be helpful with the family, social, and even work connections that are mentioned above. At times it is best to seek professional help for this type of sharing. Practicing vulnerability with trusted sources can sometimes feel like a burden being released.
When you are in the middle of a traumatic situation that feels hopeless, the above may feel like a lot of work. My hope is that this article finds those who need it before that situation arises as resilience can be built at any time. For those who are overwhelmed and at a loss, my suggestion is to start with one thing from this list. It can be the thing that resonates with you the most, or the thing you believe will have the greatest impact. Once you feel you are ready, add another, and then another. While I can’t honestly say to all of my readers that everything will be okay, I can say that you can make it better than it was, and you can make it through.